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S E C T I O N 2 People Stories about people and events in the community. AL SO INSIDE CA LE N DA R 23 |R E A L E S TAT ■ June 6, 2012 E 25 |CL AS S I F I E D S 34 5 dYfgcbU` \]ghcfm FRANK HELFRICH REFLECTS ON 83 YEARS IN A CHANGING CITY By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer Photographs by Michelle Le Almanac Staff Photographer “W Wool when it gets warm, like you want to wrap yourself in it,” Frank Helfrich says, recalling what the old textile mills along the railroad tracks in Menlo Park smelled like when they operated decades ago. At 83, Mr. Helfrich is one of the few people in town to remember that smell. As a boy, he would hang out at the mills after finishing a paper route that delivered the Saturday Evening Post, fascinated by the weaving machines. The mills made specialty items like movie theater curtains, he recalls, and even fulfilled an order from the shah of Iran. Sparely built and spare with his words, Mr. Helfrich is generous with his memories of the town he’s called home for 83 years. When he received a commendation from Menlo Park on May 22, a friend — Jim Lewis — presented the historian with a binder filled with 40 stories from the Almanac that mentioned Frank Helfrich. The commendation acknowledged more than 30 years of volunteer service with the Menlo Park Historical Association (MPHA), a nonprofit organization that has archived the town’s memories for nearly four decades. Brought on board by the late Jeanne Bone, he helped her shepherd the association almost from day one. Mr. Helfrich still mans the MPHA office in the main public library two days a week. Fellow historian Michael Svanevik praised Mr. Helfrich’s ability to “walk a fine line between being a historian and a social chairman” within the association. The indefatigable man could arrange the annual ice cream social and also come up with information thought lost, says Mr. Svanevik, who with Shirley Burgett wrote a history of the city, “Menlo Park: Beyond the Gate.” ÀK\Yb kY kci`X Ug_ Zcf gcaYh\]b[  UVcih Ub YjYbh h\Uh hcc_ d`UWY )$ cf %$$ mYUfg U[c  cf h\Y bUaY cZ U dYfgcb kY Wci`X WcbhUWh  :fUb_ kci`X U`kUmggUm ¾c\ =Áabch gifY kY WUb Xc h\Uh ¿ UbXh\YbUXUmcfhkc `UhYfh\Yd\cbYkci`X f]b[UbX\Ykci`X\UjY h\Y]bZcfaUh]cb"Á — HISTORIAN MICHAEL SVANEVIK “When we would ask for something, about an event that took place 50 or 100 years ago, or the name of a person we could contact, Frank would always say, ‘oh, I’m not sure we can do that,’ and then a day or two later the phone would ring and he would have the information.” Sometimes the call came within hours. The youngest of seven children, he was six months old when his father died, leaving his mother to endure the Great Depression alone. “To coin a phrase, it was depressed,” Mr. Helfrich says with dry humor. “People were very, very hard up. Some neighbors went without food, without clothing, without anything.” The family survived with help from the Las Lomitas School PTA and card parties. In the later years of the Depression, his mother tried to sell several lots the family owned on Valparaiso Avenue for $100 total, but found no takers. Eventually the fire department bought the land in the late 1940s. See FRANK HELFRICH, page 22 June 6, 2012NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN21

The Almanac 06.06.2012 - section 2

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