The Setting

Barron Square sits on the edge of the great neighborhood, Barron Park. Barron Park was governed by Santa Clara County until 1975, when the pull of Palo Alto’s fire department, police, and utilities convinced the residents to vote for annexation to Palo Alto. Proud of its rural ambiance, the fear over the years was that Palo Alto would “citify” Barron Park. With assurances from then City Council members that they would be sensitive to the needs of Barron Park, the vote to become part of Palo Alto passed.

There were a few lovely restaurants nearby, including Chez Louis (a Stanford alum favorite for many years), where Walgreens now stands (since 1995), Dinah’s Shack, La Terrace, the Cabana, and the Prime Rib Inn. One especially memorable place was Rick’s Swiss Chalet (better known as “Little Ricks”) where Goodwill now resides. It featured a lovely pianist and vocalist named Marge at the piano bar, and all quality of singers came to sing there. Marge kept a book with each person’s name, the songs they sang, and the keys they sang in. (Precursor to karaoke’s popularity?) Always a fun evening!

How Thain Way Got Its Name

In the late 70s, when Gerald Markoe purchased this property to develop Barron Square, he did not get the adjacent property which, at the time, still had the old Thain family home on the property. In the agreement to purchase this property, owned by Janet Thain, it was stipulated that the street would be named “Thain Way” and that, most importantly, the two huge olive trees on the green­belt between 522 and 542 Thain and the large oak in front of 522 be preserved, and she would have one of the condos in Barron Square.

I had the privilege of knowing Janet Thain, and she was a very special person. She had no immediate family, as her parents and brother had been deceased for some time. However, there were hundreds of children who loved and respected her. They became her extended family over the many years she taught in the Palo Alto School District.  Janet shared wonderful stories about her childhood here on their land and especially all of the good times she and her brother spent playing in the “tree house,” which was built in the olive trees. (They were removed a number of years ago due to disease.)

Janet lived in an upstairs unit and climbed those stairs several times a day, staying active in community and church work and visiting her friend who lived around the corner. She was very spry until she became ill with cancer. It was a personal loss for me when Janet died. She had left her unit to her friend who had an “estate” sale of the contents and then sold the unit. I went through one last time and purchased one of her many “hat pins” to remind me what an elegant lady she was, as well as a caring friend.

Ree Dufresne

 Posted by on August 6, 2011