Helen Eells: Arriving in Homestead Valley

Helen’s Oral History
Chapter 1
Helen Arrives in Homestead Valley

Published July, 2010

Helen Eells was born on October 23, 1904 in San Francisco. Earlier In 1904, her father, a successful attorney, had bought several acres of raw land In Homestead Valley. He then spent many weekends constructing buildings and planting crops with the help of his brother and local workers. In 1906 when their house was damaged by the earthquake, the family moved to this gentleman’s farm.

Between 1979 and 1987, she recorded more than thirty hours of cassette tapes with stories of the first 83 years of her life. Not much of her oral history has been transcribed, but I was fortunate to obtain the part that includes tales of her childhood in Homestead Valley.

In 1986, her granddaughter, who undertook the job of transcribing Helen’s oral history, asked her if she minded sharing these intimate family tales with others. Helen said: ‘I want the world to know.’ Excerpts from her oral history form the basis of this serial.

“I was born on Haight Street, in the home that my father bought, after he was married and came up from Santa Barbara. It was a nice Victorian across the street from Buena Vista Park. When I was not quite 16 months old, the city was shocked by the earthquake that is so famous. So my father was shocked and frightened. Since my mother was having another baby he was able to get the Red Cross to bring a hack up to our house and move us to a little shack that he and his brother had built in Homestead Valley.

“When the hack driver reached our home, he saw that my mother had packed many things. She had placed two baskets out near the door. He said, ‘Mrs. Eells, you can’t take both baskets.’ My mother had the most insane desire to have blue dishes around her, and she was crazy over gloves. So she had put blue dishes and gloves in one basket, and all the things my sister and I needed (I was a baby and needed bottles and diapers) in the other basket that was near the door. So, when she had to choose…you know what she did! She chose the basket with the blue dishes and the gloves. And over she went to Mill Valley in a Red Cross hack with that kind of guilt on her mind.

“Well! When they arrived, and my father found out what she had done, he just about blew the stack! He had a very violent temper. So he had to rush into Mill Valley to get baskets of bottles and diapers for me and clothes for my sister and food and what-have-you, so that we could exist overnight.”

If you have comments or questions about this article or other topics
pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.