Thu05052016

News

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Gregory Helfrich

Santa Clara Sheriff’s detectives have arrested a Los Altos Hills man they suspect repeatedly molested a child decades ago.

Detectives arrested Gregory Helfrich, 54, on a warrant at his Old Page Mill Road home April 27 and...

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Schools

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students


Courtesy of Jessica Harell
Blach Intermediate School seventh-grader Paris Harrell, who loves science and animals, recently received a scholarship from the local branch of the AAUW to attend Tech Trek camp.

It’s not every day that a junior hig...

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Community

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner


Federici

Longtime Los Altos resident Mario Federici, who turned 98 Feb. 24, is a man of many languages. He shared his knowledge with thousands of students during his long career as a teacher.

Federici was born and raised in Italy, where he stud...

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Comment

Attend an event, get involved, have fun: Editorial

You don’t have to run for city council to get involved in the community. Sometimes it can be as simple as attending a Los Altos event. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, as the May and June calendars are bustling with activity.

The Dow...

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Special Sections

Racing around Monterey

Racing around Monterey


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The easy handling of the VW Golf R, above, makes for an ideal ride along the Big Sur coast.

 

When automotive journalists are asked to list their favorite places in the world to drive, Monterey alway...

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Business

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations


Courtesy of Eureka
Eureka, a new restaurant in downtown Mountain View, highlights local craft beer and whiskeys on a menu of food spanning from sea to farm.

Craft beer and fancy whiskeys headline the menu at Eureka, the new restaurant that opene...

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People

Stepping Out

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'


Courtesy of Palo Alto Players
The Baker’s Wife, left, and Cinderella’s erstwhile Prince stand out in the Palo Alto Players production of “Into the Woods.”

Little Red Riding Hood sets forth at the outset of “Into the...

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Spiritual Life

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International


Courtesy of Los ALtos United Methodist Church
Hidden Villa will bring some of its farm animals to Los Altos United Methodist Church Sunday to support the nonprofit Heifer International.

Los Altos United Methodist Church is scheduled to salute th...

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‘The Boys in the Boat’ navigates historical, political waters


It’s a total mystery to me how an author can take a historical event, one where the outcome is already known, and yet chronicle that event in such a way that readers breathlessly follow every twist and turn toward the inevitable finish.

Such is the case with Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” (Viking Adult, 2013), his nonfiction account of how nine young men from the University of Washington’s rowing team competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and took home the gold medal, angering German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his cronies in the process.

In the 1930s, competitive rowing was an immensely popular sport – on par with football today. Teams at prestigious colleges on the East Coast largely dominated the sport, and, as today, the major competition on the West Coast was between powerhouses UC Berkeley and the University of Washington.

While Brown details the rowing rivalries, he also documents the stories of many of the men – both rowers and coaches – who made the remarkable Olympic win possible.

There are so many heroes in “The Boys in the Boat” that it’s difficult to prioritize their importance. Brown begins with one of the young men, Joe Rantz, whom the author met in the early 2000s, when Rantz was dying, and interviewed extensively for the book.

One of the book’s strengths lies in Rantz’s recounting of the emotions evoked by the momentous victory. After the team’s underdog upset, for example, the other young men celebrated wildly all night in Berlin. Rantz, however, stayed in his bunk contemplating his experience: “He had known in that instant that there could be no hesitation, no shred of indecision. He had had no choice but to throw himself into each stroke as if he were throwing himself off of a cliff into a void, with unquestioned faith that the others would be there to save him. …Now he felt whole. He was ready to go home.”

Rantz’s life story unfolds in some detail, and it is heartbreaking. His family moved out of their house twice and refused to take young Joe with them, apparently because his stepmother thought the family couldn’t afford his care during the Depression. Consequently, Rantz, like several of his crewmates, grew up performing all sorts of hard, physical labor.

The men turned what could have broken their spirits – and their bones, for that matter – into an advantage during racing. They knew pain, an inevitable byproduct of the grueling sport of eight-oar crews. The physically rugged Washingtonians were simply in better shape than their competition.

Readers meet another remarkable man in “The Boys in the Boat” – George Pocock, a boat-builder from England who not only built all of the handmade cedar boats the team used in its races, but also dispensed invaluable advice to the crew and coach. Quotes of his philosophy on competitive rowing open each chapter.

In addition to the personal portraits, Brown provides fascinating context to the story through his descriptions of the political backdrop of 1930s Germany, including Hitler’s rise to power, his desire to use the Olympics as a showcase for the Third Reich and movie producer Leni Riefenstahl’s innovations in filming the competition for her 1938 movie “Olympia.”

Book clubs that enjoyed Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken” (Random House, 2010) and devour other true-life tales of courage should sail through “The Boys in the Boat,” a fast, educational, well-written and absorbing read.

Leslie Ashmore is a Mountain View resident who belongs to two book clubs.

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