Archive of Irene Searles

Irene Searles is an East Coast transplant who first landed in San Francisco to work for Citigroup Private Bank. She took a break from financial services to attend the California Culinary Academy and spent a short time as the Pastry Chef at Ristorante Vivande in Pacific Heights. She returned to Citigroup to open the bank’s Silicon Valley office, moving to Menlo Park 15 years ago. Now a stay-at-home mother of two children, who attend Hillview and M-A, she is exploring a renewed interest in photography. Observes Irene: “Contributing to InMenlo is an amazing way to see and share all of the interesting people, activities and events around town.”

Irene has written 18 article(s) for InMenlo.


Photographer Neal Menschel at Freewheel Brewing Company

For as long as he can remember, photographer Neal Menschel has had an enduring and keen interest in telling the stories of others and giving a voice to those in the world who have no way of being heard. His exhibit at the Freewheel Brewing Company is an example of that philosophy.

The Chords of Labor project began with the idea of creating a book on the roots of music. Neal’s research took him and his collaborating daughter Molly on a trip through Southern states sampling local ethnological music along their journey. The last state on their tour was West Virginia.

“It was like stepping back 50 years in time,” said Neal. “You are never a stranger there. Through all of the poverty — and it is legendary —there shines through remarkable values of work, family, music, and religion.”

The people they met and their irrepressible spirit against the challenging odds of their lives, along with the land itself changed the course of the project. Explained Neal: “By the final day of our stay in West Virginia, it was obvious that these were the stories that we wanted to tell.”

Neal Menschel on the road

The photographs, currently on display at Freewheel, illustrate three of the themes — music, labor, and family. The images are organized in two groups, coal mining and logging, with the third theme music, interspersed throughout.

The first set of photographs were taken in McDowell County in southern West Virginia and follow Ray Kline, an independent coal miner and his three sons, as they mine “low” coal over a mile inside of the mountains. They spend eight to twelve hours a day in mostly “hands and knees” height seams using heavy equipment in what is called “continuous mining.” It is a dangerous and difficult job but in a county whose population has gone from 120,000 to just 20,000 in the past 50 years and has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, mining jobs pay relatively well.

The second set of photographs follow the Bulyard family from Jane Lew, central West Virginia. The Bulyards are loggers. Their crew is made up of the father, son, son-in-law, and a hired worker. Neal met Chad, the son, playing banjo at a music jam being held at the local McDonalds.

“Chad asked me what I was taking photographs for and I explained the four themes to him and how I was looking for subjects who would represent those themes,” said Neal. “He looked at me and said, ‘Well, you’ve got all four of ‘em represented right here,’ pointing to himself. Chad was a logger, musician, family man, and a minister.”

Neal has served as Director of Photography, Picture Editor, and Senior Photographer at The Christian Science Monitor, and as Staff Photographer for the Anchorage Daily News. His clients include The New York Times, Newsweek, GEO, Yankee, Frontline, and numerous private institutions. He also served as the Director of Photography at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and has taught at Boston University.

He currently teaches at Stanford University’s Continuing Studies program and works as a private consultant and photography coach, guiding clients through the development and growth of their photographic skills. He’s had exhibits at historical and fine art museums from Anchorage to Boston. This is his first show on the San Francisco Peninsula.

Frewwheel Brewing Company is located at Marsh Manor; a reception for the photographer is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 21 from 5:00 to 7:30 pm.  This is the second of many exhibits that Freewheel will display, rotating every few months.

Photo of Neal Menschel (top) by Irene Searles

Black and white of Neal with people met on his journey by Molly Menschel, courtesy of the photographer

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Spotted: Serious strength training in west Menlo Park

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I was editing photos in my front room office and heard a strange noise outside that sounded like someone (or something) loudly shuffling. I went out to find one of our neighbors, Ceasar, doing some serious strength conditioning. Now that’s a workout! Photos by Irene Searles

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Spotted: Beeline Bikes doing repairs in west Menlo Park

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We arranged for locally-owned Beeline Bikes to do a neighborhood on-site bike repair. They arrived with a truck, two mechanics, and the two founders, and spent the day servicing a dozen bikes for our neighbors. As an added treat, they provided coffee and pasties! Beeline took maximum number of appointments, with the last minute additions […]

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Caroline Mustard’s newly-minted iPad artists show off their work after six-week Menlo Park Rec Dept class

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To four kids ages 10 to 15, crayons and paints are, if not a thing of the past, at least “old” media. They spent four weeks the past Fall in Caroline Mustard’s iPad class, offered through the Menlo Park Recreation Department. Their creations range from artistic renderings of animals to people — things of personal interest […]

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Paying oranges forward to benefit M-A’s New Voices for Youth – with Thanksgiving in mind

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We’d stopped at “the best gas station in the world”, on our way to Lake Tahoe.  “It has the nicest staff, the cleanest restrooms, and it is just the best, period” — at least according to Grace Tully, one of the Mid-Peninsula National Charity League (NCL) girls from the class of 2017. The group of six […]

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Spotted: Menlo Park kids selling lemonade for Philippine typhoon aid

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Jonathan, seated, is a 4th grader at Oak Knoll in Ms. Austin’s class where students were encouraged to do something meaningful to help people devastated by the typhoon in the Philippines. He is joined by his brother William and sister Grace selling lemonade for typhoon aid.  Mother, Sarah, noted that they “are Irish and he […]

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More on Caroline Mustard’s iPad Painting – for Adults!

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After meeting Caroline Mustard for an InMenlo interview about her iPad Painting classes for teens, I became intrigued with what she was doing through digital art. This led to a brain storming meeting about how to continue to spread the word about her classes. The two of us decided to organize a Coffee and Art […]

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Spotted: Artist at work at Cafe Zoe in Menlo Park

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Sitting at a sunny window table at Cafe Zoe, Diane Flick used a bright palette of color as she worked on illustrations for a book. Hired by a dad who has written a children’s book about his kids, who are heros in the story, she adds lively drawings. She is also a painter. Her other […]

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Mule train is new mode of transportation in Menlo Park

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We couldn’t quite believe our eyes when we spotted a man walking through Menlo Park with his three mules, ages 24, 33 and 18. The packs contain his belonging, including a sleeping bag. He’s been walking with mules for over 25 years and year round for the past 10 years. When we asked his name, […]

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Willows Market is home to over 1,000 beers in Menlo Park, tended to by owner Nick Sharma

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The Willow’s Market, owned by Nick Sharma, has a lot going on for it — aside from being an upscale neighborhood market.  There are week night events ranging from gourmet food trucks on Monday and wine tastings on Wednesdays. But it’s the focus on beer that really distinguishes the market, located on the corner of Willow Rd. […]

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Spotted: Menlo Park birthday walk – even in a monsoon!

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Eight Menlo Park moms were spotted on the San Francisquito Creek bike bridge out for a morning birthday walk to celebrate Helen Wilmot (in the tiara, of course) — monsoon weather or not!  The outing was nicely followed by a delicious brunch made by husband, Greg and daughter, Tierna.

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