Firepit gatherings illustrate close-knit feel of Tata Lane |

Firepit gatherings illustrate close-knit feel of Tata Lane

Susan Wood

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Alex relaxes in the yard of Joane and Lyell Evans during a gathering around the fire pit.

Ed Gerrard learned a valuable lesson about his neighbors after he left his Tata Lane home to go on vacation: People are watching.

When his garbage cans didn’t come out to the curb as usual, it caused a bit of a stir among his observant neighbors. His neighbor Candy Curtis got out her phone list and called him. When there was no answer, she entered his house and set off the alarm. Gerrard is age 88, so Curtis wanted to make sure he was OK.

Such is life on Tata Lane, a dead-end street in South Lake Tahoe that’s anything but that in terms of its residents’ outreach. The Barton-area neighborhood is a hub of neighborly activity east of the intersection where highways 50 and 89 converge. The street is dotted with American flags – just to show its patriotism.

Gerrard moved there in 1964. He’s seen a lot of changes. Through the years, his neighbors have moved away because of increasing property values that have priced many out of the South Shore neighborhoods – even some in the low-rent district.

Those who have stayed through the years have developed a close-knit group of neighbors on Tata Lane, D and F streets. On the weekend, neighbors stand in the street or in their pine-cone filled yards to talk and see what’s happening with each other. They appear to come from all walks of life.

Part of the routine for the neighbors includes keeping neighbors Lyell and Joane Evans’ firepit gatherings on the calendar, clearing driveways of snow, scheduling a Christmas potluck every year and making runs to stock up on Costco goods.

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Ted Wendell, who casually leans back in his chair, jokes about screening Callie Curtis’ boyfriends. He has known the 17 year old since she was a baby. He’s now “Uncle Ted”.

Fewer children are found in the neighborhood today. Still, the residents look at for the ones who do live there. A sign is posted on the street, which reads: “Slow. Children at Play”.

This place has Tahoe written all over it. Homes are constructed with a mix of rock and wood.

“When we moved in, I told Randy we’re going to know our neighbors. People don’t seem to know their neighbors anymore. They get too sidetracked,” Candy Curtis said. She and her husband moved onto Tata Lane in 1985.

On the flipside, Lynette Bollier didn’t grow up knowing her neighbors in Needles. But that soon changed for her and husband Bill Lowe when they moved into the South Shore’s west-end neighborhood eight years ago.

“When we moved here, we didn’t know a soul,” she said.

The couple organized a Fourth of July party, and everybody in the surrounding area showed up. The annual event has become so successful the couple almost placed the commitment in the sales transaction of their home before they hit the road in a recreational vehicle. The duo told the buyers they’d be expected to host the party.

“Leaving the neighbors is the worst part. I’ve never had a neighborhood like that,” Bollier said.

Julie Belair, who gathered with 15 or so of her neighbors at the Evans’ firepit on a warm summer night, attributed much of the disconnected feel in neighborhoods to a person’s time and commitments.

“Everybody has organized sports to go to. They make friends there. People are too busy and usually two parents are working,” she said.

On the intersection of Tata Lane and F Street though, the neighbors will make time for each other – no matter what hour of the day it is. A month ago, a motorist spun out of control in front of a yard and 10 neighbors came out to the corner at 10 p.m. to ensure the homeowner’s safety.

Among them was Pat Banner, who talks about a neighborhood’s accountability as a teacher would. To chip in, she checks on vacation homes in the winter for owners.

And along with Wendell, Banner received solace from her neighbors when her dog died.

“I’ve often thought about moving away from the snow, but I love the people too much,” she said.