Thursday, June 14, 2018

A liberal burns Old Glory for Flag Day





     I love to fly the flag — it's so beautiful. On all the patriotic holidays: Memorial Day, July 4, Veteran's Day. I even throw in a few extra, that aren't technically patriotic holidays: Labor Day, Martin Luther King's birthday, D-Day.
     But all this flapping in sun-kissed Northbrook takes its toll on a flag. The deep blue of the canton — the proper name for the square displaying 50 stars — faded to sky blue. A few white stripes had rust streaks from cheap flagpoles.
     Standing on the porch June 6, hand over heart, reciting the pledge, I saw light through a gapping seam. Still, with our nation in the hands of quislings, a faded and tattered flag seems appropriate.
 
Chicago flags and specialty orders are sewn by hand at W.G.N.
   But readers have been upbraiding me for my flag's poor condition. I like to actually consider what people say, to weigh the possibility that those who disagree with me might be right — it's my superpower. And with Flag Day approaching, last Friday seemed a perfect time to make the change. So I folded my worn-out flag into a triangle and headed to W.G.N. Flag & Banner at 79th Street and South Chicago Avenue.
     "Let me get three options for you to choose from here," said Carl "Gus" Porter III, setting out three boxes in his company's cluttered front room, patrolled by Nala the cat.
      "You've got the standard nylon for $31.60," Porter said. "The heavy-duty polyester for $38.90. And then this is our deluxe nylon. These are $40. They have the larger stars with the silver woven into them, and you also get a one-year fade guarantee."
     "I do believe that's the no-brainer of all-time," I said, popping for top-of-the-line. "I'll take it."
     W.G.N. Flag has nothing to do with the radio and TV stations of the same acronym. The flag company began in 1916, founded by Porter's great-grandfather, William George Newbould (readers wondering what the W.G.N. initials stand for will be referred to this sentence for further study).


To continue reading, click here


The cluttered store has been in the same location since 1947; the company itself began down the block in 1916.



15 comments:

  1. Good column - thanks. I appreciate seeing a documented example of a pet peeve of mine: disproportionate flagpoles. The flag should be about one quarter the height of the pole. Country Club Hills’ 50' tall (hoist) flag is too large for its pole 167' pole. Not only do these over-sized flags look odd, they cannot be properly lowered to half-staff without risking the flag touching the ground.

    And for those feeling ambivalent about using the flag to demonstrate their patriotism in these trying times, let me recommend flying one of the Civil War era flags instead of the present 50-star model. They are just as legal, and WGN carries several. My preference has 35 stars - the official flag when the Union forces ultimately defeated the traitorous southern states.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I prefer the 48 star ones. I still have a few very small ones my father got in WWII & have those in the front window.

      Delete
    2. I like the 48-star flags, too, mostly for aesthetic reasons. Those straight rows look more pleasing to my eye than the staggered ones. My father retired ours in 1959, after it became faded and worn, just after Alaska had became a state. I don't recall whether or not he burned it himself. Hawaii was not admitted to the union until the end of that summer. Consequently, our new flag had 49 stars. Wonder if W. G. N. has one of those? It was only "official" for a single year...from July 4th of that year until the following July 4th, in 1960.

      My father eventually passed that 3 X 5 flag on to my kid sister. After he died, I traded her his diamond pinkie ring, which she'd always liked and wanted, for that still-pristine banner. It's the de-luxe woven and stitched model, from the now-defunct Dettra Flag Co. in Pennsylvania (1902-1998). It has faded a bit from exposure to sunlight, but it will probably outlast its current owner.

      As they say on the sports pages, it was a trade that benefitted both clubs. But I still believe I got the better end of the deal.

      Delete
    3. Grizz, I just gotta believe that your 49-star flag is worth money as an oddity. You should check it out on eBay if you ever need cash.

      This reminds me of one of my favorite jokes on the subject, by none other than our blog host. Neil has too much good taste to drag out one of his old gags, but I don't:

      If flag-burning ever does become illegal, someone could make a lot of money marketing I Can't Believe It's Not the American Flag™, made of flammable material with 12 or 14 stripes. If someone burned that and got hauled into court, how much fun could a defense attorney have with that case?

      Delete
    4. Yes, the 49-star flag is worth some money, just not very much. Both 48-star and 49-star flags are relatively common, I've found them for sale online for as little as twenty bucks and for as much as a hundred. Sometimes, even a bit more.They usually sell in the $40-$60 range.

      On eBay there are large numbers of 48-star flags for sale. The 49-star flags are less common, since they were produced for only a year, but they were still manufactured in large quantities when Alaska became a state. People later bought them as oddities and hung onto them, probably hoping to sell them someday. I've kept mine mostly because it's somewhat unusual. However, the seven rows of seven stars are staggered. So it resembles a 50-star flag at first glance, unless you do some counting.

      Delete
  2. I've wondered, often, about the people who campaign the strongest for the prosecution of those who burn the flag as a sign of protest.

    I did a bit of digging a while back, and apparently there are ten cross burnings for every flag ignited. Would the same people advocate nearly as strongly for the banning of that repellent practice?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great column. I await the story on W.G.N. being picketed for burning flags.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "...a drunk military man should put out more flags in order to increase his military splendor." Lin Yutang


    Tom

    ReplyDelete
  5. The company has, Porter said, the only burn permit in Chicago, a 1920s document allowing them to torch flags in the alley behind their factory...

    You need a permit to burn a flag? Or is this just so they can burn things in the alley, flags or whatever?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The latter, though I doubt a 1920s document has any validity at this point. The entire process is almost certainly illegal, an aspect I decided not to dwell upon.

      Delete
    2. In Cleveland, one can bring worn-out flags to Lakeview Cemetery (the city's largest and most beautiful) on June 14th, where the Scouts conduct a moving flag-burning ceremony. I saw them retire a 50-by-80-foot banner (maybe bigger) that had been on the side of a downtown building. They had the difficult task of cutting it into smaller pieces before it could be burned. Even then, it made for quite a large fire.

      Delete
  6. Great column Neil, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am certain that every Republican congressman stood before countless displays of multiple flags on his/her way to the House of Representatives. Their silence today while their president refuses to act against foreign interference in our elections speaks more truthfully about their patriotism. The more flags on a campaign stage, the phonier the politician speaking before them.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I wonder if W.G.N. ever got any kind of attention from WGN about possible trademark infringement. Would seem silly, but I've seen worse (in casebooks only). Burger King in Rantoul, IL, which was around before THE Burger King, tried to assert a right to use the trademark exclusively in Illinois, but lost. Whereas, a suit against Gatorade by a long defunct company prevailed. And Lexus auto, before the brand actually appeared, filed a suit asking the court to declare that Lexus auto wouldn't infringe on Lexis legal research company's trademark.

    john

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. W.G.N. Flag and Banner (which opened during World War I) preceded the radio station (owned by the World's Greatest Newspaper, AKA the Tribune) by about a decade. The radio station may have had some attention from the flag company, rather than the other way around, but that seems unlikely. They appear to have been able to peacefully co-exist under the same initials (one with periods, one without) for almost a century now.

      Delete

Thank you for your comment, which will be published at the discretion of the proprietor.