Steve Toben, former Portola Valley Mayor and Council Member, gives the kickoff lecture for the May 18, 2014 Planning Retreat held by the Town Council, Planning Commission, ASCC and Town Planners.
Patsy Whiteley’s husband Joe flew out of Alameda at the end of World War II, and they vowed to return to the area when they had a chance. In 1950 they moved to Menlo Park and started enjoying the open spaces and views of Portola Valley. They found Jelichs and an egg farm, where you took your eggs and put your payment in a basket. It was in the days when Cervantes stopped at Fawn Lane.
They’d park there and run their dogs up the hill and look out over the whole valley. They’d swim in Searsville and watch cattle roaming the open spaces. When their children left for college, they found a house on Fawn Lane and thought they were the luckiest people in the world. “Every day brought a beautiful surprise,” she says. “Was the skyline fog shrouded, or was fog spilling down the hills? Or was it clear and sunny?” It didn’t matter. They stayed in that house for 28 years.
In1968, Marilyn Walter came to Portola Valley with her husband and children. After having lived in seven countries, the last one being eastern Canada, she especially welcomed the mild climate.
She says she was so overcome with the pleasure of going walking in January that she came home and wrote a poem about roses blooming in January. They liked the view from the house the realtor showed them so much that. they had just one question: were there enough bedrooms for their boys?
There were enough, and Marilyn has been here ever since although she moved to PV Ranch in its earliest days.
Carol Jacobs learned from a woman who babysat in Portola Valley about the special qualities of the town. Although the Jacobs family bought a house in Hidden Valley, they were in closer proximity to Portola Valley than Woodside, and her thoughts and activities always revolved around Portola Valley.
One of her special memories is taking a family walk every Thanksgiving while the turkey baked. One walk she especially remembers was with Herb Dengler, an early and longtime resident who knew and respected every aspect of nature. [The Herb Dengler Preserve near the top of Hayfields and the Larry Lane Trail honors his memory.] This hike took them to the hills of the then-Morshead property above the schoolhouse where Herb showed Carol an albino redwood. If it is still there, no one knows its location any more.
John Wilson was stationed at Moffet during the war and loved the area so much that he bought ten acres in what became Portola Valley from Dent Macdonough, owner of the Ormondale Ranch. One day in the late fifties, his mother in Akron, Ohio told him to look up the daughter of a family friend, also from Akron, who was also living in the Bay Area. So he met Nancy. Shortly thereafter, on New Year’s Day in 1957, they went for breakfast at the Stanford Golf Course Club House, the only place they could find that was open. Afterward, John suggested that they go for a drive since it was such a beautiful day. He took her to his property on unpaved Golden Hills Drive. They scrambled up a hill to the top, the property John had bought, where he said, “Let’s build our dream house here some day.” And they did. John went on to found a major Silicon Valley law firm and served on the Town Council while Nancy was busy raising their three children. When she moved to the Sequoias, she met a man there who had worked with the architect who designed their dream house. He was able to give her the original architectural plans for that house that had been build half a century before.
In the late 1950s, Maureen Kelland and her then-fiancé, Jim, were drinking beer at Rosotti’s and admiring the beautiful hill across the road.
As a part of the banter among the group, a friend suggested that Jim buy it, so they investigated, primarily as a lark. They found a little red ‘shack’ at the bottom of the hill where they met one Colonel Hunt, a real estate agent.
As Maureen tells the story, in 1959 and $9500 later, the Kellands owned a modest ranch house in Alpine Hills. The top was bare then, with only chaparral growing , but oaks grew in the gullies. For years, neighbors on Valencia closed the street on the 4th of July for a splendid neighborhood party.
Roseanne and Bard Bartelle looked everywhere around Palo Alto for a house with some land attached, with little success. Then one day, Roseanne’s hairdresser suggested that she contact a Mr. Holden, who had some lots for sale. It turned out that Don Holden had retained seven lots on the property he had just sold [land we call Alpine Hills today,] and they were indeed for sale.
The Bartelles liked the view and the thought of being in the country, so in 1955, they bought one of the lots for $8500. They chose a wooded lot instead of the one next door which was bare, built a house, and moved in in 1957.. Roseanne and others formed the Alpine Hills Women’s Club, and she and other mothers took turns with childcare.
They loved the beautiful area, removed from the hustle and bustle and stayed until 1991. They then became pioneer residents of The Forum, a place they chose for retirement because it reflected the same qualities they had so enjoyed in Portola Valley.