Sat10252014

News

Election flyer mimics newspaper coverage

Election flyer mimics newspaper coverage

A flyer is being distributed across Los Altos that looks like it is from the Los Altos Town Crier but was neither created nor distributed by the community’s weekly newspaper. The flyer, pictured at right, is being distributed by workers from Pyrami...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Pioneers in LAH history: Maury Johnson family were key figures in development

Photo Dru Anderson/Special To The Town Crier Helen and Maury Johnson, staunch conservationists, enjoy a visit to Yosemite, left. The Johnson home on Weston Drive in Los Altos Hills shows a design that blends in with its surroundings.

The rural, pastoral scenes of 1950s-era Los Altos Hills seem light years away from today’s ultra-affluent community. It was a time when Maurice (Maury) and Helen Johnson began to make their mark as housing developers and civic leaders. Much of the history of early Los Altos Hills runs through them.

When Johnson and his wife of 70 years, Helen, both died last year, they left a 52-year legacy of community service, creatively designed homes and strong family ties. The Johnsons had lived in town since 1957.

Together, they worked side-by-side with their four sons to develop properties and homes in the Los Altos Hills area, including their first home on Moon Lane, as well as their last residence on Weston Drive.

 

Purissima Hills

Maury served as a director on the Purissima Hills Water District Board of Directors in Los Altos Hills, retiring in 2006 after 47 years of service. He saw the district grow from a small organization of middle-class residents, irrigating backyard fruit orchards, to a district providing water for some of the wealthiest households in Northern California.

“I came here (to his property near Fremont Road) because I heard there was water, and that I would have a water supply at the lot I had,” he recalled in an interview on file with the water district. “All the wells were generally not producing – people were running out of water.”

With Maury’s help, the district brought in pump stations, tanks and, finally, pipelines carrying quality water from the Hetch Hetchy system. He also helped establish the town’s first sewer lines.

Despite nearly 50 years on the water board, Maury said, “I wish I could be on the board again. … It’s interesting – you do some good, and you meet interesting people.”

 

Beginnings

Maury, born in Chicago in 1910 to Swedish parents, helped his father with their family dairy delivery business. Helen, born in 1918 in Youngstown, Ohio, spent most of her youth in Claremont, where she developed an early interest in land and home development.

Maury later attended Pomona College, where he earned a degree in economics and met Helen. They were married in 1939 and moved to Ontario in 1940, where they owned two large orange groves. After 14 years as a teacher in public and private schools, Maury started a construction business.

Helen, who had an eye for real estate, located all the properties they purchased and developed, and handled all the business finances. They built several homes in the Claremont and Palm Springs areas, then spent four years in the Bellingham and Waldren Island area of Washington state before relocating to Los Altos Hills.

Green builder

Maury, a designer and builder of many homes in the area, was regarded as green builder decades before “green” became popular. The Johnsons constructed their home on Weston Drive, as well as a house they designed and lived in next door, out of recycled cedar salvaged from the old Yolo Causeway roadbed near Sacramento. The 3-inch-thick cedar planks were used in the ceilings. The wood was split to measure 1-inch thick for the exterior siding, lending a natural feel to the design.

“Like pioneers,” their son Tor noted, “they bought the land and designed and hand-built the houses. Between them, they touched just about every piece of history in the town.”

The massive redwood beams in the home were recycled from torn-down old buildings in the San Francisco business district. The style Maury admired and built was contemporary, influenced by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work he admired.

Inside the homes, Maury designed and handcrafted built-in drawers and doors. He even handmade the hammered-copper custom 2- and 3-switch wallplates.

Other homes were built on land they developed on Todd Lane, Weston Drive, Baker Lane, Aric Lane and Altamont Circle, where they developed lots. Weston and Aric were named after two of the Johnsons’ sons. Maury also developed plans for a housing development in Summit Woods in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Tor recently toured the lots and homes he and his brothers and their parents worked on in Los Altos Hills, and he recalled the many features of contemporary design and creative use of recycled and unusual woods and techniques of post and beam construction.

The Johnsons designed and built their first home on what is now known as Moon Lane in the Saddle Mountain area.

 

Varied interests

Both Helen and Maury had a passion for the outdoors, nature and the arts, and they decorated their homes with art, sculpture and books from Japan, Sweden and other areas of the world. They had a special fondness for American Indian art, jewelry and culture. Japanese garden design is featured in their entryways, and plantings are accented with colorful maples.

Maury and Helen took pride in their respective Swedish and Polish heritages. Both were active members in the Swedish cultural fellowship of Lindbergh Chapter No. 494 of the Vasa Order of America, with whom they enjoyed dinner meetings at the American Legion Hall in Los Altos.

Helen was devoted to her family as well to music, organic gardening and cooking. Their kitchen had a full view of her beloved vegetable garden and the Japanese garden in the backyard.

Maury’s passions included architecture, music, literature, art, history, hiking in the mountains, skiing and working with his sons. Maury and Helen, members of the Sierra Club, were committed to conservation.

 

Note: Maury died Sept. 11, just shy of his 99th birthday. Helen died May 17 at the age of 91. They are survived by their four sons, Soren (Medford, Ore.), Aric (Oklahoma City), Tor (Los Altos) and Weston (Menlo Park); their grandchildren, Angelique, Greg, Toren, Lisa and Susanna; and their great-grandchild, Victoria.

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