Holiday Events Return to Eichler Tracts

Holiday party
The holiday open house at the Greenmeadow clubhouse was just one of many holiday and other celebrations that have marked the return of more or less normal life to this Eichler neighborhood almost three years after the start of the pandemic. Photo by Chris Thurman

In a wonderfully friendly Mountain View neighborhood that mixes Eichlers with other modern homes, “the Monta Loma Neighborhood Progressive dinner is back!,” the neighborhood association proclaims.

Neighbors in the Eichler tract of Upper Lucas Valley in Marin celebrated Thanksgiving with a Turkey Trot, a morning race and walk that is new to the community, or at least something that has not been done in a while.

They also gathered together for their annual Tree Lighting. The tree had been decorated throughout the pandemic – but with far fewer gathering then than this year.

And in the Eichler Greenmeadow tract in Palo Alto, holiday and other events got going in October.

Lights on tree
The Eichler neighborhood of Upper Lucas Valley had a wonderful tree lighting event this year. The community’s tree of choice is not a conifer but a grand live oak. Photo by Dave Weinstein

“It was a busy October,” reports Chris Thurman, communications chair for the Greenmeadow Community Association. “It almost felt like before pandemic times, maybe with the added mask or two here or there.”

The Covid pandemic is far from over, with cases and hospitalizations rising and health officials warning that indoor wintertime gatherings remain threats.

But in mid-century modern neighborhoods, so many of which pride themselves on neighborliness, people are doing what they can to re-establish holiday traditions that were put on hold starting in early 2020 – almost three years ago.

In Monta Loma, the neighborhood association simplified the structure of the progressive dinner to make things safer. “This year’s format will consist of smaller groups than in previous years,” the association stated in its newsletter, “and only two courses, appetizer and dessert.”

But, the announcement said, “It is a wonderful opportunity to meet your neighbors and have fun.” The association is also running its annual Monta Loma Neighborhood Holiday Fundraiser to help out the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Swim meet
Swim meets have returned to the pool at Palo Alto's Greenmeadow. The swim center and Marlins swim team are an important way for people to get together in the area. Photo by Chris Thurman

Another holiday tradition in the neighborhood, one that draws people from near and far, never did halt for the pandemic: Ernie’s Trains, a grand holiday display complete with luminaria. John Bianco, whose dad founded the event, is operating his model trains in front of 2387 Adele from 6:30 to around 9 p.m. nightly through Christmas Eve.

Greenmeadow, which is centered around a large community park and pool, has an association that is open to folks who wish to use the pool, or to otherwise use the clubhouse for socializing. It is a tightly knit neighborhood.

“No, the pandemic’s not over,” Chris Thurman says. “I still mask up in certain conditions. At some of the events at the clubhouse people wear masks, or they don’t come. And we keep the doors open. The weather is good here so we can do that.”

“The number of people coming to the clubhouse is way up. The community is starting to feel like a community again,” he says. “For a while it was deserted. Now there are birthday parties again. It’s reopening to the world. It’s become a meeting place again.”

There have been World Cup watching parties there. One woman brings bagels, Chris says.

Sack race
Kids loved the sack race during Greenmeadow’s July 4 celebration, which had a full range of activities this year as the pandemic was ebbing. Photo by Chris Thurman

Chris says October was busy with many events, “with a Scary Distance swim meet and a swimming pool pumpkin patch, pumpkin carving party, and an artist fair and a Diwali festival.”

Diwali, an Indian festival of lights, was organized by an Indian family in the neighborhood and held at the clubhouse, open to association members. Thurman missed the well-attended celebration, but his daughter went. Folks were dressed in finery, and “they all did a Bollywood dance,” he says.

“People are starting to come out of their shells more,” Chris says. “November was a little slower, maybe because of Thanksgiving.”

He charts how community events have changed during the pandemic:

  Pumpkin patch
Parents helped children carve up pumpkins for Greenmeadow’s pumpkin patch. Photo by Chris Thurman

“On July 4, the annual parade, the first year [of the pandemic], we did it as a car parade. Year two we did [the parade], and it was well attended, but people were leery. This year we had a real parade with floats and games and people lining the streets. There were field games and barbecues in the park. There would be one out of nine or ten [participants] in a mask.”

In early December the association celebrated with its annual Open House, a potluck with wine, hot cider, and more. Later this month will be 'Cookies with Santa' and a Hanukkah party.

Chris and his wife, whose nine-year old daughter swims with the Marlins at the Greenmeadow pool, moved here from Portland “eight short, but long, amazing years” ago, he says.

“It’s a great community. It feels like we’ve been living here forever. We have some neighbors who have been living here since the early ’60, at least.”

Because of community events, including July 4 gatherings, Chris says, “I know 100 percent of the neighbors. They all know me and my dog and my kid. It’s a little ‘Leave it to Beaver’ [place]. It’s an ideal place for raising kids.”

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