Susie and the Flat Mark Twins
I’d like to introduce you to the Flat Mark twins.
But first, a little history.
Flat Stanley is a character in a 1964 book written by Jeff Brown and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer. In the book, Stanley Lambchop and his brother Arthur are given a bulletin board where they can tack up pictures and notes. In the middle of the night the bulletin board falls off the wall and flattens Stanley.
Stanley soon discovers that his new state is kind of cool: he can slip under locked doors and he can even be mailed around the world in an envelope. He goes on lots of adventures.
In 1994, Dale Hubert started the Flat Stanley Project in Ontario. He thought kids could cut out paper drawings of themselves and mail them to people around the world (https://www.flatstanley.com/about?subpage=project). The phenomenon caught on.
I first met Stanley when he came to visit my Sparks unit in Cumberland, BC, in the early 2000s; one of the girls was hosting a Stanley and brought him to share, and to have her photo taken with him and our unit. I was intrigued and wrote an article about it.
I didn’t see “Stanley” again until three years ago, when Sandi Zeutenhorst Schmidt, a teacher at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Wenatchee, Wash., posted a request on Facebook asking people to host “Flats” from her students.
Sandi and I go way back; we met each other as teenagers at an international Girl Guide/ Girl Scout event. We have stayed in touch in various ways through the years, including Facebook.
I said sure, I would host a “Flat”. Soon after that, Flat Sydnie arrived in Port Alberni, B.C. Canada. She had pink and purple hair, and we had some grand adventures. I took some photos, threw together a scrapbook and mailed it off. I also wrote a column about Flat Sydnie. (http://www.albernivalleynews.com/opinion/121745659.html)
I was fortunate that Flat Sydnie’s mom allowed Sandi to send me a photo of “Real” Sydnie, and I still keep it tacked up to my bulletin board at work.
Last month, Sandi contacted me again: Sydnie’s brother Mark was doing the Flat Stanley project with her and would I be interested in hosting another “Flat”?
Of COURSE! I told her. I waited excitedly for the mail.
And I waited…
And I waited…
And waited…..and waited…..
Flat Mark was lost in the mail! Having his own grand adventure, I thought, a little disappointed that he didn’t take me along.
I contacted Sandi and asked her to have Real Mark draw another Flat Mark, and this time scan it so I could print it out.
Flat Mark, fresh off the colour printer in my office at the Alberni Valley News.
Finally, on April 11, 2014, Flat Mark arrived. Let the adventures begin!
“Flat” Mark and “Real” Sydnie, whose “Flat Sydnie” I hosted a few years ago.
The next day, Flat Mark and I went to the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and took a photo with the carved bear out front of the building.
Grrrr! Flat Mark meets one of the carved bears in front of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce.
As I was taking this photo, a woman came out of the building and said, “Oh, I see you have Flat Stanley!”
I explained to her that this was in fact Flat Mark and that he was visiting from Wenatchee, Wash. The woman stopped, smiled, and said “We’re from Edmonds, Wash.!” She and her family were visiting Port Alberni.
We went to Cathedral Grove, on our way to Courtenay, where I had to attend an event for a freelance project I was working on. Cathedral Grove, or MacMillan Provincial Park (it’s formal name) features one of the largest stands of giant Douglas Fir trees on Vancouver Island, in a park that has been around since the 1920s. Some of the trees are 800 years old! One tree is nine metres in circumference—I wonder how many students it would take holding hands to reach around that big tree.
Flat Mark stands beneath a very big tree in Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island.
On our way to Courtenay, we detoured to Fanny Bay, where I used to live, and saw the sea lions. It was the end of the herring season and the sea lions were gathered on a float near the government dock at Fanny Bay.
Flat Mark holds onto a rope on the government dock at Fanny Bay while watching the sea lions.
Cool sea lions!
Hey, a tugboat named ‘Alberni’, just like where Susie lives.
We stopped at the Village Yarn Shoppe to see Susie’s friend Beth, too. She played peek-a-boo with Flat Mark in the yarn.
On April 14, Flat Mark met Susie’s Girl Guides and went on a field trip to the Alberni Valley Rescue Hall, where he met Jane, one of the search and rescue volunteers who look for people who are lost.
Flat Mark, Jane and Susie at a Girl Guide field trip to the Alberni Valley Rescue Hall.
April 16 was a VERY special day. When Susie came home from work, there was a large manila envelope in her mailbox.
Could it be? Flat Mark I has arrived!
The original Flat Mark had arrived! And by the looks of the envelope, he had been to Calgary, Alberta, before he was rerouted to a mail depot in Vancouver, B.C. and then on to Port Alberni.
You know what that meant? Flat Mark was really twins! I had two Flat Marks to entertain.
On April 18, I had to go back to Courtenay to take some photos, so the Flat Mark Twins came along.
We checked out the Comox International Airport (call sign YQQ).
And the Courtenay Airpark (call sign AH3), where Susie earned her pilot’s licence in 1999.
We went up to Mount Washington Alpine Resort, where people were skiing and snowboarding.
Then we saw the Snowbirds Canadian air demonstration squadron while we were in Comox! Susie LOVES the Snowbirds.
The Snowbirds come to Comox every spring to train before the beginning of their airshow season.
There is a Snowbird Tutor jet mounted on a stand at the Comox Valley Visitors’ Centre.
On April 26, the Flat Mark Twins went on a BC Ferries boat ride to Richmond, B.C., where Susie, her publisher and two reporters attended the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspapers Association awards gala. Susie won an award, a Silver Quill Award, for 25 years of work and service in community newspapers.
On the ferry on the way to Richmond, B.C. We got onto the ferry in Nanaimo, B.C.
Susie, her award and the Flat Mark Twins.
On May 2, we all attended the Regional Heritage Faire, which Susie helps judge every year. Flat Sydnie also attended this fair. The Flat Mark Twins met Rosemarie Buchanan, a school trustee with School District 70, and Sarah Bell, a student who won an award for her historical display on the TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. Sarah’s grandfather helped build the cyclotron, and that was the focus of her history project.
SD70 trustee Rosemarie Buchanan welcomes the Flat Mark Twins to the Regional Heritage Faire.
Sarah Bell with her history project on TRIUMF.
By this time, the Flat Mark Twins were supposed to be heading home to Wenatchee and back to their owner. But they were having too much fun and refused to get back into the envelope just yet.
So they came to Guide camp with Susie, toured the Courtenay Museum, were snatched from the jaws of a dinosaur!
Hanging out at Guide camp at Camp Gilwell in Courtenay. Susie and the Flat Mark Twins have spent a lot of time in Courtenay in the last month, even though Susie lives in Port Alberni.
The Flat Mark Twins meet the Elasmosaur at Courtenay Museum.
Wow, those are big teeth!
Some of the actual elasmosaur bones that were discovered along the Puntledge River.
Oh no! That was a close call for the Flat Mark Twins!
Now, the Flat Mark Twins are on a cross-Canada adventure with Susie. We left Vancouver International Airport (call sign YVR) on May 24, and arrived in Moncton, New Brunswick very late that night. We are visiting Susie’s sister and her family in Amherst, Nova Scotia, right over the border from New Brunswick.
Welcome to Nova Scotia, Flat Mark Twins!
Visiting Fort Beausejour in Aulac, New Brunswick.
An historic cannon.
A gun port built into the stone walls of the fort. Many of the fort’s foundations are still standing.
Fort Beausejour, Aulac, New Brunswick.
A little history of the fort, for those who are curious.
What’s next for Susie and the Flat Mark Twins? More of Amherst, Nova Soctia, Fredericton, New Brunswick then off to Ottawa, Canada’s national capital, where we plan to visit the Parliament Buildings—Canada’s version of the White House.