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

John Breakwell

Background: Originally from Long Beach. Attended the Palo Alto Military Academy from fifth through ninth grade, finishing in '62, then went to Palo Alto High School, graduating in '65, and then to Stanford. He is an aerospace engineer for Lockheed and a trained clarinetist.

Memories: "I grew up on University Avenue, and it was painful to finally leave that house. Things were pretty quiet in Palo Alto then, and there was a lot of agriculture here. I remember orchards, mainly of apricot trees, around Oregon Avenue. Now it seems that everyone is an engineer and doesn't grow much of anything anymore.

"The town has changed--Palo Alto is rowdy now. There are more drugs and crime. When my father died, the house on University Avenue stood empty for a while, and it was robbed four times. All the thieves were caught, and they all turned out to be local residents, not from other towns as people might suppose.

"I spent 15 years at Stanford studying math and music and pursuing advanced degrees. My father was a professor of astronomics at Stanford and also worked for Lockheed. He was a very good pianist and singer. He founded a madrigal group and also sang Gilbert and Sullivan patter."

Peter Hughes

Background: Born in New York around 1920, he went to college in Indiana and to photography school in New York City. He came to Palo Alto in 1947, where he operates a photography studio.

Memory: "I have been drinking milkshakes at the Peninsula Creamery for over 40 years, ever since I first came to Palo Alto in 1947. I use to have five a week, but now I am down to two.

"When I opened my photography studio in the early '50s, I use to walk over to the Creamery and get a milkshake and a tuna sandwich. Back then milkshakes were a quarter and tuna sandwiches were a quarter. Now, milkshakes are $3.25 and a tuna sandwich is $4.50.

"So, now I bring my own tuna sandwich, but I still buy my milkshakes there. A few years ago, I figured out that I have had 7,000 milkshakes in my life--more than that now."

Mel Harrison

Background: Born in Monroe, N.C., he was 7 months old when he arrived in Palo Alto in 1922 with his family and father, who had less than $1 in his pocket. Mel graduated from Palo Alto High in 1940 and later coached Little League and Babe Ruth baseball in Palo Alto and was head baseball coach at Gunn High for five years in the '70s. He's currently writing his memoirs.

Memories: "When I was a kid, I used to hang out at Sunken Diamond (at Stanford) with my friends. One day, when Stanford was playing UCLA (in 1939), I got the baseball that Jackie Robinson hit out of Sunken Diamond. I was a pretty big kid then, and I beat the little kids to it. Usually we'd take the ball back to the entrance, turn it in and get in free. But I took it back to the (Palo Alto train) station where my dad worked as a redcap. I said, 'this is the ball Jackie Robinson hit out of the stadium.' He asked me if I'd like it signed by all the UCLA players. My dad got to know them at the train station. So my dad got everyone to sign it. My grandsons got it a few years ago, and one day they took it outside and they played with it. He (Mel's father) retrieved it before it got too banged up. We cleaned it up a little. Jackie Robinson's name survived."