For decades, Woodside home has been a gathering place for family and friends


By Marie Wagner Krenz

Grandfather bought our Woodside property over 96 years ago, and his foresight has provided a gathering place for five generations of our family and the friends of all of us. Until recent years our Woodside home on Kings Mountain Road has always been filled with people.

Mother and our uncles often spoke of early days in Woodside when their San Francisco friends cherished weekend invitations. They were all young and high-spirited, and Grandmother's best friend and neighbor complained that after her son's rough-housing visits with my uncles she had to resew the buttons of his pajamas.

Mother's girlfriends never complained about the lack of indoor plumbing, but Grandmother did until Grandfather fulfilled her wish for a major remodel. The old wood-frame house burned one winter's night in 1934, and a new building took its place.

My childhood memories were principally of a long dining room table filled with people and food. The Sunday tally was always 12 and the count went up from there as San Francisco drop-ins usually stayed for dinner.

Grandfather said that if people drove this far to see us they should be invited. Besides, our good-natured housekeeper said that the roast would stretch.

We children watched the adults with interest, especially our uncles. They were three nice-looking bachelors, and the young ladies who visited probably considered them a treasure trove of marital possibilities. I remember one with her eye on Uncle Will. As she left (in an open-sided touring car), she said to him, "Give me a call, Will, and let me know you're among the living." My brothers and I thought she was pushy.

The family spent the entire summer in Woodside, and each of us four children was allowed to invite a city friend for a week. It was a joyous time filled with hiking, swimming at Searsville, cherry plum wars, and Kick the Can.

On Thursday nights we sometimes went to the Fox Shoppe in Redwood City, where there were toasters on each table. The poor waitress had to keep bringing more bread to meet our toasting appetites. After dinner we went to a double feature at the Sequoia Theater, and then to Borden's for chocolate-dipped ice cream cones. It was all such fun.

The 1940s meant war years as well as college, somewhat interrupted for my brothers as they went off to the Army and Navy. A prime factor in my happy adjustment to campus life was the presence of our family summer house in Woodside.

Only 10 miles from the Stanford campus, it became a welcome destination for me and my fellow students. Someone with a car and enough gasoline coupons would collect a few of us, and we'd head for the country. My friends seemed to crave a homelike atmosphere for study and frivolity.

A giant hurdle for first-quarter frosh was the English term paper that would largely determine our grades. As always, many people waited until the day before to put notes in final form. Six or seven of us drove to Woodside with our own or borrowed portables and set up shop. All over the house one could hear the clacking of typewriter keys as we struggled to finish up and get back to the dorm before lockout.

On occasion, campus groups held meetings and parties there. The Spanish honorary society served lunch on our patio and presented dramas in Spanish. One student borrowed the piano shawl for her role as a village senora. The Newman Club also seemed to enjoy picnics in Woodside. From time to time, we dorm sponsors went to our house to cook smashing dinners topped off with rich desserts and to forget our responsibilities for a few hours.

One memorable evening at the end of my junior year, I was tapped for membership in Cap and Gown, that august body of senior women. In a daze, I remember standing in a welcoming circle, clutching my tapping gardenia when a senior friend whispered in my ear, "There's a party at your house right after this."

A few of us were whisked away to Woodside, where we enjoyed the unusual experience of drinking gin and juice with the big girls. A fellow inductee told me the next morning that she felt she had been sleeping in a hammock all night.

Another generation of college students found Woodside a welcome destination when my son Charlie attended business school. One group even chose our house to hold weekly sessions of their spring class, Interpersonal Dynamics, affectionately known as Touchy-Feely. Family members graciously vacated the premises to accommodate their desire for privacy.

Of all the guests who came over the years, the dearest were two young women who arrived with friends, met my brothers and married them.

Friends bring life and joy to a home, and this has always been true at our house. When I see the little people of our family running up the paths and playing in the garden, I hope that they, too, will have the fun of bringing their friends to our old house in the country.

Marie Wagner Krenz is a freelance writer from Orinda who spends weekends in Woodside at the old family home. She has written many "Woodside Memories" columns for the Almanac.

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