My grandmother passed away in late February. She was older than our house here on 26th Street, and she had certainly traveled more.
Her house in Los Altos, however, has done some traveling. When I was 11 years old and living in Oakland, my parents realized that the public school they would have had to send me to, Montera Junior High, was not a good school — borderline dangerous.
They poked around, and spoke with my mom’s parents, who’d lived in Los Altos since 1957 on a third of an acre, backing up to the creek, with fig and lemon and apricot trees. Grandma and Grandpa did some figuring and some negotiating.
Then they picked up their house.
For three months, they lived six feet above ground while their house on Arroyo Road was jacked up, and moved 25 yards west. Once it was down, they razed the orchard, subdivided the lot and sold half the land to my parents, who were able to build in Los Altos in 1985.
My brother and I lived with my grandparents for the first semester of fifth and seventh grades, respectively, while Mom and Dad sold the house in Oakland and looked for jobs on the Peninsula. We generally saw them on weekends. They brought news of a kid who’d gotten knifed at Montera.
Grandpa died in 1995, and so Grandma had been rolling solo for more than 20 years. Solo, I suppose, being relative, as I recall being pretty envious of her social life and of the number of dates she had to turn down because she had a prior engagement.
Her home on Arroyo Road is very 1950s ranch: small rooms, one story, isolated kitchen. I’m sure that a tech millionaire will buy it and scrape it and build something with copper gutters and a full basement and nary a pink bathroom in sight. That makes me a little sad, because it has so many memories of scones for breakfast, making Grandma’s whiskey on the rocks with a twist, and devouring her astonishing collection of Pogo, Peanuts and Doonesbury.
In the end, though, the house is a collection of glass and shingles, wood and wires; the people inside it are what matters. Curtis Park has some impressive homes, which anyone can pay $20 and see on April 29. What they don’t see, and what my time in this neighborhood has shown, is that the people inside those homes are even more impressive.
Thanks for being great neighbors and great people. Your devotion to community would make my grandma proud.
– Eric Johnson
SCNA Board President