Life on the Line - Page 3

When Joe Eichler swayed starry-eyed Los Altos owners with a 'promise' of the national spotlight
  Life Line
Margot, Pam, and their frisky dog, Oreo, today.
 

Margot, who had studied psychology at UC Berkeley, became a stay-at-home mom as the kids grew up. For years she would go for a ten-kilometer run every morning, and remains a fitness buff. "I'm naturally athletic, and I'm very strong," she says.

For years Margot worked as a grief counselor with family members in hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units. A cancer survivor herself, today Margot provides fitness training to people recovering from cancer at the El Camino YMCA. She is also qualified to teach 'laughter yoga.'

Pam and brother Dan have fond memories of growing up in the Los Altos Eichler.

The home's flowing, open spaces made it a great place for parties, for adults and for kids, Pam says. She remembers her friends playing in the gallery, and running out to their backyard pool. She also recalls when Dan, who was on the crew team at UC Berkeley, had the entire squad sleep over when they were playing against Stanford. Cute guys.

"I was a happy 16 year old!" Pam says.

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Life Line
The exact same scene 52 years apart: Margot and Pam working together preparing a meal—from 1968 (top), and from 2020 (above).

Dan, who remembers nothing of the photo shoot, does recall remnants of the cherry and apricot orchard that had occupied the family home's site pre-Eichler.

"There were just cherries everywhere," he says. "You'd be walking on two inches of cherries. Now I'd kill for cherries, and back then it was no big deal."

Dan developed his skills as a chef starting at age nine, preparing the family meal every Wednesday—Chinese stir fry, sushi back before most folks knew what it was, handmade pastas.

He went on to co-found Gordon Biersch Brewing Co., which began as a brewery restaurant in Palo Alto in 1988 and has since gone nationwide.

Much as Dan enjoyed the house—ah, the privacy of his own bedroom—he hated the all-electric kitchen, which limited his culinary accomplishments. "I was jealous of people who had gas kitchens," he says.

Pam, who has worked in tech, then business consulting, also enjoys cooking. She raised two boys who "were both wrestlers, and we were known for doing the big sushi festival" for the team. Like her parents, Pam loves to entertain. Like her dad, she reads a lot; and like her mom, she enjoys yoga.

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Life Line
The Gordons' living room has changed a little over the years, but not much: 1968 (top), and today (above).

Besides the family, the house often accommodated visitors, including exchange students from Germany and Japan, and members of the Rotary Club from around the world. Yes, Barry was a Rotarian.

It was only recently that Margot pulled out the photo book that Ernie Braun had given them after the photo shoot. She thought "the photos would make an interesting contrast between then [1968] and now [2020]"—more than 50 years apart.

As it turns out, the photos never made it into Life. Had Joe pulled a fast one by suggesting they would? Margot suspects.

"We just waited, and we would ask him occasionally, 'When is it going to be published in Life?' He was good at hedging."

Then one of her husband's patients told Barry, "Wow, you really have a fancy house." Ernie Braun's photos had appeared in a local newspaper. The photos soon ran as well in an Eichler brochure for Fallen Leaf Park.

But national exposure? No way. Does Margot regret having done the photo shoot?

"Oh, no," she says, adding, "I can't imagine a nicer house to live in."

 

Photography: Ernie Braun, Sabrina Huang; and courtesy Margot Gordon, Environmental Design Archives (Oakland and Imada Collection)