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

Tom Harrison

Background: Owner of Peninsula Plating Works, a Palo Alto metal finishing business since 1939. Although born in San Mateo, Harrison moved to Palo Alto in 1949 when he was in the sixth grade.

Memories: "When I was a really little kid, I remember coming down to the corner of Homer and Alma with my father to watch the white-faced Pacific steam engines with the steam shooting up. It was really dramatic.

"They had green trees coming down both sides of Alma, and the train was all black with a white face--the face being where the light was, in front of the boiler. And I remember the whistle. No matter where you were in Palo Alto, you could hear the whistle from the steam engine, which is a very different sound from a diesel."

Mike Cobb

Background: A resident of Palo Alto since he was 9 years old, Mike Cobb attended Jordan Junior High and was a member of the Campanile staff at Paly. Cobb served on the Palo Alto City Council from 1981-93, including two terms as mayor. Today, he runs an advertising firm, Mike Cobb Associates.

Memories: "I was a paper boy for the Palo Alto Times from oh, about age 12 until 14 or 15 . . .

"I was famous for having the longest, biggest paper route. It covered something like seven miles and 200 houses . . . You know where the cemetery is in south Palo Alto? Behind there, there used to be a turkey farm, and that was the farthest reaches of my route . . . I remember folding all the papers and always seeing headlines like 'Bloody Bayshore claims another victim.' I can't tell you the number of car accidents there used to be on that road. It was an undivided highway and the main connection between north and south, with lots of intersections along the way.

"Jack Varian had the coolest car in high school. I had a '44 Ford convertible, which was pretty cool, but his car was a lot newer. He had a post-war model, customized, the works. He would cut the biggest 'brodies' in the school parking lot--burning rubber, practically doing 360s . . . I was kind of a n'er do well, hung out with the tough crowd. Everyone of my friends from high school went to jail except for me. Really."

Howard Nichols

Background: Born in Palo Alto in 1940, Nichols is a graduate and current headmaster of the Harker School, formerly the Harker Academy. The Harker Academy was a Palo Alto prep school until 1959, when the school merged with the Palo Alto Military Academy and moved to San Jose. Nichols' father, Maj. Don Nichols, was superintendent of the Harker Academy from 1950 to 1973. Nichols took over for his dad in that year.

Memories: In the late 1950s, Harker lived with his father on part of the old Scholl Ranch on Arastradero Road. One of his childhood responsibilities on the farm was gathering eggs from the chickens to take to the school. Nearly 100 boys boarded at the school, and the Harker farm provided all the school's eggs.

"Gathering eggs wasn't a finely tuned process, the way it is now. We had about 200 chickens, and I used to spend several hours a day with the chickens getting the eggs. I don't recall ever getting bit, but I do remember that the students ate a lot of eggs. Almost every morning for breakfast they used to make scrambled eggs or French toast. Of course, we didn't know anything about cholesterol at the time."