Life on the Line

When Joe Eichler swayed starry-eyed Los Altos owners with a 'promise' of the national spotlight
Life Line
As part of Joe Eichler's 1968 photo shoot with an eye on Life magazine, Margot Gordon and daughter Pam were caught leaving their Los Altos Eichler by photographer Ernie Braun. It was just one scene from a week of shooting at the Gordon residence, still home to Margo today.

In the mid-century, when you spotted a photograph that spoke to your soul, you downloaded it not with a click but with scissors—and then pasted it, with a dab of glue, into a scrapbook.

Back then, where would one find the finest photos with the broadest appeal?

Long before there was Instagram there was photo-filled Life magazine, which hit its peak nationwide circulation in the late 1960s—8.5 million subscribers.

So imagine how Margot Gordon felt when Joe Eichler made this offer: Let my photographer, Ernie Braun, take photos of your family enjoying your new Eichler home—and those photos will run in Life magazine.

The year was 1968. Margot and husband Barry said "yes."

  The Re-uppers
Margot and Pam today stand alongside the fountain that sealed the Gordons' Eichler purchase in 1968.
 

"He kind of seduced us with the idea that all of these [photos], or some of them, would be in Life magazine," recalls Margot, who had family living back East, as did Barry. "And we bought into it because we thought that it would be fun, and because everyone across the country, including our relatives, would see them."

"I was so excited about being in Life," she says. "And Joe knew it."

Joe already had a proprietary interest in the Gordons' home. They were among the first to buy in the Los Altos tract of Fallen Leaf Park, and their model was one of the more unique, with a large atrium opening onto a broad, glass-walled interior gallery that looked directly into the backyard.

"Eichler actually used our home as a model home because he never had this design built as a model home," says Margot, who 51 years later still lives in the same Eichler. "He indiscriminately brought people in when he knew we were going to be away in the mountains."

Life Line
  The Re-uppers
Two lifestyle shots of Margo and Pam from Braun's week of shooting.
 

Margot and Barry, who had two young children (Dan, 8; and Pam, 5), got to know Joe because the home they'd first hoped to buy proved unavailable.

So they did some negotiating.

Margot and Barry, who were moving from a smaller Eichler in Sunnyvale, perused the Eichler brochures for the new subdivision and found "a house we loved," Margot says. "That house surrounded a fountain." And they liked the price. But no go. There had been some mistake.

"I really, really feel badly, but we can't afford to build you that house at that price," Joe told them, Margot says. The Gordons' disappointment was palpable. So Joe, who rarely made changes in his standard tract plans to please a buyer, did so for Margot and Barry.