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Historical Commission announces winners of 30th annual essay contest

The Los Altos Historical Commission recently announced the winners of the 30th annual Margaret Thompson Historical Essay Contest.

The contest asked students in grades to three to six to observe their local surroundings and imagine what it would be like if their favorite work of art came to life for one day. Directions suggested they take inspiration from the recent San Francisco Museum of Modern Art “Project Los Altos” exhibition and “Los Altos Moving Art Forward,” the History Museum display from earlier this year. This year’s winners:

• Third grade: Megan Mac- Kenzie, Gardner Bullis School, first place; Elyssa Kennedy, Gardner Bullis, second place; and Hannah Meng, Springer, third place.

• Fourth grade: Arya Hatami, Covington, first place; Eveliena Pasmooij, Springer, second place; and Brady Wilson, Covington, third place.

• Fifth grade: Linnea Leaver, Pinewood, first place; Sage Toomre, Santa Rita, second place; and Brandon Freiberg, Loyola, third place.

• Sixth grade: Sarah Feng, Pinewood, first place; Katie Woods, Pinewood, second place; and William Collins, Pinewood, third place.

Winners in first place received $50 cash prizes; second place, $30; and third place, $20. The winners will be recognized at an ice cream social 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Los Altos History Museum courtyard, followed by an awards presentation at the beginning of that evening’s Los Altos City Council meeting.

Following are the winning essays, with name, placing, grade and school:

Will You Dance with Me?
By Megan MacKenzie
First Place, Grade 3, Gardner Bullis
    “There go those girls to their ballet class again. I wish I could be like them,” thought a poor girl named Edna. She was on State Street at the corner of Second Street watching her reflection in the Nature Gallery shop window as she practiced her pirouettes, one warm fall afternoon.
    “I'd love to dance with them, but I can't. They'd tease me like everyone else does. I can't help that my dress is a dark, dingy gray, not at all like their gorgeous pink dresses that swirl around their waists as they dance. I wish my legs we weren't different sizes, and I'd love to have a friend”
    The next day outside the ballet studio Edna was watching the dancers when a brightly colored notice caught her eye. Dance Performance, Auditions 5 p.m. Sept. 7.
    “That's this evening,” she thought.
    So that evening, Edna walked awkwardly on her uneven legs to the ballet studio. When she got there, she waited nervously for her turn to audition, As soon as she limped onto the stage with her withered leg dragging helplessly behind her, the judges started whispering among themselves.
    “Look at those legs,” muttered one, “She can't dance.”
    “Let's send her home,” whispered another.
    “We're sorry,” they exclaimed. “We feel you'll just be a waste of time.”
    When Edna walked home her eyes were like lakes filled with tears. Now the poor girl wished more than ever she would fit in. The next day was bright and sunny but to Edna it was the loneliest, gloomiest day she had ever known. She was slumped in her usual seat looking into the studio and longing to go dance with the other dancers.
    Just then, she saw a friendly face looking out at her and signaling with her hand for Edna to come in. Edna stood up and slowly walked toward the door.
    “ Hi,” the girl said. “I'm Megan. Will you dance with me?”


I Wannabe, too!
By Elyssa Kennedy
Second Place, Grade 3, Gardner Bullis
    Once upon a time, there was a little girl names Diane. She loved gymnastics. Every time you saw her, Diane was upside down, doing cartwheels. Every day on her way to school, Diane would walk by the statues in Village Park on the corner of Edith Avenue and San Antonio Road. She would stop, look at the statues of the five children, and do a cartwheel. Diane had a big imagination. She would imagine that one day the five kids would all of the sudden be real.
    One sunny Saturday, she ran by the statues again, did a cartwheel and then she saw one of the kids in the statue move. Then all of sudden, she heard a noise. She thought it was coming from one of the statues. Sure enough, she looked their way, and the boy statue that was normally upside down, was now standing up. He was real!
    Diane rushed over to the little boy and said, “Are you the boy from the 'Olympic Wannabe' statue?
    The boy answered, “Yes, I've be watching you do cartwheels beside me and my friends, and I wanted to meet you.”
    Diane said, “But how did you come to life? You are just a statue?”
    “You cartwheeled behind us on a special day. It's my birthday! I made a wish that I could come to life and I did! My name is Joe.”
    “Hi Joe! Happy birthday! Do you love gymnastics as mush as I do? I dream about going to the Olympics, someday,” Diane said.
    “Me too!” said Joe “Do you want to practice gymnastics?”
    After a while, Diane remembered she had to go to gymnastics practice, so she said goodbye to Joe, hoping that they could play again someday.

'Will You Dance with Me?'
By Hannah Meng
Third Place, Grade 3, Springer
    “Los Altos is more magical than New York.” I would know as I am a native New Yorker, but I live in Los Altos now. How do I know? Well, have you ever seen the Statue of Liberty dance? Exactly, you haven't! But in Los Altos, I have seen a dancing sculpture!
    One day, last summer, in Los Altos, I went for a walk on State Street, Right before Second Street, I saw my favorite sculpture - “Will You Dance With Me?” sculpted by Ed Hart
    I've walked by it many times on my way to San Juan Dance, but all of a sudden, the sculpture seemed to be waving to me. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed, but the crowd had drifted away to eat lunch. Then, to my surprise, the statue walked off its platform and went over … to talk to me!
    The sculpture asked me my name, so I said “Hannah.” She asked, “Hannah, will you dance with me?”
    Would I! For the next 30 minutes, we did the plié, jeté and pas de chat. You would think that a stature dancing with a third-grader might be noticed, but people walked by as if they knew such magic happened all the time in Los Altos. When we got tired, I took the statue to Linden Tree Books. I got two books on ballet, and then we went to Baskin Robbins to get ice cream.
    The next day I went for another walk down State Street, but when I came to Second Street, this time the statue didn't do anything. I thought I saw a wink, however, so I winked back. I wasn't surprised, because I know that Los Altos is a magical place, although you probably already knew that. Where else can you dance with a beautiful sculpture?

'Cradle of Liberty': Heroic Soldier, Homeless Child
By Arya Hatami
First Place, Grade 4, Covington
    Boom! Crash! Bombs exploded across the desolate city, and debris flew through the air, twisting cars and demolishing abandoned buildings. A lone soldier ran through the broken buildings, searching for cover and injured citizens who may need rescuing. He was drafted into the war, but although he had no choice in being there, he had a choice to save as many people as he could. A loud cry caught his attention, and he noticed a crying baby abandoned in a broken-down vehicle. Reaching through the smashed door, he grasped the newborn and pulled him to safety. Just as he wrapped his arms around the crying child, a bomb exploded on them. Although the blast should have killed, the soldier's bravery protected them and froze them in time instead. They would remain preserved until a couple, who desperately wanted a baby to raise of their own, appeared.
    - 45 years later, in Shoup Park, Los Altos -
    “This looks like a perfect place for a picnic, doesn't it?” exclaimed the man to his wife. “Why don't we eat here? Maybe in a few years, we will have a baby to raise and take to the park.”
    At these words, the statue behind them started to rumble and creak as long unused limbs slowly stretched to life. The couple gaped as the soldier came to life.
    “I heard you say you wanted a baby of your own,” murmured the soldier, “ I have waited 45 years for this day to come. I saved a child who needs a family. If you promise to care for him, he will be yours.”
    Gratefully, but still shocked, the couple accepted the infant. As the smiling child left the soldiers arms, the soldier ran off. When the couple returned the next day, the soldier was a statue once more. In their minds, they heard him whisper, “I have seen the new world. The child has a chance, but I no longer belong here. Take care of him.”

The Question-Blurting Question Mark
By Eveliena Christine Pasmooij
Second Place, Grade 4, Springer
    “What are you doing this fine afternoon?” “What's you favorite color?” “Do you like volleyball?” Questions were all that I heard from the colorful Question Mark in Village Park. This is how my tale begins.
.    I met this colorful, gigantic Question Mark on a visit to Village Park. His name was the longest one I had ever seen: “ I don't Know But Am Open To Learning,” I thought it was a good name because there are many things I don't know, but I am open to learning!
    As I stood looking up at him, I heard: “Hey, you there, will you play with me? Will you be my best friend? Can I get some Coca Cola?”
    I mumbled in a soft voice, ''Are you talking to me?”
    The Question Mark only rolled his eyes happily, didn't seem to hear me and blurted out more questions.
    “I guess you can only speak questions,” I said
    He rolled his eyes again the other way and asked me, “Why does rain taste so good?” “Have you seen the tooth fairy?” “What do you do at school?”
    It felt good to be interviewed like I was a famous queen, but I was also exhausted from all the questions hurling at me too quickly to answer.
    Then I heard another question, this time in a different voice,
    “Eveliena, shall we go home now?”
    It was my mom. I waved goodbye to the Question Mark and took my Mom's hand. I couldn't wait to really talk with her on the way home.
    Bye-bye Question Mark.


The Coyote Adventure
By Brady Wilson
Third Place, Grade 4, Covington
    One day, I was admiring the three coyote statues in front of Covington School. As I was standing there, I saw one of them move a little. I rubbed my eyes in amazement, and when I opened them, I saw it move again. I took a step closer to it, and it walked towards me and said, “ I want to go on an adventure, don't you?”
    “Y-you can t-talk?” I stammered.
    “Of course I can?” Coyote said.
    “Then let's go!”
    We both set off for the forest trail, but when we got there I realized I didn't have my map. We decided to go in anyway since we were being adventurous, A few miles later we came across a fork in the path.
    “So where do we go now?” I asked
    “Lets go back the way we came,” Coyote said.
    “Which way was that again?”
    “I don't know”
    “This is not much of an adventure because we are lost,” I said sadly.
    Just then we heard a noise coming from behind us. We both became a little nervous trying to figure out what we were hearing. The sounds of rustling leaves and breaking branches were getting closer. It was the first time I hugged a coyote in fear.
    I said, “ I think something is coming.”
    Coyote started howling. I started screaming.
    Then we heard someone say, “Coyote is that you?”
    “Yes, it is me, Coyote said.
    “Who's there?” I said fearfully.
    “It's me,” replied Hardy Jones. “ I am Coyote's creator, and I was wondering where he went,” he said.
    We started walking back together because Mr. Jones knew that way. He wanted to make sure Coyote was back in his place. After Coyote got into place, I wanted to say goodbye, but when I got no answer I decided to leave. I realized he turned back into a statue.
    Wow, what an adventure it turned out to be! A statue came to life, we got lost in the woods and I met the creator of Coyote. I would tell my parents, but they would not believe me, so I kept it a secret.


The Magic of Words
By Linnea Leaver
First Place, Grade 5, Pinewood
    Standing before the doors in Lincoln Park, near downtown Los Altos, I felt a strange, wonderful feeling, as if they were emitting some sort of magic. But it couldn't be. They were just a sculpture: “Door Sculpture to Talk About the idea of Different Possibilities You May Have to Process You Life” by a wonderful artist, Chris Johanson.
    “Enough of that,” I thought. “You came here to walk through these doors. Now's your chance.” And closing my eyes, I stepped through a door.
    Suddenly I fell. My eyes snapped open and I saw a whirl of twirling, swirling colors. I screamed. I landed on frigid ground. However, when I looked around, I was mystified.
     I was in a white room. The floor, ceiling, walls and even the shelves that liked the room were completely white. But even more imposing were the words.
    All around me, packed on shelves, hung on hooks, and even floating in the air, were words. Adjectives and adverbs, conjunctions and interjections, all just sitting there. As I gawked at these solid emanations, a voice suddenly filled the room.
    “Behold!” it boomed, “For these are lost dreams! These are words uttered in secret to loyal dogs, verbiage whispered to the great oak of old, promises told to the whispering flowers in days of youth! All to be forgotten, wasted or thrown away in the pursuit of money or happiness. Dreams are happiness, child. Take your place in the world, pursue what you like, but do not throw your dreams away. Now go, the door in behind you, but never forget this day.”
    I turned around. A tall door stood behind me. Remembering my terrifying entrance to the room, I cracked the door open to peek outside. A cloud of color enveloped me and I shut my eyes as I returned to Lincoln Park, never to forget the wise words of the voice in the Room of Dreams.

Lost Freedom
By Sage Toomre
Second Place, Grade 5, Santa Rita
    “Watching, waiting, remembering, frozen,” she repeated slowly. I walked backward slowly trying to exit the room. Suddenly I heard a thud. I turned around keeping one eye upon the strange girl, who appeared out of nowhere and was drained of color. I realized that I had knocked over one of the small sculptures.
    “You knocked that over.” She whispered, depression in her voice. This startled me as I bent down to pick up the sculpture and found myself on the floor next to it.
    “I know. Who are you?” I shuddered
    “I'm Eliza Jacob.” She said a little confused. “ I came from that collage over there. You see that second face hidden in the neck of the bigger woman.”
    “Yeah,” I stammered
    “In 1942, that picture was taken of me. It was published in a newspaper, during World War 2.”    
    “So what does that have to do with me?” I asked a bit rudely.
    “When that photograph of me was placed in that piece,” she hesitated, “I was trapped. But I think, when you saw it, I was released. Please help me. Please. I can't go back.”
    Eliza's voice wavered and sped up as she talked as if she was about to burst into tears.
    I drew a heavy breath, “You have to tell me what happened.”
    Looking back, I wonder why I helped her, but at the moment I know it was because I felt I knew her and that she was harmless.
    She exhaled with relief.
    “That picture was from the last copy of the newspaper. So, when it was placed as a part of that picture, so was I. I've been trapped, watching kids come. Waiting for someone like you. Remembering the nightmares of the war. Frozen in that picture. Watching, waiting, remembering, Frozen.”
    Suddenly I felt something that was hard to explain, but it felt like I was about to smile and cry at the same.
    “What do I have to do?” I asked, like I was interrogating Eliza.
    “Nothing.” She responded
    With that, Eliza was gone. L felt a stab of loneliness in my chest. I walked back over to the picture and there was Eliza in the picture as always.
    “Eliza, why aren't you free?” I asked slight panic wavering in my voice.
    “I just needed to tell somebody.” She answered. “Though I'm not free, now my soul is.”
    Inspired by Margaret Shatsky's “Bright Ideas,” located at the Los Altos History House


The Lion
By Brandon Kenneth Freiberg
Third Place, Grade 5, Loyola
    The metal lion statue at Loyola School struggled for all its life to unfreeze, to have just one day to do something special.
    One sunny morning, the lion woke up to the loud kids chatting as usual, but this time, they were staring at him. Bounding with joy, the lion realized that he wasn't frozen anymore.
    “Oh my goodness!” he exclaimed. “I can move!” Everyone was scared off - running around in circles and screaming.
    “Wait,” the lion urged. “I'm not as mean as you think. I-” he was cut off by a teacher slamming the last door.
    Suddenly, the lion perked up his ears to the wailing of sirens off in the distance.
    “This might be a chance,” he thought. “If they have a news reporter, I could say something important.”
    When the cars started to surround him, he did his best to portray a cute kitty-cat. Everyone was shocked. As the lion hoped, a news reporter stepped out of a car, with a cameraman behind her.
    “How could a lion statue come to life? This is KTVU News, and we'll get back to you soon with the scoop on this shocking story,” the reporter stated.
    The lion ran up to her. Into the camera, the lion explained that he only had one day to live, and he wanted to say something important, “not all lions are mean. We're just different from you. …” Everyone listened in awe.
    The sun started to set. Saying one last word, the lion turned back into the statue he was before. He was proud of his statement, even though he never got see the world's reaction.
    Everyone else was, too. This is why - to this day, all the children respect the lion statue at Loyola School.

There's No Place Like Home, based on 'Shore Break'
By Sarah Feng
First Place, Grade 6, Pinewood
    Once upon a time, on the island illustrated in “Shore Break,” a painting hung in the Los Altos History Museum, there lived a girl named Coral and her father who was a fisherman. Coral's mother passed away during childbirth, so every day Coral was alone in the house, finishing chores, while her father battled the stormy seas with his little wooden boat trying to catch fish. Coral's father often returned home bedraggled and tired, and so late the moon was already faintly illuminating the world and the stars twinkled above the small hut in which they resided.
    One day, Coral had done all of her chores, She felt as if the sea was pulling her toward it like a magnet. She waked out to the shore and watched the lulling waves. The white foam splashed against the tall, jagged rocks, the navy waters peacefully lapped at the sand. The golden sun beamed down on the beach, its rays of warmth pooling on the ground. Coral suddenly felt an urge to dive into the waves and disappear beneath the surface, so she did. Joe, a seahorse, and Polly, an angelfish, soon befriended her and taught her the ways of the ocean.
    Joe and Polly offered to take Coral on a tour. They traveled around the world, showing her the luxuries of France and the beauty of simple California. At first, Coral loved these places and explored them all. Se spent every minute having fun; however, she soon became homesick. She longed for her little hut back on that shore. The polished silver teakettles of complex castles were nothing compared to the rusty copper kettle at home. The spacey, delicate guest rooms of airy palaces were horrible in contrast to Coral's cozy bedroom.
    Joe and Polly quickly realized Coral was homesick and swiftly brought her back home where she belonged.
    Coral decided there was no place like home.


'Surfacing'
By Katie Woods
Second Prize, Grade 6, Pinewood
    Thousands of years ago, a girl named Hulanu fell into the ocean. This ocean later became the Hawaiian Ocean. Earlier that day, a witch had become angry with Hulanu's tribe and put this spell on the ocean. If anyone from Hulanu's tribe tribe fell into the ocean, he or she would be stuck in time until someone saved him or her.
    One day, a boy named Akamu was walking beside the Hawaiian Ocean. It was very hot, so Akamu decided to take a swim. When he jumped in, he saw a girl curled up in a ball just sitting there. She looked like the girl from the painting “Surfacing” by Yuki Yamaguchi Ranganathan at the Los Altos History Museum. Akamu immediately grabbed the girl and took her out of the sand. When the girl finally woke, she told Akamu that her name was Halanu. When he asked her where her family lived, she pointed toward the buildings.
    “The last time I saw them they lived there,” Hulanu said.
    “Seriously, where is your family?”
    “I don't have one.”
    As soon as Akamu heard that, he told Hulanu she could stay with his family, and the two teenagers headed to his house. While he showed Hulanu around, she spotted his phone and computer. She asked him what they were. He told her they were called a computer and a phone. He also told her that they were technology. Hulanu was fascinated by how the phone worked.
    The next day, Hulanu went to school and she quickly made friends with the popular girls. Her new friends showed her how to use her phone and helped her create social networking accounts.
    That night Hulanu felt stressed over homework so she decided she wanted to take a dip in the ocean. When she jumped in, her body curled into a little ball and froze. She was stuck in the water. She knew she would stay like that until someone found her again.


The Doors
By William Collins
Third Place, Grade 6, Pinewood
    A rainy day in Los Altos can be extremely dreary, but unbearable when you are already gloomy. Sean, an athletic star at his school, has just injured his hand badly. On top of all that, Sean has an essay due on artwork around the city.
    “Mom, I think Ryan and I are going to look at some artwork for our project,” said Sean.
    “Okay, Honey. Be back before supper.”
    As soon as the two boys reached the village park, they saw the doors. They are entranced by the bright colors. At the same moment, they both murmur, 'They are perfect for the project!”
    After studying the doors for a while, the two strut through the door and the rain's cold sensation is not being felt on their skin anymore. It was as if the door had read their minds!
    “Sean, what happened?” exclaimed Ryan.
    “I think we were just transported to Hawaii!” responded Sean.
    “Cool, but I've always wanted to visit New York City.”
    “OK, let's go, said Sean.
    The two explore Times Square for a little while and then have the urge to visit other exciting places. They visit the Great Wall of China and depart on a safari in Africa. They climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower and hang ten on their surfboards for the rest of the day in Australia. Then Ryan shoots up wide-eyed and says in a worried voice, “How are we going to get home?'
    “Remember how the door knew that we wanted to relax in Hawaii?” uttered Sean.
    “Ya.”
    “Try thinking of going back home.”
    “OK,” responded Ryan
    Then, both passed back through the door and found themselves standing in front of their homes only two minutes after they had left. They had made it after all!

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