Community - May 18, 2011

Woodside memories: Remembering joyful summers long ago

by Marie Wagner Krenz

Our old friend and neighbor Louise Zaepffel Rahmer and I recently reminisced about the Woodside of our childhood and our happy summers together.

When school closed each June, my brothers and I left our home in foggy San Francisco for a summer in the country. The first day of vacation, one of our uncles arrived at our house with a truck from Grandfather's factory. We loaded it with everything we would need for the summer — toys, books, clothes, card tables, a washing machine, bicycles, and even a dog house.

I strongly resented that the boys were allowed to ride in the truck, and I had to go in the car with Mother and the family pets.

The first thing we children did upon arrival was to run down to Tripp Road and the home of our dear friends, the Zaepffels. In those days, Tripp Road was not called Tripp Road. According to Louise, it had no name.

It annoyed Grandmother that we had just arrived in the country and already we were running out. "Didn't we have everything we needed right there?" she asked.

Tony the Iceman (Antoine Zaepffel) and his wife Elise had five children, some of whom corresponded in age to my brothers and me. But age didn't matter. The older ones welcomed us and, on occasion, played with us.

When we were little, the boys and I could not walk down the road alone, but on weekends, one of our uncles accompanied us, and sat and read as we played.

A couple of times each summer, both families (mothers and children) took a hike and picnicked together. One of our favorite destinations was to what is now Huddart Park, where we walked along the creek as far as our limited strength permitted.

With two mothers preparing, we had a wonderful lunch. I remember Mrs. Zaepffel bringing a crock of baked beans in a two-handled satchel, a heavy load that the older children took turns carrying.

As we grew older, we went off alone and often walked to a spring that today is somewhere on the property of the San Mateo County Mounted Patrol. On one occasion we found the skull of a small animal and placed it on a boulder above the spring to warn interlopers away from our private venue.

Once a summer, we hiked Squealers' Gulch, a tough walk up a steep creek. It still exists, but these days none of us shows much interest in doing it.

We remember Miss Huddart driving down Huddart Road (now called Greer Road) in her white electric car. She waved as she passed, and we thought she looked quite regal in her ribboned hat and white gloves. 

Louise has happy recollections of Miss Huddart and her brother, the owner of those many pristine acres. That kind lady often entertained the Sunday school children at their home, where she organized games and provided refreshment. Mr. Huddart rowed the children around his lake in a small boat.

Addie Tripp was a good friend of the Zaepffels and even gave them a piano. At that time the Woodside School provided weekly piano lessons for each interested child.

On Sunday mornings, Louise and her siblings always stopped at Miss Tripp's home to greet her with a kiss as they waited for Miss Huddart to drive them to Sunday school.

On many summer afternoons, the Zaepffels came up the road to our house to play board games and to listen to the radio with us. Our favorites were: "Little Orphan Annie" and "Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy." If they happened to come by in the morning, we listened to soap operas like "Ma Perkins," "Vic and Sade," "Stella Dallas," and "Back Stage Wife." Each one was only 15 minutes so we weren't spending inordinate time in such pursuits.

Occasionally, on summer nights, San Francisco friends who were also Woodside summer residents, came to play with us and the Zaepffels. The boys preferred cherry plum wars, but I liked Kick the Can.

It wasn't all play time at our house. Grandmother doled out chores to each of us that must be accomplished before we could visit our friends. I forget what the boys had to do, but I was assigned to sweep the porch and the patio each morning, and I hated it. Before dessert, I also had to brush the crumbs from the dinner table onto a little tray. I rather liked that task.

With all our pleasure, Louise remembers one winter night of horror and sadness. Her family awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of sirens and looked out to see a reddening sky. They dressed quickly and hurried up Kings Mountain Road in time to see our old home engulfed in flames.

The fire department was helpless. Their hoses were too short to reach the hydrant a block or more away, a shortcoming for which they apologized.

On the weekend, the family drove to Woodside and we children were shocked to see the smoldering ruins, but we also found it exciting. Our uncles called in an architect and somehow had the house rebuilt by June, in time for another wonderful summer in Woodside.

About the author: Marie Wagner Krenz has been visiting or living in Woodside since the late 1920s, when her grandparents purchased a home there to escape the cold San Francisco summers. She is a freelance writer from Orinda, but she still spends weekends at the old family home.


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