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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Veterans Day is Monday: Los Altos pilot from World War II resolves mystery at sea


Bridges

Dave Bridges, a Los Altos resident for 60 years, witnessed an event as a U.S. Naval Reserve officer that kept him wondering for nearly 70 years.

The night of Oct. 30, 1944, Bridges was third officer on a Pan Am B-314 Clipper flying boat traveling from Honolulu to San Francisco. At approximately 9 p.m., the flight radio officer received a warning of a disaster at sea. Another Pan Am flying boat, PB2Y3, saw the lights of a ship and noticed a white wake in the water heading to it.

“PB2Y3 radioed the position and circled back to see the ship blow up and fall apart,” Bridges said. “It was torpedoed. When the PB2Y3 let down to get a better look, the plane was machine-gunned by a submarine.”

Bridges’ plane received the PB2Y3’s message and changed course to the emergency site, flying all night to reach it. As dawn broke, the captain told Bridges, who was piloting, to descend to 1,000 feet to reconnoiter the area. They saw nothing. The captain told Bridges to continue timed turns in expanding squares.

“We flew on the new heading for a minute when someone reported a lifeboat with people in it,” Bridges said. “I circled and let down to 500 feet. The plane could not land and assist on sea, due to the probable debris from the wreckage that could puncture the hull. The captain instructed our purser to fill a rubber bag with a Gibson Girl (an emergency radio transmitter), blankets, water and food. Then, he instructed me to fly out, do a 180 turn and come back. When he judged the right moment, he gave the signal and they dropped the bag through a baggage hatch.”

Bridges flew out and circled around to watch the lifeboat’s occupants take possession of the supplies.

“The engineer said that was all the fuel we could spare,” he said. “Just as we pulled back up, the radio officer said he could hear the Gibson Girl transmitting SOS in Morse code.”

Bridges’ plane landed in San Francisco Bay, docking in the lagoon beside the U.S. Coast Guard station at Mills Field (now San Francisco International Airport). Bridges said he and the crew were met by “a plethora” of military and ordered to not say a word about the incident.

Because of its classified nature, he wasn’t able to learn the aftermath.

After moving from the city to raise his family in the sunshine of Los Altos, Bridges often wondered about the fate of the survivors. He even searched the Marine Hall of Records.

Answers to long-held questions

Last summer, Bridges mentioned the story to an old friend, who forwarded the email to the author of several books related to World War II navy ships.

The author forwarded Bridges’ note to a navy researcher who knew exactly what happened.

The navy researcher identified the ship as the S.S. John A. Johnson, the only Liberty ship torpedoed between California and Hawaii.

Using this information, Bridges located statements by survivors in the National Archives.

The Johnson was en route to Honolulu carrying ammunition, explosives and 70 people, including merchant marines and other military personnel. Three different crew members detailed the torpedoing of the vessel, the quick action taken to abandon ship, the Japanese submarine that fired on the men in the lifeboats and the crew’s eventual rescue by the U.S.S. Argus.

Bridges’ Clipper plane’s dropping of supplies and the emergency radio transmitter was also mentioned and credited with enabling the survivors to signal for help. The written accounts state that due to explosions, the crew couldn’t transmit the emergency ashore before abandoning ship. It sank within two minutes, and 60 survivors managed to escape into the water, some in lifeboats and some in a raft.

Bridges said he is satisfied to have learned the final outcome of the tragedy and happy to have contributed to the rescue. He piloted with Pan Am for 37 years, retiring as a captain in 1981.

He recalls watching Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and the German Graf Zeppelin flying over his home in Alameda as a child. His grandson continues the family tradition of aviation – he recently graduated from Los Altos High and is studying aeronautical engineering.

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