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News

LA council votes to delay community center update

LA council votes to delay community center update


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council voted to delay adoption of a community center conceptual design plan last week. The plan includes elements from a design charette held earlier this fall, left.

The Los Altos City Council last...

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Schools

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
During a Science is Learning geology lesson, Theuerkauf Elementary School students learn about igneous rocks by observing how sugar changes form when heated.

Hundreds of local elementary students perform experiments w...

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Community

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'


Courtesy of Peninsula Youth Theatre
PYT’s “Oklahoma!” features, from left, David Peters of Mountain View, Jenna Levere of Los Altos and Kai Wessel of Mountain View.

Time is running out to catch Peninsula Youth Theatre’s production of “Oklahoma!”...

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Sports

Eagles advance

Eagles advance


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High’s Carmen Annevelink, left, and Kristen Liu put up a block against Mountain View. Annevelink totaled 20 kills.

Mountain View High’s out-of-the-gate energy could last for only so long against rival and he...

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Comment

Coping with addictions: Haugh About That?

Preparing to deal with my lifelong addiction, I stood in front of the mirror ready to confess the shame I’d been hiding. The first step to healing, I reminded myself, is to admit something is wrong.

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Special Sections

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One


Bruce Barton/Town Crier
Hangar One, pictured here last January, will be restored under an agreement between Google and NASA.

NASA and Google Inc. forged an agreement last week that allows Google to lease a portion of NASA’s historic Moffett Fede...

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Business

State Street science center closing Nov. 30

State Street science center closing Nov. 30


Ellie Van Houtte/
Helix at 316 State St. is closing after the completion of a one-year grant from Passerelle Investment Co. The science center became a popular destination because of its various exhibits. Town Crier

A popular downtown destination...

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Books

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree


Author Tiffany Papageorge is scheduled to sign copies of new her book 11 a.m. Dec. 6 at Linden Tree Books, 265 State St., Los Altos.

Papageorge’s “My Yellow Balloon” (Minoan Moon, 2014) is a Mom’s Choice “Gold” winner. In the book, the Los Gat...

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People

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

January 11, 1939 – November 6, 2014
Resident of Mountain View

James Windell Smith, a 40 year resident of Los Altos, passed away from complications after a post-surgery stroke November 6th, 2014 in Los Gatos, California.

Born on January 11, 1939 on...

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Travel

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine


Eren Göknar/ Special to the Town Crier
While many day-trippers may think that Sonoma is all about the grapes, the region boasts other delights. Try a biplane ride over the patchwork landscape.

Sonoma, a scenic two-hour drive from Los Altos, boa...

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Stepping Out

LA Stage Company opens 'Fairway'

The Los Altos Stage Company production of Ken Ludwig’s new comedy “The Fox on the Fairway” is slated to run Thursday through Dec. 14 at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

A tribute to the English farces of the 1930s and 1940s, “Fox” is a romp that p...

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Spiritual Life

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am


The Beth Am Women have scheduled “A Conversation with Author Maggie Anton” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills.

Anton, winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, will discu...

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Magazine

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years


Courtesy of Christopher Stark
Homes on the St. Francis High School Women’s Club’s Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour showcase a variety of architectural styles.

The days grow short on sunshine but long on nostalgia as the holidays approach...

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O Christmas trees: Resident decorates a dozen evergreens with diverse motifs


Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos home of Alice Faye and Robert Symons, above, boasts 12 Christmas trees this time of year, each featuring a different motif, including Radko clowns, Santas, shoes and patriotic items.

The first Christmas newlyweds Alice Faye and Robert Symons spent in their two-story Colonial home in Los Altos, she hung some evergreen garlands and decorated a tree – nothing out of the ordinary.

Today, a half-century later, Alice Faye still festoons the house with garlands; however, now she decorates 12 Christmas trees that are anything but ordinary.

This Southerner from North Carolina, fondly known as Grandma Sugar, is a collector. Each tree boasts a theme based on things she loves. The majority of the Christmas ornaments are gifts from family and friends – and she remembers who gave her each one.

“This Christopher Radko clown was given to me by my Julia and got me started on collecting Radko ornaments,” said Alice Faye of her daughter, Julia McLean of Palo Alto. The Symonses also have a son, Robert Jr., of San Diego, and four grandchildren.

Alice Faye and longtime friend Bev Wilson of Los Altos Hills began exchanging Radko ornaments at Christmas. Her favorite from Bev is Santa hanging from a hot air balloon, which “hangs around for the holidays” from the crystal chandelier in the living room.

More than 100 of the European blown-glass ornaments, which take seven days to produce, decorate the “Radko Tree” in the living room. The 800 lights that illuminate the tree are Robert’s responsibility.

He takes care of “engineering problems” – and rightfully so. He worked at Varian Associates for 32 years, then for Litton Industries Inc. in the Electron Devices Division for 18 years, retiring in 2001 after serving as chief technical officer. In 2010, Robert won an Emmy Award for inventing an amplifier that doubles the efficiency of high-power HDTV broadcast transmitters.

Two dolls in Polly Flinders dresses once worn by Julia are seated in front of the tree – one in a vintage cane chair, the other in a chair made by famed architect Julia Morgan, Robert’s godmother.

In front of the living room fireplace is Robert Jr.’s rocking horse, and on the mantel is a Hummel Nativity scene the Symonses purchased in Germany. Robert crafted the wooden stable.

A “Santa Tree” sits on a library table that belonged to Robert’s mother. It came from Vickery, Atkins & Torrey, a San Francisco firm that designed interiors for mansions, clubs and universities and sold furniture, decorative objects and jewelry.

Storybook Christmas

Alice Faye has filled the adjoining study with dolls.

“This is the first year I’ve brought out all of my daughter’s dolls,” she said.

Storybook and cornhusk dolls that Alice Faye had as a child adorn the “Doll Tree.” Madame Alexander dolls perch on an inlaid-wood upright piano that came around Cape Horn.

The two trees in the foyer complement one another. One is a “Shoe Tree” and the other a “Purse Tree.”

“If you have shoes, you need purses,” she said. “The purse tree started when a traveling companion gave me a replica of a Princess Di purse from an exhibit at Kensington Palace.”

Now Alice Faye showcases several dozen purses, including her grandmother’s petit-point purse, her daughter’s miniature “Hello, Dolly!” purse and a Judith Leiber evening bag purchased at a Peninsula Volunteers charity event. She has belonged to the Peninsula Volunteers since 1978.

“Because I love shoes, friends started giving me shoe ornaments,” she said, pointing out the Metropolitan Museum of Art reproductions of famous shoe designs that started her collection.

Alice Faye joked that she has as many shoes on the tree – something like 200 – as she has in her closet.

Teddy bears line the stairs leading from the foyer to the second floor, and a tree populated with well-loved stuffed animals sits on the landing.

A “Children’s Tree” trimmed with unbreakable ornaments highlights the family room. When Alice Faye’s children and grandchildren were growing up, they spent hours redoing the tree.

“It was all theirs – as long as they didn’t touch the other trees,” she said.

A “Patriotic Tree,” with the American flag as a backdrop, occupies a special corner in the family room. She created it at the start of the Iraq War. On it are White House ornaments, American symbols and a Radko ornament of the Twin Towers. Beneath it are political campaign buttons, including some collected by Alice Faye, the “requested stewardess” on the GOP-chartered United Airlines DC-6 that transported Eisenhower and Nixon around the country.

The Symonses met aboard a United flight from Burbank to San Francisco. Robert was among the 44 passengers and she was the sole stewardess.

“A doctor was in seat A and I was in seat B, and we both wanted to drive her home when we landed,” he said.

Robert won and they celebrated their 52nd anniversary Dec. 21.

It was just one of many special occasions this month. Alice Faye has entertained Clipped Wings members, Red Hat Society ladies, Peninsula Volunteers and others – all welcomed to view the trees and share the season.


Alice Faye Symons' holiday tree collection - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

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