Memoir of 'growing up Eichler'

Author pens fascinating new book about her MCM, music-infused 1960s childhood
Fridays on the Homefront
Having grown up in a San Jose Eichler during the 1960s and '70s, author Carol Sveilich recently brought together a book full of fascinating memories from that era with her hilarious, thought-provoking new memoir, Reflections from a Glass House: A Memoir of Mid-Century Modern Mayhem (above). All photos courtesy Carol Sveilich archive

Migrating west from New York as a child of the '60s, specifically to live with her family in a South Bay Eichler home, Carol Sveilich recalls feeling "like we were the Jetsons or something."

She emerged from her Space-Age childhood flush with modern living and jazz-loving parents with enough fascinating material to fill her hilarious, thought-provoking new book, Reflections from a Glass House: A Memoir of Mid-Century Modern Mayhem.

"Climb aboard and travel back in time to suburban Santa Clara Valley," invites the book's website, "because before it was a hub of concrete and high-end tech companies, it was a sleepy valley of orchards, bebop music, and lively mischief. Kids in the early 1960s learned how to duck-and-cover at school. Sveilich learned to duck-and-cover at home."

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Blossom and Joe Sveilich, Carol's parents, feeling very 'sporty' back in the '60s.
 

Recently interviewed by phone from her San Diego home, Sveilich recalled her parents' reaction to visiting friends in a modern-style home in Los Altos in 1959.

"My parents just fell in love with it," she said of her somewhat unconventional parents, both New York City-born. "They liked that it was different…they liked 'different' things."

So taken was her draftsman/saxophonist father that he returned to California the next year to put a down payment on a home in Joe Eichler's fledgling Fairglen tract of San Jose, based merely on the promotional materials.

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Carol Sveilich: looking back at her Eichler childhood.
 

For Sveilich and her brother, Howard, she says, "It was just another place to live. We didn't realize how different they [the Eichlers] were."

Though she soon had many friends who lived in modernist homes, eventually she began to notice the differences in other houses.

"I remember thinking, 'Why are your walls white instead of mahogany?'" says the author, also recalling what appeared to be undersized windows in conventional homes. "I noticed those things, but I really didn't think much about it."

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Carol Sveilich today—with Reflections from a Glass House.
 

What she did notice was how adults in her neighborhood were typically "a kind of thinking-outside-the-box person. That was unusual for people coming out of the '50s."

That went for her parents too, who regularly threw jazz-oriented parties at their Eichler. Guests included fellow musicians like the famous pianist, Earl 'Fatha' Hines, who "loved our parties because they were integrated, and there was jazz."