649 Idylberry Road – Backyard around 1960
I recently closed an off-market transaction representing both the seller and the buyer for a remodel project. The seller’s story of 63 years in this house – is inspirational.
World War II Veteran Jim Nelson moved his wife and three very young children into a Lucas Valley home in 1958, which would turn out to be one of the best decisions Jim ever made.
A few years earlier, Jim and his wife, M.A., along with their one-year-old first-born child, had been living in New York City; Jim worked as an editor at Businessweek Magazine. City life was fun for the young couple, but they couldn’t see their children growing up playing stickball in the streets of New York. The Golden State beckoned. They dreamed of space, comfort and adventure. In 1953 Jim and M.A. bought a big red moving van, packed up all their belongings into it, and drove west to California.
Jim, M.A. and 1-year-old son – driving west – at Donner Pass, California, 1953
When they first got to California, Jim and M.A. lived for a few years in Sonoma, where Jim wrote articles, sold some short stories and operated a small gumball route – which served as inspiration for Jim’s first novel, “The Trouble With Gumballs.”
But the income from freelance writing wasn’t always dependable; one day Jim concluded he needed to find a job. He soon landed one as a copywriter in a San Francisco advertising agency. For a short period, Jim commuted Monday mornings from Sonoma all the way down to San Francisco, then stayed at the YMCA during week. He returned home to Sonoma Friday afternoons for the weekend. But the Nelsons hadn’t trekked to California to be separated; that was no way to live.
So Jim moved his young family to a rented house in Terra Linda. One day some months later, while M.A. was away in New York visiting her family, Jim found a house for sale in Lucas Valley. He thought it was perfect! Jim called his wife excitedly and was so convincing about his love for this home that she allowed him to buy it, sight unseen.
The year was 1958 and as a WW2 vet, Jim was able to assume the GI loan of the first owner, who had bought it new and lived in it less than a year. When M.A. returned from New York and saw the house, she was delighted (not to mention relieved) with Jim’s lucky find.
The house, at 649 Idylberry Road, was a beautiful A-frame style home with light pouring in from floor to ceiling walls of windows. It was in the heart of Lucas Valley and built by Joseph Eichler, the real estate developer whose mid-century modern homes brought a new era of architecture to California. The house was surrounded by hills and open spaces, and other new homes which had also been built in the preceding 24 months. Half a block away was a sprawling park – the location could not have been more ideal.
Jim & M.A. with three children – circa 1960
Over the years Jim and M.A. came to appreciate how exceptional this community was. Lucas Valley had one of the best school districts in Marin County (now the much sought-after Miller Creek School District). Jim and M.A. had peace of mind that their kids not only had a beautiful environment in which to grow, but a great educational situation as well.
Lucas Valley had so much to offer, besides great schools. There were also lovely hiking trails, creeks and woods for nature lovers; the community center with pool and tennis courts was just one block away. Kids could roam free and be safe. It was a wonderful vibrant community in a verdant setting.
The large layout of the Nelson house made it perfect for guests and for entertaining. Over the years, the Nelsons had many parties, events and regular gatherings at the house.
Climbing a backyard tree – 1966
Off to the Renaissance Faire – 1969
Early on they decided to expand the house, adding to the living room facing the backyard and to the family room in the front. Most of the garage was transformed into a large (fifth) bedroom with en suite bathroom. It has a sliding door facing the backyard, giving it a private entrance into the bedroom.
The Nelsons kids grew and went on to have their own lives, and Jim and M.A. considered downsizing or moving into other living situations – but they never really got around to doing that. They opted to stay in the house where their growing family (four kids and seven grandchildren) continued to gather for special occasions several times a year. After retiring from the advertising agency he ended up owning, Jim continued writing and wrote several books, both fiction and non-fiction, well into his mid-90’s.
649 Idylberry is a house that has been filled with a lot of love, support, enjoyment and happy times. If a place can have a positive vibe or warmth and happiness, this house certainly qualifies. Mary, now 93, recently moved to assisted living near her son in Los Angeles. Soon the Nelson family house will be ready for its next American Dream story.
Jim and M.A. heading out on a Saturday afternoon in 1962
In remodeling this house, we honor the story and love of this amazing family who lived there for 63 years, and will do our best to insure the next family who lives here can live the same sort of loving story.
To be continued…
2020 #1 Agent
700 Larkspur Landing Circle #199
*2020 #1 agent among over 150 others at Bayview Residential for highest earnings and dollar volume for Real estate & home Finance with closings in excess of 66 million dollars of combined transactions.
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