It's been many years since Jonathan Berg has lived in Atherton.
Still, he says, the recent death of his mother, Noyon Berg, at the age of 98, brought back fond memories. His family moved to Atherton from San Francisco in 1950, just before he turned 7. His mother lived more than six decades in Atherton and Menlo Park.
"Atherton was great," he says. "People had money but it wasn't terribly obvious. The houses were reasonably big, but they were on big properties."
Before moving to Atherton, the Berg family had spent summers in Palo Alto. Their Atherton home, like many in the town at the time, was originally a summer cottage.
In those days, Mr. Berg says, Atherton actually was "the country." At the time, he says, the only way to get to San Francisco by car was on El Camino Real, an almost two-hour drive.
Young Jonathan fell in love with horses, somewhat to the consternation of his mother, and spent most of his free time at Bill Gilmore's farm, where he became a stable hand. "I spent a lot of time mucking stalls and riding horses," he says.
The farm was about 30 acres, between Isabella and Alejandra avenues, fronting on El Camino Real, he says. There were as many as 40 horses in residence, a half-mile exercise track and 10 acres of alfalfa growing in the middle.
The farm was also home to one of the best 10-goal (elite level) polo teams in the country, he says.
From the farm, Mr. Berg says, he could ride to Woodside, Palo Alto, even Half Moon Bay if he wanted. There was no Sand Hill Road and no I-280 freeway.
The Berg family lived on nearby Winchester Drive. A street over, Ty Cobb lived on Spencer Lane. "We were "backdoor neighbors," Mr. Berg says. "I got to know him from his walks in the neighborhood he had me over a few times and showed me a silver bat and other memorabilia."
"It was pretty wonderful," Mr. Berg says of those days. "There were no leash laws, dogs ran free." His family had a duck that wandered the neighborhood and made messes in the neighbors' yards.
Mr. Berg says that in those days, neighbors were truly neighborly and moms were usually at home being moms, as well as supporting various philanthropies. His own mother was involved with organizations from San Francisco to Palo Alto.
Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park was the big shopping area until the Stanford Shopping Center opened, he says.
One thing that was the same, though. "Rossatti's was a hopping place in the 60s," Mr. Berg says of the Portola Valley icon. Even though the official name of the establishment is now "Alpine Inn Beer Garden," pretty much everyone still calls it Rossatti's.
"When I wasn't riding a horse I was riding my bike," he says. His father took the train into San Francisco for his investment job, and with the stock market open for shortened hours on Saturdays, would often travel to San Francisco that day as well.
He went to elementary school, before Hillview was open, in classrooms that were rented from the Presbyterian Church and reverted to church school classrooms on Sundays.
He attended the nearly new Menlo-Atherton High School, graduating in 1961.
Many of today's local institutions barely existed. "Menlo Circus Club was a big field, a starter clubhouse with a pool, and a few tennis courts at the time," he says. "Burgess Gym was basically a wood barn, and that was it."
"Stanford was truly the farm," he says, with long stretches of weeds between campus buildings.
After Olive Holbrook-Palmer donated her family's land to the town for a park, his parents got involved. "It was all you could do to get the Atherton Township to accept it," he says of the donation. "Now, I read that the township is building a multi-million dollar town hall and library a lot has changed."