Nebraska schoolchildren may be surprised at paper hero's adventures

PENINSULA - Jim and Marge Williams of Ocean Park recently were surprised by an unexpected house guest.

Flat Stanley, known the world over for his children's books, made his first known visit to the Peninsula, and he has some great stories to tell when he flies back to Nebraska - by priority mail.

The Williamses had never heard of Flat Stanley and didn't quite know what to make of him at first. He is about 12 inches tall and paper thin. He wears a blue suit with a red a tie and has a flat-top haircut.

He sat on the Williams' kitchen table for awhile, watching, waiting, and the Williamses eventually decided to have some fun with him. They started showing him off to their friends and taking them around town.

"We started introducing him to everyone we saw," said Mrs. Williams. "He was just so cute, I couldn't leave him behind. Before long, he was going everywhere with us."

A few words from Flat StanleyStanley told his parents how he felt. "It's the other kids I mostly mind," he said. "They don't like me any more because I'm different. Flat."

"Shame on them," Mrs. Lambchop said. "It is wrong to dislike people for their shapes. Or their religion, for that matter, or the colour of their skin."

"I know," Stanley said. "Only maybe it's impossible for everybody to like everybody."

"Perhaps," said Mrs. Lambchop. "But they can try."

-Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown

As the interest in Stanley grew, so did his adventures. He went to the Pacific County Courthouse in South Bend. He visited Jake the alligator man at Marsh's Free Museum and the World's Largest Frying Pan in Long Beach. Flat Stanley volunteered at the ReachOut Food Bank and visited a cruise ship docked in Astoria. He even got a bird's eye view on board a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter.

"I think we showed him the finer points of the area," said Mrs. Williams, who admits she and her husband rarely do what they call the "tourist thing."

The idea of Flat Stanley came to children's author Jeff Brown many years ago when he was tucking in his two sons. One of the boys said he was afraid a bulletin board that hung above his bed would fall during the night, landing on top of him.

Brown, in an effort of calm the boy, said the bulletin board could not fall because he had made sure it was secured in place. Then, to make a joke, Brown said that even if it did fall it wouldn't hurt, but it might make the boy flat.

From that beginning Flat Stanley has come a long way. Aside from having numerous books published about his adventures, Flat Stanley has traveled the around the world (literally) as part of school projects across the country.

As part of this project, Martha Nasco and her classmates at Linden Elementary in Fremont, Neb., drew their own Flat Stanley on a piece of paper. They then colored him, folded him up and put him in an envelope, ready for departure.

Flat Stanley arrived on the Peninsula about three weeks ago. He brought a letter to introduce himself and explain the reason for his trip. He was there so he and his friends at Linden Elementary could learn about different places. In the letter the Williamses were asked to show him around the area and send him back to Nebraska with any photos or stories about this strange, far-off place.

According to Nasco's letter, Stanley had to be back in Nebraska by Nov. 17, and the Williamses had heard that the other kids in class were teasing Nasco. Some of the other kids had already welcomed their Flat Stanley back to class and started to tell Martha that her Flat Stanley wouldn't return. Surely he would not have any exciting stories from his trip if he ever did come back.

"I think those other kids are going to be pretty surprised," said Mr. Williams. "They were telling this little girl that he couldn't have done anything exciting. This will show them."

The highlight of his visit had to be when Stanley toured the Columbia River and the Tillamook Lighthouse on board a Coast Guard helicopter. The Williams are active members of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and through the Eagles, Flat Stanley was introduced to Jack Woolery, a chief warrant officer in the USGC.

Woolery got such a kick out of Flat Stanley, he arraigned a meeting with Thomas Bennett, vice commandant USGC. Bennett is one of the highest ranking officers in the USGC, and it was he that took Flat Stanley aboard the helicopter.

"I had a great trip with Flat Stanley in a Coast Guard Helicopter," Bennett wrote in a letter to Martha and her class. "He is a great companion and flyer."

The Williams plan to send many photos of Stanley's visit and a detailed account of his trip. They are also including some beach sand, an oyster shell and a "Discovery Coast Visitor's Guide" so the class can learn more about our neck of the woods.

"It's funny how one little man made out of paper can bring so much happiness," said Mrs. Williams. "Everyone needs something to feel good about and Flat Stanley is really special."

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