Greenmeadow Celebrates its History

Bay Area Hula performed during Greenmeadow's 60th anniversary luau. Photo by Karen Pauls

Any neighborhood that avoids devastating fires or quakes can reach its 60th year. But how many do it with as much grace as Greenmeadow, which celebrated its 60th anniversary this month with a luau featuring hula dancing and two roasted pigs?

The neighborhood is run by a volunteer association that is so good at what it does that putting on the neighborhood party – which attracted 250 neighbors, 100 more than one organizer predicted – proved surprisingly easy.

“There is a strong bunch of committed people who keep the neighborhood and association as welcoming and smooth-running as possible,” says Rania Bratberg-Shastri.

Greenmeadow has its own community center, pool, and nursery school, a natural center for community life.

Yes, it snows in Greenmeadow, or at least it did in 1962. Courtesy of the Greenmeadow Community Association

It’s also on the National Register of Historic Places, placed there in 2005 along with another Palo Alto Eichler neighborhood, Green Gables, after a concerted effort by the small 'Historic Quest' committee of Eichler fans that included a Greenmeadow resident, the late Carroll Rankin.

“We have a structure in place. We know who lives in every household. That makes it easy for us,” says Karen Pauls, one of the luau organizers and vice president of the Greenmeadow Community Association. “But life has gotten so busy and complicated for everyone, it’s hard for people to find time to work on things for the community. Even in Greenmeadow, where people recognize how special and unique it is.”

So, for the first time, the association hired an event planner to help pull the party together. “So that’s something other neighborhoods might consider doing” for their own celebrations, Paul suggests.

Greenmeadow celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1974 with -- a luau! Courtesy of the Greenmeadow Community Association

The luau, held around the pool, attracted about 250 people. “It was a pretty full park and we managed to eat almost every scrap of food,” Pauls says. Folks enjoyed the dancers from Bay Area Hula. “They did get people up to dance,” Pauls says, “including yours truly.” Kids enjoyed the pool.

“It was just lovely,” JoAnn Revis, an original owner and a past president of the association, says of the luau. “It was just good to see some of my old friends that you don’t see on a regular basis anymore.”

Revis, who raised four children in the neighborhood with her late husband Nicholas, moved from a small Eichler home there to a larger one as the family grew.

“All the things you needed were within walking distance,” she says of the neighborhood. “You didn’t have to take the kids here and there in the car. They could do it on their own when they got to a certain age.”

Karen Pauls and Claudette Klein dressed in theme for the 60th anniversary barbecue. Courtesy of Karen Pauls

Revis appreciates the neighborhood’s architectural review committee, and city rules as well, for keeping Greenmeadow intact. “There are strict rules. You cannot put on a second story for instance, so it has kept the neighborhood, as far as ambiance goes, more appealing to look at.”

She credits the neighborhood’s many volunteers for keeping Greenmeadow a great place over the years, but notes how the nature of volunteering has changed.

“In the beginning we were all in the same place, young families starting out. And I suppose nobody had a lot of money, not like they do today. The men would pitch in and help out at the community center, any painting or carpentry work that needed to be done, or working on the garden.

“Now volunteers work on committees, but as far as digging in and doing the grunt work, that doesn’t happen anymore.”

During the luau, historic photos decorated the walls and attracted much comment. Pauls delivered a short spiel, including a mini-history of the neighborhood.

JoAnn Revis and May Turner enjoyed the party. Photo by Karen Pauls

“Eichler teamed up with an architect that was keen on the concept of incorporating a community center into the neighborhood design,” she said. “When people purchased their homes they were told that the community center and pool were to be used primarily by the Greenmeadow community.

“Young families started moving in, and by late 1954 it became clear that Eichler was planning to lease the facilities to outside groups with no ties to Greenmeadow. A small group of owners got together and rallied other neighbors and by the end of the year managed to 'convince' [badger?] Eichler into selling them the property for $10,000.”

To encourage newcomers to meet old-timers, Pauls devised a trivia game.

“The only way to answer the questions completely was to find some of the older residents and pick their brain,” Pauls says. “That really forced some of the newcomers to the neighborhood to come and introduce themselves to the old-time residents.”

“They really enjoyed that. That worked the way I thought it would.”

Joe Eichler promised homebuyers "a new way of life!" Courtesy of the Greenmeadow Community Association

Pauls has only lived in Greenmeadow seven years but has become a mainstay of the community thanks to her friendship with Jack Hamilton, a longtime resident who has since moved with his wife to a senior community but retains lifetime membership in the association. He attended the luau.

“He was the historic recorder and the social champion of the neighborhood. He would knock on the door of every new person in the neighborhood. He’d tell them about the neighborhood and its history and encourage them to participate. He got people like me on committees. If you spend much time with Jack, it’s really easy to get pulled into that and interested in it.”

“A lot of people like history, but many neighborhoods don’t keep their history. Greenmeadow has done a wonderful job of keeping its history intact.”

Rich and Penny Ellson relax by the pool. Photo by Rania Bratberg-Shastri

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