Flat Stanley gets around

Susan Flanagan
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Flat Stanley in St. John's.

Stanley Lambchop arrived in the mail this week. Neatly folded into his No. 10 standard white envelope. Arms across his chest ready for action. We had been awaiting Stanley’s arrival via Canada Post. He came to us from a Grade 3 student named Annie in British Columbia.

“In school we are learning about Canada’s cities and provinces,” writes Annie. “So I’m going to give my beloved Stanley to you… to show him around and have some fun…”

For those of you not familiar with Stanley Lambchop, he’s a character out of Jeff Brown’s 1964 children’s book who gets inadvertently squished under a bulletin board that his father has hung on the wall over his bed. Except for the fact that Stanley is completely flattened, he is otherwise healthy and embraces his flatness sliding under doors and getting mailed to faraway places for visits. He also gets the unavoidable nickname Flat Stanley.

In 1995, an elementary school teacher in London, Ont., decided to use Flat Stanley to help his students learn how to write snail mail letters. I personally love snail mail. That feeling of opening the mailbox and seeing an envelope with unrecognizable handwriting. And the ultimate mystery — if there’s no return address — trying to determine from the frank where the letter originated, then peeling open the envelope to see what lies inside.

I know for a fact that letter writing is a dying art. I know this because one of my teenage children, who was sending a thank-you card recently, asked me where was the proper place to affix the stamp on the envelope. Scary, thought I. But perfectly understandable among these text-happy teenagers.

So teacher Dale Hubert and Flat Stanley have helped encourage the art of letter writing in this computerized world. The Flat Stanley project involves schoolchildren (thousands of them all around the world), usually in Grade 3, sending out their own cardboard cut-out of Flat Stanley, learning not only how to write a letter, but also absorbing more history and geography than 10 years of text books could ever teach them. It is a brilliant classroom initiative for which Hubert received a teaching excellence award in 2001.

The recipients of Flat Stanley are asked to host him for a few weeks taking him around to famous and not-so-famous sites. So far our Flat Stanley has visited Quidi Vidi to see the icebergs grounded at the entrance to the gut. We have taken him to The Rooms and Fred’s Records. At the Terry Fox Mile 0 Memorial, Flat Stanley and Terry set up an instant rapport when Terry announced his middle name was Stanley. They bonded even further when Stanley noticed a note from someone in Victoria on Vancouver Island who had travelled all the way across the country with a bottle of Pacific Ocean water to leave at Terry’s feet. Stanley realized he wasn’t the only traveller from B.C. in St. John’s that week. Hopefully the students in B.C. will find this of particular interest and it will get them talking about how Terry Fox started in the east and wanted to finish up his Marathon of Hope in his home province of B.C.

Surprise baby and I took Stanley to Moo Moos even though Annie warned us that Stanley gets crazy when he has too much ice cream. No. 2 took Stanley roller blading but promised not to grind on him as that might damage his flat innards. Stanley went to the Newfoundland Chocolate Factory and was delighted to learn the father of the owner had hosted his own Flat Stanley for a couple of weeks. Small world.

Then it was on to Afterwards Books (Flat Stanley highly encourages literacy) and the War Memorial. At Cabot Tower Flat Stanley pretended to be Marconi’s kite and learned all about the first trans-Atlantic telegraph.

To wrap up the day, Stanley hung out at the Republic of Doyle house at 28 Gower for a while. He also went to The Rooms on a beautifully sunny day, but still has to visit the Basilica and Cape Spear. Then it’s back to Ms. Hutchins’ Grade 3 class at Hillcrest Elementary in Surrey where he can tell all the students about his exciting visit to St. John’s.


Susan Flanagan once sent a small stuffed toy around the world with a note asking people to send notes to No. 1. The last note we received was a 16-page handwritten missive from an American girl in Tokyo detailing her love troubles. Susan can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca.




Job hunt feedback

Don writes: “Don’t beat yourself up. Your late arrival at the interview or your snowstorm battered appearance had nothing to do with the reason why you did not get hired for the Government of Newfoundland job that you were seeking. Most job postings and interviews in the Government of Newfoundland are a legally required formality. The reason you did not get the job with the Government of Newfoundland is because somebody else already had the job, you just did not know it and the Government of Newfoundland will never tell you that. Nepotism, favoritism and politically connected hiring is rampant in the Government of Newfoundland. I am told that there are families in Newfoundland and Labrador who have 12 or more members of their family employed by the Government. In select cases, some families have generational employment status as the jobs get passed from father to son or mother to daughter as people employed in Government departments retire or die. So, it was not your fault that you did not get hired by the Government of Newfoundland. You did not have a fair chance at that job from the start. The problem with the corrupt system of hiring in the Government of Newfoundland is that the Einstein’s get passed over in favor of hiring the village idiots.”

Organizations: Canada Post, Doyle house

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia, Canada London, Ont. Victoria Vancouver Island Pacific Ocean B.C.Surprise Atlantic Surrey Tokyo

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