Old Glory Flies Anew

Published 6:36 pm Friday, October 1, 2010

There was no ceremony. There was no blaring brass band. Therewas no salute from the guns.

But after the flagpole’s cords were tied down and the greatbanner caught the wind 52 feet above the intersection of BrookwayBoulevard and West Cherokee Street, there was pride.

“That looks good, doesn’t it?” said Brookhaven’s Harold Gary,repeating the question over and over as he and Jim Heard squintedat the sun, watching the new U.S. flag wave against the blue of acloudless sky.

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Both men had come to the flagpole on the southwest corner of theMississippi School of the Arts campus to raise the 25-foot by15-foot national pennant on behalf of the Brookhaven Exchange Club- that local purveyor of patriotism – after the previous flag hadrun its course and virtually fell to pieces for the city tosee.

The previous banner had stood through the weekend, rippedasunder with its tatters blowing in the wind as though flying overthe aftermath of a great battle. But no armies had clashed overCherokee Street last weekend.

It was probably a quick Saturday night storm that finished offthe giant flag, which had weakened over time. The unsightly damage- almost every one of the 13 stripes seemed to be blowingseparately – shocked passers-by and city officials Monday morningwhen spotted, setting off a half-day search to find out who ownedthe flag and get them to remove it promptly.

The city said it belonged to MSA. MSA said it belonged to thecity. An agitated Mayor Les Bumgarner was about to take it downhimself and ask questions later. The Brookhaven Fire Departmentfinally lowered it around noon, relieving the sting of an improperflag but leaving a hole in the sky where the proud banner hasalways been.

“We’ll work out the details later,” Bumgarner said Monday. “Themain thing was to get it down. That was pretty unsightly.”

When city officials called the Exchange Club to inquire aboutproper disposal of the flag, they found the owners. And, of course,the club stepped in immediately and already had another flag readyto go.

“I always keep a backup,” said club member Jimmie Gillis. “Wehave to replace it fairly often because the wind rips it. We try tosew it on the end before we put it up to help make it last a littlelonger, but it doesn’t help too much.”

The club replaces the big flag about four times each year,spending more than $1,700 to keep Brookhaven’s patriotism ondisplay. It’s part of the national club’s mission of promotingAmericanism.

The club provides several flag services locally. It can orderflags of all sizes for purchase by the general public, decoratesthe city with flags 12 times each year for holidays and otheroccasions and even donates flags to veterans and schools.

Flag owners can take old flags ready for retirement to clubheadquarters on Exchange Club Loop and place them in the drop-offbox. Club members put all flags left in the box through the properceremonial burning.

For those who fly their own flags, there are a certain number ofrules governing the banner’s display, laid out in the U.S. FlagCode. The entire code can be viewed online at www.usaflag.org.