‘Flat Stanley’ makes stop in Shelby County

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2002

He’s flat. He’s made of paper. And recently, he came to Shelby County.

Flat Stanley arrived via first-class mail at the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce in Columbiana accompanied by a letter from Mobile fourth-grader Tavin Johnson.

Johnson and his classmates at Elsie Collier Elementary School recently read the book, &uot;Flat Stanley,&uot; by Jeff Brown about an elementary student who is squashed by a falling bulletin board.

As tragic as that sounds, Stanley soon discovers one of the many advantages of being two-dimensional is he now can visit his friends by traveling in an envelope.

Using Brown’s book as a premise, a group of teachers several years ago organized The Flat Stanley Project as a way to encourage their students to write while learning about distant places.

As part of their study of Alabama history, Johnson and his classmates sent out an army of the paper cutouts accompanied by letters across the state.

&uot;I am mailing my Stanley to you, and I hope you don’t mind helping me out,&uot; Johnson wrote. &uot;Can Stanley stay with you for about a week and learn about where you live?

&uot;It would be great if he could visit some neat places where you live and come back to me with information about where you live.&uot;

Bonnie Atchison, South Shelby Chamber of Commerce director, served as Stanley’s host and tour guide during his stay in Shelby County.

&uot;I thought it was just about the cutest thing I ever saw,&uot; Atchison said. &uot;There is a teacher somewhere who is really on the ball.&uot;

From the comfort and safety of Atchison’s purse, Flat Stanley lunched with members of the South Shelby chamber, worshipped at the First Baptist Church of Columbiana and attended meetings of the Columbiana City Council and the Shelby County Art Association.

Flat Stanley wrapped up his whirlwind tour on Friday with a visit to the Karl C. Harrison Museum of George Washington, the Shelby County Museum and Archives, Old Shelby Iron Works, The American Village and Oak Mountain State Park.

&uot;All in all, Stanley has had a busy week,&uot; Atchison wrote back. &uot;He has been lovingly cared for and I hope someday to see him again.

&uot;We know that when he has grown up, he will remember his trip to Columbiana and what he has learned from his stay with us.&uot;

To help him remember his visit, Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe presented Stanley with a key to the city.

&uot;I think it’s a wonderful idea to help children learn about their nation and their state,&uot; Lowe said. &uot;It gives them a unique viewpoint of our nation, and it allows us to be involved in their learning.&uot;

But Lowe isn’t the only public official Stanley has had the pleasure of meeting.

Always careful to avoid paper cuts, Flat Stanley has rubbed elbows with such notable figures as Former First Lady and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

And while his preferred mode of transportation is the U.S Postal Service, Stanley has found himself traveling with President George W. Bush aboard Air Force One, on the space shuttle Discovery and strapped into a U-2 spy plane 12 miles above Saudi Arabia.

He’s also been spotted on the sets of such popular television shows as &uot;Everybody Loves Raymond,&uot; &uot;The West Wing,&uot; &uot;The Rosie O’Donnell Show&uot; and &uot;Who Wants to be a Millionaire?&uot;