Saturday, July 6, 2013

Flying Flags For a Long Time!

U.S. Flags flying along Jordan River Parkway prior to Youth Parade
Flags provided by Verda Mae Christensen!
I've been flying flags for a long time.  Of all the things you don't anticipate having a long involvement in, but can't imagine doing anything different, for me, it is flying flags.  I've always loved the flag and frequently hung the flag at our family home on holidays.  However in the mid 90's when I was serving as Bishop of the Rose Park Ninth Ward, is really where it got started for me.  After a successful effort by our ward one year, along with others in the Stake that had done a similar breakfast for the 4th of July, the Stake decided to have a 4th of July Breakfast the next year for the whole community.  As part of the planning for it, President Keith Stepan suggested a children's Parade from the Library (following a flag ceremony) to the Lions Bowery which was our location for that first year.  President Stepan thought it important to line the parade route with flags and had suggested to the Bishops that we line the route and venue with flags scheduled to be placed up in front of homes and then later after the event, go place them up in front of homes again.  None of the Bishops, including myself, were big on having to do that twice.

I went home and a few days later got, talking to my mother, Verda Mae Christensen about the dilemma and while I should have known, she came home later that day and presented me with about 35 flags she had found at NPS Market Square.  She loved that place and was always looking for a bargain.  I attached them to PVC poles and low and behold we had our first set, which provided us a source to get from the Library to the Lions Bowery.  Also that first year, a tradition that would last for decades, Peter Lassig started assisting me in putting up the flags that morning, something that would continue for many years to follow.
The next year, it was apparent we had to move to the Large Bowery at Riverside Park to accommodate the large crowds that were coming.  Once again, I went home and was talking to my Mom, and lamented that I needed nearly double the flags because our distance to the Bowery had doubled.  A day or so later, she called me up and had me come over to her house, and there they were, about 35 more flags or about 70 in total.  I mounted those on PVC poles, and once again Peter Lassig met me at 6:15 in the morning and he and I put them up along the route.  This was an assignment that continued on for me for about another 12 years, even though no one formally asked me to do it.  It was ok, I had a lot of joy and pride to see those flags flying each year, and Peter was a faithful comrade in helping me get it done.

Then in 2008, Peter and I both happened to be gone over the 4th of July Holiday for family outings.  I had tried to ask the ward in charge of the kids parade if they wanted access to the flags, but couldn't get a response.  I had wondered if maybe I had made the wrong assumption all those years that people wanted or needed them, but just before leaving, I showed my neighbor and Bishop, Paul Fullmer how to get into my garage and where I stored them in case someone needed them and then went on a my trip.  A day or so before the 4th, I had a message on my phone from a member of the Stake Presidency asking where they could find my flags.  I instructed them that Paul knew the location and where I hid the key and that they were welcome to use them.  Every year after, that assignment to place those flags has come and in the last few years, an assignment to help me has also been given. The only minor sadness for me, is that Peter's health has been such, that for the last couple of years, he hasn't been able to help.  He was my true friend in it all.

On September 11, 2002, a year after the terrorist attacks on the United States, I wanted to do something to pay respect and remember that day.
Backman Elementary, September 11, 2002
 It had been a hard experience for all of us, including myself.  I was traveling when the attack happened and had been scheduled to come home that day.  It took me four days later to finally get a flight, but at least I was coming home.  I still tear up thinking about it, and am grateful for the many who have fought, some of whom have given their all, to keep us free and safe.  I remember family friends who lost their lives that day and the innocence of life, that never returned, leaving my children a different experience than what I knew to expect.  My flags were even used the Sunday following September 11, 2001 when the Rose Park Stake Center was lined with flags and more were needed to remember that tragic event.

Flags were placed along 600 N during
the Olympics - sponsored by residents

My friend Ray Morgan came the morning of the February 8, 2002 to
watch the Torch Run along 600 North
In 2002, an idea that I got from another community, decided to encourage the elementary school where my daughter attended, Backman Elementary, to do a flag project.  Residents donated $10 and sponsored a flag, that we mounted to PVC poles and placed along the fence line each morning preceding the games, and through the closing ceremony.   For fear of losing them, we put them up early in the morning, and then took them down at night.  A number of neighbors helped us, but especially Paul and Heidi Fullmer.  It was great to have one of the local TV stations recognize that effort on that morning during one of the live shots and those flags still fly in the entry way of the school today.    The video clip below tells that story a little.  I will have to say, I didn't have much white hair and different glass frames!
For my neighbors who live near by, my home is included in the flag arena, we have a Flag that flies 24 hours a day on a lighted pole and I've been known to fly flags in my yards for subsequent holidays, like Pioneer Day (with flags that represent our heritage or where we served LDS missions) or I still love the Olymnpics, so I usually do something during games that have followed ours.  Needless to say, I love flags, and they represent some of the more emotional parts of my life and are grateful for those memories.  I've been flying flags for a long time!