Remembering downtown Menlo Park “back in the day”

by Laura Pitchford on September 15, 2012

Joe Prein (right) at his music store in downtown Menlo Park

Recently, I was lying awake in the middle of the night trying to remember the name of the record store in downtown Menlo Park I went to with my younger sister Shell to buy Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (the 1978 movie version featuring The BeeGees and Peter Frampton). I could remember the day like it was yesterday, down to the name of the guy (Johnny Ransahoff) who sold me the record (yes, record) and how much I paid for it, but I could not for the life of me remember the name of the store.

The next morning I sent an email to my siblings and several of our lifelong friends who also grew up in either Menlo or Atherton to ask if anyone could remember the store’s name. With over 500 years of memories between us, we were able to come up with it — Joe Prein’s Music Store. [Joe Prein is right in photo circa 60s; anyone know who the other man and woman are?]

My one question was the beginning of a chain of emails filled with long forgotten Menlo Park trivia. Our 50-year-old memories began to wake up. We all remembered certain things: That life was simpler then.  That we rode our bikes everywhere in search of the best candy, toy, beloved pet, music and fun.

We remembered getting pixie sticks, red ropes, gum balls and chewable wax teeth, lips and mustaches from the Little Store, dipping into the pickle jar at Duca and Hanley, buying cinnamon sticks at Toy and Party, and sitting on Santa’s lap in this little holiday house in front of Menlo Camera. We all seemed to remember certain stores: Mary’s Stork to Teen, Stevens Fabrics, Derry’s Feed and Fuel. 

Charline reminded us of the over abundance of Palm Readers in Menlo Park. We counted at least three. We recalled charge accounts at Draeger’s and Preuss. We could even remember several of the shop owners and employees who fitted us for school shoes and restrung our tennis rackets.

Almost all of us remember Edy’s Ice Cream [on Encinal, now the Carriage Stop portion of Roger Reynolds Nursery.]. LeeLee said that she can still hear the little bell ring as the screen door opened, the smell of the refrigerating ice cream, and having to climb on a step on tip toes to see over the counter. Lisa loved the Swedish Raspberry and Bayomints. Pat remembers puking there when Rooney and Seamus took Mark’s and Pat’s Little League team there post-game.

Some of the fun was trumping others as the emails crossed paths. Lisa came up with Gindell’s Pet Shop, a name that escaped the rest of us, although we all could remember exactly where the pet store was located on Santa Cruz, and that Mrs. Gindell had a blonde beehive hairdo. Lauren remembered getting her hamster there, while Rooney remembered buying his box turtle and riding home with it on his handle bars.

We also remembered that there were two bike shops but we only went to one, Menlo Bike and Key… that the Pink Pastry was a particular favorite and that Oxford’s Delicatessen had the best roast beef sandwiches. And, of course, George and Bob [who owned a Chevron station] actually filled your car’s tank with gas at a fraction of what it costs to self serve today!

All in all, we came up with a close to a hundred businesses but even more wonderful memories!  What started as a forgotten store name on my part turned into lots of laughs.

Do you have memories and photos from some time “back in the day” whether that’s the 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s in Menlo Park? Let us know: tips[at]inmenlo.com

Photo courtesy of Menlo Park Historical Association

{ 130 comments… read them below or add one }

Craig K February 28, 2015 at 3:32 pm

OK, how about the gas station on the corner of ECR and I believe Oak Grove….maybe it was a Mobil station owned and operated by Frenchy Pomes. His son was Rod, and we played little league and babe ruth together. He later moved to the Half Moon Bay coast and owned the Miramar Beach Inn. Anyone recall?


Madeline February 28, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Yup……my dad owned Menlo Bake Shop on ECR and had his trucks serviced at Frenchies gas station. I think Frenchy retired at some point and sold the gas station to a guy named John?? Wasn’t the station next to A&W??


Craig February 28, 2015 at 10:41 pm

I thought it was kiddy corner to Fosters Freeze….I recall some in ground trampolines that you could rent during the late fifties and early sixties time period……as for the A&W…not sure.


Madeline March 1, 2015 at 10:58 am

There were 2 gas stations…..one on each corner. I believe on one side was Rappy Raposo’s station……….next to what was once a trampoline center. Frenchie’s station was across the street next to Foster’s Freeze. A&W was next to the gas station…….across the street from Round Table Pizza. My dad’s shop was on ECR near Rose Ann’s Dance Studio and the Menlo Cobbler Shop…….I’m trying to remember the restaurant on the corner of Santa Cruz Ave and ECR??? I worked there as a hostess in the ’70s…..Mr. Jeffrey was my boss?? BUT I can’t remember the name of the restaurant…HELP


Susie D. W. March 1, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Was it Gale’s Coffee Shop. North corner of ECR and Santa Cruz Ave? I had early breakfast there nearly everyday when I worked at Irving Lundborg brokerage for Bill Halford, Hank Needham Sr., Dave Skuce.

Craig K March 1, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Madeline- Didn’t the dance studio have a different name prior to Rose Ann’s? I know I was forced to go to dance lesson by my parents…..I could have died then if my friends knew I was taking dance lessons!!! The restaurant you are talking about escapes me, but I do recall it was like a cafeteria style food service, is that right?
My dad had a business down behind ECR and between Oak Grove and Santa Cruz Ave….it was a group of businesses one of which was a leather shop that did horse tac etc., and my dad’s business was a Independent Insurance broker for years. He was active in Kiwanis, The chamber of commerce and Babe Ruth baseball. His office was not too far from Shreve’s Sporting goods. As a kid he took me to the Barber Shop right next door to the dance studio and Derry’s Feed and Fuel sponsered my little league team!

Susie D. W. March 1, 2015 at 12:53 pm

The Mobile gas station. Is this the one that John Conway bought and owned for a number of years. Later bore the BP logo.


Craig K March 1, 2015 at 11:27 pm

Suzie…not sure how old Bill Halford and Hank Needham Sr. are or were…but both names are very familiar. Were either involved in the Chamber/Kiwanis or the Menlo baseball programs?


Susie D. W. March 2, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Both gents have passed on but would be in late 70 to mid 80 age. Bill may have been involved with Kiwanis. I doubt he was involved with baseball. Horses, tennis. Hank may have been involved with baseball. I think his son, Hank Jr played ball at some point.

Madeline March 4, 2015 at 4:30 pm

My dad supplied the donuts on First Friday……Menlo Bake Shop……Ed Terry??? My maiden name is Terry……your brother Pat was in my class at St. Raymond’s. Elgin Juri’s sister, Madeline, was in our class, too. I remember all you guys…………


ajnevin March 4, 2015 at 5:08 pm

We use to go to Swensons..always recalled how wonderful it smelled in there of the ‘chocolate’ and loved the old fashion atmosphere.

Who recalls the fire at Flegles Furniture? We were in Baskin Robbins and could feel the heat inside!!!


Rod March 5, 2015 at 6:29 am

Craig, Mark is his son, and to this day, my best buddy.


Kristin March 5, 2015 at 9:52 am

I was on Willow the other day and had a powerful flashback of Add Janes Swim School where I learned to swim in the ’60’s. Was it in that neighborhood? Where was it?!


Craig K March 5, 2015 at 10:53 am

Kristin, yes it was on Willow Rd between Middlefield Rd and where the Veterans Hospital was. I too, took Add Janes swim lessons and participated some on their swim team. I used to play some of our Babe Ruth baseball games at the Vet field where WWII and Korea Vets would come out to watch……don’t forget Sunset Magazine was not too far from there on the other side of Middlefield Rd.


Kristin March 8, 2015 at 6:06 am

Thanks Craig K. I thought so. I drove around looking, but what is now on the site where Add Janes used to be? Homes?


Brian F March 20, 2015 at 10:53 pm

Wow. What a throwback. My dad was a Menlo fireman, we grew up near the creek. We frequented Menalto Market, swam for years on the Add Janes swim team, and also learned to waltz at Riley’s dance studio. Had a band, the lead guitarist lived at the “Palmistry” place on ECR just North of Oak Grove. Recently met Riley’s daughter, and currently live next to a Draeger. What a truckload of fantastic memories. Wouldn’t trade my Menlo Park childhood for any other.


Harry Angus March 21, 2015 at 10:01 am

Does anyone remember who owned Guitars Unlimited, 1039 El Camino Real, Menlo Park?
Please email me at slipnut01@gmail.com


Brian F March 22, 2015 at 10:05 pm

Just caught this blog while doing a search for Add Janes Swim School. What a great thread of memories. My father was a MP fireman, so I grew up in MP near the creek and Palo Alto. Schools, downtown MP hangouts, throwing water balloons on Willow, ECR, swimming, Riley’s dance…did it all. What a great time and great town to have been raised in. Cherish the memories. Wouldn’t trade my MP childhood for anything.


Madeline March 1, 2015 at 2:24 pm

You might be thinking of The Riley’s……..they were husband and wife and taught ballroom dancing to school age kids?? My sister took dance lessons from them ……..most of the kids were in elementary school. NONE of the kids in thoses dance classes wanted to be there………..it was TORTURE!!
OMG……..my dad went to that barber shop until the guy retired….I think his name was Tony?? I worked at Clifford’s Pharmacy…..Ann’s Coffee Shop and my best friend’s dad owned the kids shoe store on Santa Cruz and University Dr.


Madeline March 1, 2015 at 2:25 pm

You might be thinking of The Riley’s……..they were husband and wife and taught ballroom dancing to school age kids?? My sister took dance lessons from them ……..most of the kids were in elementary school. NONE of the kids in those dance classes wanted to be there………..it was TORTURE!!
OMG……..my dad went to that barber shop until the guy retired….I think his name was Tony?? I worked at Clifford’s Pharmacy…..Ann’s Coffee Shop and my best friend’s dad owned the kids shoe store on Santa Cruz and University Dr.


Craig K March 1, 2015 at 2:41 pm

I recall the shoe store bought many pair of Keds high tops there as well as some Buster Brown dress shoes, it was right around when the Menlo Clinic was….my pediatrician worked there, Dr. Barthold…what a great guy, he even made house calls back in the day!
Yes, Tony was the man for haircuts…..always cut it to short for my liking but dad was paying so it was cut the way dad wanted it. I do recall Cliffords and Ann’s……do you recall Jerry’s store for men…I still have a couple of wooden hangers around from his store…..still in use! Recycling before its time!


Madeline March 1, 2015 at 2:56 pm

It was called Children’s Bootery…..got all my school shoes there!! OMG….Dr. Barthold was my mother’s doctor for a really long time…..until he retired. My sister and I saw Dr. Doherty at Menlo Clinic…….when the clinic was so small it was in a group of stores??
My dad and brother bought ALL their clothes at Jerry’s Store for Men…..it was next to a dime store…..Sprouse-Reitz?? Back then, Stanford Shopping Center was just beginning…….everybody bought clothes and shoes from local merchants. My sister still lives in the house we grew up in on Santa Cruz Ave…….our first house was across the street from Draeger’s Market. My friend and I were at the GRAND OPENING of Draeger’s!!


Craig K March 1, 2015 at 11:22 pm

It appears that our families may have crossed one another at times in the Menlo Park area….Draeger’s was one of my mothers favorite places to buy meat, she loved the butcher there. So, did you got to MA? Woodside? What year did you graduate?
Sprouse-Ritz, what a great store….you could always find a nickle or dime toy or candy bar….great fun. My first savings account set up by my parents was at the Wells Fargo…not far from my Dad’s office…..it was such a great time to grow up and to experience Menlo. As a young person….my summer jobs were with the MP Rec. Dept., where I work at certain playgrounds and help to supervise kids that came for summer activities…mostly to goof off. It was fun for me and keep some $$$ in my pocket.


Craig K March 2, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Could it have been called “Arthur Murray” dance studio?


Madeline March 2, 2015 at 4:35 pm

I went to St. Raymond’s Elementary School……Notre Dame High School in Belmont. Our house4 was directly across the street from Draeger’s……I loved that house!!
YESSSSS…..I think it was Arthur Murray’s Dance Studio….


Mary Jeanne Oliva March 2, 2015 at 9:51 pm

I remember the donuts and hot chocolate after first Friday mass at St Raymond. Weren’t the donut fro you dad’s bakery, Madeline? Cost was 5 cents :)


Craig K March 3, 2015 at 11:51 am

I did not go to St. Raymond’s school although I did attend church there and was familiar with Monsenior Kennedy as he did most of my catechism classes and my first holy communion. The church and grounds were beautiful. I liked the Church of the Nativity as well.
How about the Menlo Circus Club for 4th of July fireworks…..great times!


Madeline March 3, 2015 at 5:45 pm

OMG…..Monsignor Kennedy!!! He was a real piece of work…..I made my first holy communion in St. Rays……around 1957 or 1958?? I know I was in the second grade when I made my first communion………we must know many of the same people???
Our house on Santa Cruz Ave was so close to the Circus Club that we could see the fireworks from our front porch……


Madeline March 3, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Yesssss………that was my Dad~~ He loved bringing the donuts to the kids on First Friday!! Miss my Dad and his donuts :=}


Craig K March 4, 2015 at 12:17 pm

I am sure our paths crossed, probably more than once even though we went to different schools/high schools. Our home was located in Atherton, near Las Lomitas school, although the boundaries were messed up and I spent Kindergarten at Hillview Elementary, then Ist grade at Las Lomitas…go figure! Woodside HS was were I attended.
Since my dad had his business in MP, I spent many a days downtown, riding my bike everywhere, without a worry one! I was always playing sports, so I was involved with Little League and Babe Ruth baseball. So was my dad, he was always either on the board or involved in Kiwanis or in the community some how.


Hal Williams March 4, 2015 at 3:34 pm

I went to St Raymond’s same time you received First Communion. Marc Elmo, Elgin Juri, Tom Callahan, Patrick Williams, Barry Lenahan…ok who are you?
Hal Williams


Rod March 4, 2015 at 4:07 pm

He’s a former San Mateo Co. sheriff, and a great guy, last I heard moved up to Sacto to be a CHP officer, that’s circa 1981. We were both fortunate to have very great fathers! Also to grow up in Menlo, in those days. Anyone remember Chief Cleland of the M>P>Fire Dept, also Capt. Jim Ackerman, more great men.


Craig K March 4, 2015 at 10:40 pm

Hal….whom were you talking about @ St. Raymonds?


Craig K March 4, 2015 at 10:38 pm

Whom are you talking about that was a former SMSO? I too worked there from ’69-80….moved to Placerville and worked in the same field there. I knew a Mark Ackerman…related to Jim?


Craig K March 5, 2015 at 9:28 am

I either played baseball (little league or Babe Ruth) with Mark…not sure if we were on the same team or played against one another. Are you Rod Pomes? Anyway, I knew alot of guys from Oak Knoll/Encinal/Hillview because of baseball. Good memories for sure!


Craig K March 8, 2015 at 11:38 pm

Are your Rod Pommes?


Rod March 9, 2015 at 6:06 pm

Craig, si yo soy Rod Pommes, living on La Ropa Beach Zihuatanejo for 5 months, then NOB to Ariz, Utah, Half Moon Bay, visiting with our son Paul, our best friends Mark and Debbie Ackerman. Hard to leave here, but we must. Miss Zots, the O, Goose, but not 101, or 280. Are you Craig Kerwin?


gerard pommes March 9, 2015 at 9:02 pm

Craig, Are you Craig Kerwin?


Craig K March 9, 2015 at 11:23 pm

Yes, it is the not so famous, Craig Kerwin. Talked with Barry Morningstar just yesterday. Would love to reminisce with you upon your return to the USA, drop me a e-mail and we can connect without using this blog! phorestgrn@msn.com should work. Looking forward to hearing from you.


gary March 10, 2015 at 10:53 am

Does any remember Gary Jennings or Dirk or gary seeley all lived near bay road M P


Craig K March 10, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Gary, sorry I am not familiar with either.


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