“During the daytime, we had 16 gardeners plus staff. We had about 25 baby sitters. They couldn’t get into trouble if they tried,” she laughed. At Christmastime, the house would be filled with people putting up elaborate decorations sometimes until midnight. The rest of the year, the Grafs were the only ones around after dark. “As soon as the gardens closed it was all ours,” Maggie Graf said with delight. “In the summertime, we’d have picnics on the lawn or over on the balcony.” “The mosquitoes didn’t come up that high,” added Don Graf about the balcony dining. Sometimes things did go bump in the night. “One night we heard a knock on our upstairs door. The kids had been playing and had left the back door to the house open. It was a raccoon. We gave him a banana and some water. He ate it and left,” she said. “They left the door open again and a whole raccoon family came in.” Many dream of living in a mansion on hill surrounded by acres of trees and gardens. Don and Maggie Graf lived that dream with their two sons for less than $100 a month. The Grafs lived in the Boddy House – the 2007 Pasadena Showcase House of Design – as caretakers from 1960 to 1997. It was not a life of luxury, but it was an adventure. They lived in five rooms in the eastern portion of the second floor. During the day, people would come and go beneath them for art exhibits, luncheons and meetings, said Maggie Graf. She said she never had to worry about her sons when they were playing outside. Another night when a babysitter was there, Don and Maggie Graf returned to find the “granddaddy of all skunks” on the front staircase. Luckily, they were able to shoo him away without provoking him to stink up the house. “After that we never forgot to lock that door,” Maggie laughed. “You never really knew what you were going to run in to.” The Grafs were a young couple with a 6-month-old son when they moved into the 1938 house that E. Manchester Boddy had sold to Los Angeles County in 1953. Another couple had lived in the house for a few years, but had decided to move. Don Graf was working at Descanso Gardens as a tram driver and handling public relations in the gatehouse when his employers invited them to live in the house. “We were young, dumb and poor with a brand new baby. We were living in West Covina and our pediatrician was in Pasadena and I didn’t drive at the time. It made a lot more sense at the time, especially since the baby was sick a lot.” “The solitude and beauty of the grounds was a wonderful selling point,” added Don Graf. “It was sometimes like working 24 hours a day. I had to check the grounds a couple times a night and sometimes there were kids wandering around or there would be a broken pipe.” They paid a meager rent of $57 per month, which went up to $154 per month by the end of their 37 years there. Their living quarters were cramped and their kitchen tiny. It looked nothing like the Showcase House. “It’s absolutely amazing what they could accomplish,” Maggie Graf said after touring the Showcase House of Design – her old home. The small upstairs family room – made over by Karina Oldemans Interior Design with a sage green wall unit and matching thin wood veneer wallpaper – was the Grafs’ living room. The room decorated as a teen daughter’s bedroom by Studio Blu Interior Design was the Grafs’ master bedroom. The larger closet was their baby nursery with a crib, changing table and rocking chair. “I was upset that they painted that cedar wood,” said Maggie Graf of the pink, black and white walls. Though she admitted she understands why they’d want to make the room brighter. The family shared the bathroom that connects their old master bedroom to the boys’ room, which was redone as a teen boy’s room by MK and Company Interior Design. The connecting room that has been redone as an elegant office by Judy Taylor Interior Design was the family’s kitchen. That room has changed the most drastically of the rooms they lived in, said Maggie Graf. Where the desk sits there was a closet wall, so their kitchen was even smaller. It was a mere 10 by 11 feet, she said. “When the boys got older and we needed room for a table, I had my husband take out the stove and I cooked on a two-burner hot plate and in the microwave for 10 years,” she remembered. Maggie Graf was pleased with most of the new looks in the house but was most excited to see the new patio out back. “It’s beautiful now. The flagstones were lifting up before and it was really a hazard,” she said. No one has lived in the house since the Grafs moved out in 1997. They now live in a mobile home in Palmdale. The Descanso Gardens Guild asked them to move out because they needed more office space. Though the Grafs sometimes wish they’d bought a house for the financial investment, they’re glad they lived in the Boddy House. “For the sake of raising the kids, we wouldn’t change the decision we made,” said Don Graf. “The solitude and the animals were great.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!