My niece, a second-grader in a Seattle suburb, assigned me homework. She wanted me to take Flat Stanley to landmarks in Kansas City, to help her class learn geography.
For those of you who are not familiar with Flat Stanley, he began as a character, Stanley Lambchop, in a 1964 children’s book by Jeff Brown. The Stanley character is flattened in his sleep, but then has the advantage of able to visit his friends via mail.
In 1995, a Canadian teacher, Dale Hubert, started the Flat Stanley Project to get grade school children writing letters to friends to show where they took Flat Stanley. Students create paper Flat Stanleys, mail them to people they know, and ask those people to take Flat Stanley around their communities.
So I took Flat Stanley around Kansas City with me for a week. Here is the letter I sent my niece:
Your FLAT STANLEY came all the way to my city, Kansas City, Missouri, USA.
While he was here, these are some of the exciting things he saw and did:
- FLAT STANLEY and I started near my home at an overlook in Briarcliff where we could see the skyline of Kansas City, Missouri. In 2006, Briarcliff was named the best place to live in Kansas City.
FLAT STANLEY and I then went past downtown to Union Station and the Liberty Memorial. Union Station is a huge train station that was built in 1914. The Union Station Massacre took place in front of Union Station in 1933 (about where the school buses are). Mobsters tried to free a convicted criminal, and four policemen and FBI agents and the criminal were killed.
- During World War II, about a million people traveled through Union Station. It is still an Amtrak station. After a huge renovation, Union Station now also contains a Post Office, restaurants, shops, museums, and theatres.
- There is a huge clock in Union Station – it’s about six feet in diameter. Do you see FLAT STANLEY perched on the clock? I don’t know how he got up there.
- The Liberty Memorial is dedicated to soldiers who died in World War I. FLAT STANLEY and I looked at the Liberty Memorial from Union Station.
- Underneath the Liberty Memorial is the National World War I Museum. The museum opened in 1921. In 2004 it was dedicated by Congress as our nation’s official museum commemorating World War I.
- Kansas City has more than 200 fountains – more than any city except Rome, Italy. FLAT STANLEY and I drove past the J.C. Nichols Fountain, which is near the Country Club Plaza shopping area. The Plaza was the first shopping area designed for shoppers who traveled in cars.
- FLAT STANLEY also went with me to a meeting in the Country Club Christian Church. This church is on Ward Parkway, a lovely tree-lined boulevard with lots of mansions. Your Uncle Al tells me when he was your age, he thought this was the church where God lived, because it is so magnificent. (I think God lives in lots of places.)
FLAT STANLEY also had his picture taken beside the Missouri River, with a dredge in the background. Dredges keep the river channel deep enough for boat traffic.
The distance between your city, Renton, Washington, and my city, Kansas City, Missouri, is approximately 1,900 miles.
If FLAT STANLEY should come back for a visit, he should wear shorts in the summer and a parka in the winter, because the climate here is hot and humid in summer and cold in the winter.
Some other interesting facts about my city include:
- Kansas City, Missouri, began as the Town of Kansas in 1838. It was (and is) located where the Missouri and Kansas rivers join.
- There are two Kansas Cities, side by side, but one is in Missouri and the other is in Kansas. Kansas City, Missouri, is bigger, and that is where I live. Parts of the two cities are divided by the Missouri River, and parts are divided by State Line Road. (Why is it called “State Line Road”?)
- Kansas City is known for barbeque. Do you like to eat barbeque?
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Now I admit I didn’t go out of my way to show Flat Stanley a good time in Kansas City. Except for one picture (can you tell which one?), I passed all the places I wrote about on my regular travels about town a couple of weeks ago. But I hope I gave my niece some sense of what Kansas City is like.
If Flat Stanley came to visit you in your community, where would you take him?