Palo Alto Centennial
Publication Date: Wednesday, April 13, 1994

Lois Hopper

Background: 89-year-old Palo Alto native and the daughter of Stanford's third president, Ray Lyman Wilbur. After going through the public schools in Palo Alto, Hopper majored in biology at Stanford University. Soon after graduation, she married Max Hopper.

Memories: "I remember skating up and down El Camino--it must have been around 1914--right after they paved the road. They let us skate on it for a day before they opened it to automobiles. We skated from Menlo Park down to Mayfield. We did a lot of skating in those days. My brothers were always out and about somewhere, but I wasn't allowed to go anywhere myself. But I was fine with that--never really wanted to . . .

"Down by Embarcadero Road, where the Bayshore Highway is today, was full of all sorts of wildlife: possums, birds, rabbits. My older brother collected birds' eggs. There were quite a few interesting birds there. My brother never took more than one egg out of the nest, though, and he didn't disturb the birds for too long. I wasn't allowed to go with him too often. Brothers don't like their sisters always following them.

"During high school, I had to stay an extra half a year because I got a C in algebra and I needed all B's to get into Stanford. I studied biology and enjoyed that very much. Spent a few summers down at the Hopkins Marine Station. Oh, that was lovely. It was the first time I was away from home!"

Al Werry

Background: At 105, Al Werry has the distinction of being the oldest living Palo Alto native, a curious turn of the clock that makes him older than the town where he was born. The riddle is explained by Werry's having been born in 1889 in the town of Mayfield. Now known as the California Avenue district of Palo Alto, Mayfield was home to several saloons, a popular hotel known as Uncle Jim's Cabin, a lumberyard and houses being thrown up to accommodate the workers who were building Stanford University.

Werry attended the old Palo Alto High School on Channing Avenue until the 1906 earthquake "knocked the pudding" out of the school. Never one for school, he attended a technical academy, then became an electrician's apprentice. In 1911, Werry went into business for himself as an electrician in downtown Palo Alto.

Werry is best remembered as the owner of Werry Electric, which remained a downtown business until 1985. A devoted family man, Werry and his wife Frederika raised three children here: Alfred Jr., Ellen (now Bergren) and Kathryn (now Childress). He maintains he has had "a peach of a life."

Memories: In Werry's opinion, Palo Alto peaked in 1914, and has been going downhill ever since. Nevertheless, he "enjoyed watching the changes from horse and buggies to trolley cars and automobiles on University Avenue." His own first car, a Ford he bought for $560, had one major annoyance for Werry. "The car had all these darn arms that were in the way, and I couldn't sit close to my girl." He also remembers scratching out a living during the Depression. "It was tough, but we made it," he said.