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By Jane Knoerle
Almanac Lifestyles Editor
They met at age 4. Fifty years later, Peter Katz and Bob Holland are celebrating five decades of friendship with 150 of their nearest and dearest on Saturday, April 21, at Portola Valley Town Center.
The party will include live music, a buffet supper, a slide show, and the return of five childhood friends, who will once again "roast the hosts."
"For many with local roots, it's a wonderful reunion and journey home," says Peter.
Bob and Peter both moved with their families to Portola Valley in 1961 (Bob to Zapata Way, Peter to Mapache Drive). The 4-year-olds met when Peter and his mom went for a walk in their Westridge neighborhood and happened on Bob and his older brother, Tom, sitting on the corner fire hydrant. They became instant friends.
The boys went all through school together: Ormondale, Portola Valley Junior High, and Ravenswood High School. Their parents, Bob and Sue Katz and Harry and Sally Holland, became good friends. Mr. Katz, a member of a commission that helped Portola Valley incorporate in the 1960s, still lives in the Portola Valley house Peter grew up in.
They've always shared a love of the outdoors, especially skiing and backpacking, as well as music and the arts, says Peter. They performed on stage together in school productions of "Guys and Dolls" and "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."
They remember an idyllic childhood in the close-knit Portola Valley community. "We rode our bikes everywhere. We'd go off all day long. Our parents would say 'So long. Be home by dark,'" Bob says. There was trick-or treating on Halloween, caroling at Christmas and annual "Turkey Bowls" played at Thanksgiving.
"We were pretty much inseparable. We had a spare bed at our house that was referred to as Bob's bed," says Peter. "Even our dogs visited each other."
Peter went on to UC Berkeley; Bob played soccer at Canada College and Hayward State. Peter started a career in high tech and settled on the Peninsula. He works with tech startups as a marketing consultant and lives in Menlo Park's Sharon Heights area with his wife, Meg Marks, and sons Zack, 14, and Ben, 13.
Bob pursued music, including attending Berklee College of Music in Boston and later performing and teaching music in Taiwan. He has his own blues band, "Souls of Blue," which will play at the party, and gives private lessons, mostly in guitar. He lives with his wife, Kelly O'Connor, in Redwood City.
Bob was best man at Peter's wedding (1994); and Peter at Bob's (1999).
During three summers in high school, Peter's grandparents took both boys to Drakesbad Guest Ranch in Lassen National Park. While there, the boys met "two old guys" who said they'd been friends for 50 years. "We could do that, and a lot younger!" they thought. That was the genesis of their 10-year celebrations.
The first: "Blast from the Past" took place in 1982 when each was 24. Two hundred people attended their first "Celebration of Friendship" at Peter's parents' house, including six close friends leading a "celebrity roast."
"I catered it myself at $1.50 a head," says Bob, with a laugh.
The party was such a huge success they decided to repeat the event every 10 years. "It's the ultimate schmooze fest. Everybody catches up with each other," says Bob.
Last year the two families returned to Drakesbad, where Bob and Peter posed as the "two old guys" on the bench, who now could celebrate 50 years of friendship.
The April 21 party will be multi-generational. Friends will fly in from Washington, D.C., Seattle and Southern California. Steven Ullman of Los Angeles, a producer of stage plays, will return again to serve as master of ceremonies. June Fuji, their second-grade teacher, will be a special guest.
After the party's over, Peter and Bob will stop by that corner fire hydrant in Westridge and drink a toast to a friendship that has lasted 50 years.