WORKING THE BIG ESTATES
taken from article in The Country Almanac, September 29, 1993,
"John Skrabo remembers..." by Marion Softky
Artificial rocks from the old Schilling estate are still visible
at the bridge on Old La Honda Road where John Skrabo is sitting.
When Chester Skrabos back gave him trouble, young John dropped out of high school and went to work as a gardener on the Schilling estate.
"Without question, it was the finest estate in Northern California," Mr. Skrabo says with utter conviction.
He vividly recalls the hillside garden complex crossing Portola Road at its intersection with Old La Honda Road. There were five greenhouses and two conservatories, a deer park, several lakes, and a waterfall cascading down the hillside over artificial rocks carved to hold flowers.
August Schilling, founder of the spice company, was a passionate lover of flowers and "a wonderful person he always spoke to you," Mr. Skrabo recalls. "He had a goatee. He reminded me of Kaiser Wilhelm."
He also paid young John 50 cents an hour - $4 a day, $100 a month - when the other estate owners in the valley were paying 40 cents an hour. "Id give Mother $95 and keep $5," he says.
When Mr. Schilling died and the estate was closed down, Mr. Skrabo went to work for the Fitzhughs across Portola Road where Stonegate, Grove Drive and the windmill are now. That windmill was never red it was earth tones," he says.
Mr. Skrabo regrets that children today cant lead the life he did. "Wed do our chores and then go out and shoot rabbit and quail. It was a great life."