In 1962, when the Santa Maria neighborhood was a place of summer cabins, Rowland Tabor bought a 1920s era house from the valet of a wealthy person. It was a good half-acre site, but ever since the purchase, he’s been working on improvements. Meanwhile, the two Tabor boys played in the meadow above Woodside Highlands. Rowland served on the committee that led to Portola Valley’s incorporation in 1964. In the 1970s, he was one of the geologists who pointed out the danger of the San Andreas Fault and who started the movement that resulted in the sale of Portola Valley School, sitting astride the fault, to the Town.
Veterinarian John Schulte has known our area, its residents and pets for decades. Getting his love of the land from his father, he came here at age 6 and grew up studying nature on twenty acres on Family Farm Road and at Jasper Ridge. Once in a rainstorm, he rode San Francisquito Creek all the way to the bay. Another highlight of his youth occurred when a teacher at Portola Valley School took John and other students on a 9-week trip across the United States. He opened his practice here because he believed no other place offered all Portola Valley’s benefits. He and his wife bought property on Los Trancos Road in 1980.
Sam Halsted is the last surviving member of the first Town Council. The Palmer Lane house on ten acres that the Halsteads bought in 1961 cost $55.000. Although family members thought they were making a mistake to move so far in the country, they loved the quiet and openness. Their six boys grew up here. As a civil engineer, his expertise was very valuable in those formative years of the town. It was he who proposed the concept of Portola Valley as an “urban open space preserve.”
Esther and Martin Litton bought four acres in Alpine Hills in 1958 for $9000 and built their home there. For thirty years Esther was the Instructional Materials Clerk in the school district. Martin, interested in the outdoors and conservation since he was a boy, was the Travel Editor for Sunset Magazine and led dory trips down the Colorado River for decades. He has been honored nationally for his leadership in environmental protection and is a Blues and Barbecue honoree
The fact that Mary Ann Thompson has two grand pianos in her living room is a clue that music has been important to her all her life. She began lessons at eight and later studied in Italy. Even as she grew frail, her living room has continued to be a venue for musical groups to meet and share music. She and her husband Victor found Portola Valley looking for horse country. When they found the property overlooking the Stanford triangle, she knew that was the place. [It was $4500 for 3 acres.] Vic, an architect, designed their house. “How ideal it has been,” she has said, “to be always looking at trees. And the deer prancing through our side yard is the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Walter Cole, a physician, a carpenter, a professional dessert maker, and a horseman is one of our area’s earliest residents. He started working cattle around here in 1949, including in the “Stanford Wedge,” the rugged triangle between Westridge and the eastern slope of Golden Oak. He, his wife Peg and their sons all rode, over toward Jasper Ridge or on Woodside trails, avoiding or killing rattlesnakes on a regular basis. Or they might stop at Mama Garcia’s, Alpine and Hillbrook, for an Italian dinner and to listen to the young Kingston Trio. Having fallen a few times, eventually having a metal rod inserted in his back, he had to give up riding and spent his last years as a Shack Rider driving to the Shack and playing dominoes with his pals.
In 1954 Tommy Simpson, her husband Bob and their four sons bought one of Portola Valley’s most historic houses for $26,000. Their realtor had been reluctant to show them the house, but Tommy loved it from the instant she saw it. It is still in the family. Once it was the local residence of the Fitzhughs, owners of the Catoctin estate, now the Grove Drive and Stonegate area. The Simpsons used the Fitzhugh wine cellar as a bomb shelter. In the 1960s the Simpsons owned the hardware store at Alpine and Portola roads as well as the one in Ladera. Tommy continued to work at the Alpine/Portola store occasionally into the new century. An adventurous sort, in her later years she traveled the world.