Tue09162014

News

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council last week approved the installation of two new directional signs on Foothill Expressway pointing motorists to the Woodland Plaza Shopping District.

The Los Altos City Council voted unanimou...

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Schools

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Edsel Clark, new Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, above, facilitates a junior high mathematics curriculum meeting last week.

Edsel Clark, Ed.D., new assistant superintend...

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Community

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China


From IncredibleTravelPhotos.com
Jacque Kae’s “Mischievous” is one of the many photographs on display at Foothill College this month.

Photographs of the land and culture of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, China, are on exhibit through Sept. 26 at t...

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Sports

Spartans shine in opener

Spartans shine in opener


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Frank Kapp snares a touchdown pass from quarterback Owen Mountford in Friday’s win.

Leading by a point at halftime, the Mountain View High football team outscored visiting Del Mar 20-0 the rest of...

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Comment

A look ahead to the Nov. 4 election: Editorial

Election season is upon us. In Los Altos, we have three major local races ahead – two seats on the Los Altos City Council, and three seats each on the Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District boards of tr...

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Special Sections

Renovation complete,  Villa Siena looks to future

Renovation complete, Villa Siena looks to future


Above and Below Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier; Left Photo Courtesy of Villa Siena
Villa Siena in Mountain View recently underwent a $35 million face-lift. The five-year project expanded their senior living community’s space and ability to serv...

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Business

Transitioning from postage to pets

Transitioning from postage to pets


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A new Pet Food Express store is scheduled to open at the Blossom Valley Shopping Center this month.

A site that previously existed to meet postal service needs will soon have an entirely different purpose – serving pe...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

JEANNE PACKARD

After suffering a stroke in May, Jeanne Packard died August 10, 2014 at age 83. She was born in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Emily Channel and Frank Howe Packard of Chicago, IL. Jeanne is survived by 5 great grandchildren. She was a lon...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos


Courtesy of Los
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, from left, Mylissa Malley as Lin, Vanessa Alvarez as Betty, and Christina Bolognini as Pickles. Altos Stage Company

Los Altos Stage Company...

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Spiritual Life

9/11 survivor Michael Hingson finds purpose

Imagine walking down 78 flights of stairs – 1,463 individual steps. You are in imminent danger as you walk, unsure whether you can make it out of the building before it collapses or explodes. Struggling for each breath, you smell the heavy sten...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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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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