The Divine Secrets of the Sunnyside Sisters

Few people have lived in Mill Valley longer than Anne and Libby Haxton, sisters who live, garden, work out and hang out together.

Mill Valley Patch: Is there anyone in this town you don’t know? You’re always out here working and you seem to make friends with everyone who walks by.
Libby Haxton
: She’s working.
: Right, you’re sitting in your chair.
LH:  The famous people stay away from us. And the people who are high up in the hills, because our cars won’t go up there.
Anne Haxton:
Everyone is so friendly. And this house is pretty exposed. We’re kind of right here on the sidewalk when we work. I think people are pretty shocked at how slowly it’s going.

MVP: And this is the house that you grew up in?
AH: I was born in San Francisco and our parents came to Mill Valley in 1958, when I was about six months old. My brother, David, is a year older than me, and then came Amy and Marie. Libby is the youngest. Our house (on Sunnyside) was actually the garden of the house next door.
Once our parents moved here, our mom would call all of her friends in San Francisco. Then she got her first phone bill and found out it was a long distance call. She was so mad she had the phone ripped out. There used to be a gas station at Hill Street and East Blithedale, where the office building is now. My mom would go down there to make phone calls. Even when she went into labor with our sister, Marie, she went down to that pay phone to call my dad.

MVP: Were your parents hippies?
AH: No, the hippies were around later, when I had my paper route. They were a little older than me and hung out at the bus depot.
Our parents were church-going. My dad was from Scotland. He was quiet and Lutheran.

MVP: Where did you go to school?
AH: We all went to . David and I went to because that was the middle school then. Marie, Amy and Libby went to the . I think Marie straddled both. And we all went to .

MVP: Didn’t your parents also own the house across the street?
AH: Yes, there was an elderly couple, the Guptals, living there and when they moved down to Hill Haven Rest Home on Miller Ave., Mr. Guptal told my dad he wanted him to buy the house. My dad thought it was a great idea because they could use it as a rental. He liked the backyard because it had good soil. We would always go back there and dig up potatoes.

MVP: Do you know how much your parents paid for the houses?
I think ours was about $18,000 and the one across the street was about $30,000. My parents borrowed the money from David and me. I was actually the first girl to have a paper route – for the Examiner. Although I didn’t 'legally' have it because they wouldn’t give it to a girl, it was in my brother’s name. I had to go door-to-door to collect payments and all the women wanted me for babysitting and housecleaning. I had so many jobs and we both saved all of our money.

MVP: What was it like here then?
LH: As far as Sunnyside, there were lots of kids and there were four Tam High teachers and counselors on our street. There was Dr. Newman, Mr. Beattie, Mr. Falge and Mr. Wallace. Mr. Beattie and Mr. Wallace still live on Sunnyside. We couldn't get into too much trouble with all those teachers around. We played all sorts of games in the middle of the street. Someone would yell 'car' when a car approached to temporarily break up our game of kick-the-can or hide-and-go-seek or tag. Having right down the street was great. That’s where I picked up my love of sports. I was in the first group of girls that played Little League.

MVP: When did you take the house from your parents?
AH: My dad passed away in 1997 and my mom in 1998. Libby had quit her job to move in to take care of them. Then after they passed away, I wanted to buy the house.
And so did I. But Anne’s the oldest and you know how it is with the oldest child. They get everything. It’s like the hierarchy of who gets the front seat or who drives the car. So Anne paid us all and got the house, but at least she lets me live here.

MVP Do you get along?
LH: 98 percent of the time.

MVP: When did you start working on the house? You do it all yourselves right?
AH: Yes, most of it we do on our own. We started in 2001. We wanted to keep it small, and after taking care of our parents we wanted it really open. Al and I set forth with just adding a little space and re-doing the deck. As you can see it’s a never-ending project.
We want to make sure there’s room for wheelchairs and other things when we get older. We know we’ll be here forever.

MVP: And speaking of Al, Anne, when did you two start dating? (Al is Anne and Libby’s neighbor across the street). Did you just flirt across the street?
It was around 1984. We were kind of on and off at first. And I didn’t even know how great he was with construction work because we hadn’t started this.

MVP: Anne, you work in San Rafael?
Yes, I do customer service for a financial services company in San Rafael. I worked at Oracle for 18 years.

MVP: And Libby worked there as well?
LH: Yes, Anne got me something I could do from home while I was taking care of my mom. Then after she passed I started going into the city. I was at Oracle for seven years.

MVP: And now you work for the city?
LH: Yes, I work at City Hall. I’ve been there for seven years. I work upstairs in the finance department. I do the payroll.

MVP: Working at City Hall and seeing behind the scenes of Mill Valley, does it make you like the town more or less?
LH: More, definitely. My boss is incredible. He works all the time and he’s keeping everything together. There are some good jobs here and I feel fortunate to have one. The people who work for the city are great. And I really like that there are all different kinds of people. At Oracle you had all techies.
Here you’ve got all types. You’ve got the library people and the people. Libby’s probably the only person in town who knows the name of every single city employee.

MVP: How many city employees are there?
LH: As far as regular, benefited employees there are 145.  Then there are about 120 part-timers at the Community Center and .

MVP: What do you like to do when you’re not at work or working on the house or gardening?
I like to play golf. I love sports. I love all the local teams, the 49ers and the Raiders.

MVP: And you have awesome yard sales.
Yes, we have to get this front path done and then we’ll have another one.
Oh, and we go to The Community Center – when that was built it changed our lives. We don’t have kids and so that’s how we meet new people.
Just meeting people we would have never known has been so nice. It’s such a great cross section of people.

MVP: What do you miss about the old Mill Valley?
LH: Oh there are so many memories. My dad would send me down to Boyle Park during baseball season with $1 and I would buy 100 pieces of black licorice. I miss , which was where the original resides. If you got a striped gumball out of the machine you got a free candy bar. I also miss Lady Baltimore Bakery (now ) where on special occasions we got a fruit basket cake, which they were famous for. Another place we used to have was the Post Office right on Sunnyside. As a kid it was a big scary building to go into with the high ceilings and the Most Wanted posters. I am so glad that building is still there and in great condition. The Police Station used to be in City Hall and I now sit in the area where they questioned suspects.

MVP: Do you like the new Mill Valley? Some people call it 'Me Valley.'
LH: I do. I know people complain about the new people but there is room for everyone. It’s unfortunate that it’s gotten so expensive. I think people move here because they appreciate what it is.
We’ve been fortunate with our street. Everyone is very nice and respectful and there is a good assortment of people. Yes, there are people with a lot of money, but they don’t look down on the people who have been here a long time and aren’t in the same situation.

MVP: Do you like your neighbors?
LH: We’ve never had a neighbor issue. You do always worry about whose going to move in when a house goes on the market.
I remember when Libby first started working downtown and she would tell me that people would have their construction projects stopped when neighbors complained. Ours is the opposite, our neighbors just want us to get it done. No one has ever complained about our construction and believe me, it’s constant.

MVP: We had a complaint when we first moved in and started a project. Our contractor put the port-a-potty right out on the sidewalk and someone complained. I understand that.
I don’t remember that.
It was only there for one day.
I think we should all share our port-a-potties. There’s one at every house.

MVP: What do you think Mill Valley needs?
LH: I can’t really say that Mill Valley needs anything in particular. I just think people pay a lot of money to live here and they should slow down and smell the coffee (or roses). People need to get out of their cars. Not just because of the traffic, but if you walk or ride a bike you’ll just see so much more. And you’ll get to meet us when you walk down our street!

MVP: Did you always know that you wanted to stay in Mill Valley?
AH: I don’t think we ever really thought about it. I went to UC Davis and my first job was in San Francisco. Because this was so close I stayed here.
I never had any desire to go anywhere else. I was always comfortable here. I like familiarity and I don’t even like to travel that much. Whenever I say that to people they say, 'Well, you picked the best place.' I believe them.


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