Thoughts of Flags and The 4th

After seeing the great job Bill Adams did with his license plate American Flag, Mother said she’d like to fly a flag in front of the house. We were always big on putting up flags on holidays, but the flag holder Dad was using in this photo was taken down when the house was covered with vinyl siding some years ago.

Mother swore that there was a flag holder on one of the walnut trees on the east side of the house, but I rooted around through the ivy (hopefully not the poison variety) growing on the tree and couldn’t find it. On the way back from learning about fly repelling in Jackson, I stopped at the Ace Hardware at the bottom of the hill for a new flag bracket. The screws that came with it were too short to go through the bracket and bark, so I had to scrounge some longer ones from the basement.

Mission accomplished.

Just about the time I shot the last screw in, Mother gave out a triumphant shout, “I KNEW that flag holder was here on the tree. I was right.” Indeed, she WAS right. The holder was right there on the tree where she said it would be. The only thing was that the tree had grown around it so much that you’d be lucky to stick a matchstick in it, let along a flag pole.

My First Grade Flag effort

I know there are some photos of me with a flag because it was my daily ritual to put the flag up first thing in the morning when I was kindergarten age. The first thing I ran across was this piece of artwork from my First Grade Scrapbook. Dad was working on a job in Kennett at this time, so he told me to save all my school papers and remember what I had done that week so he could put it in a scrapbook.

Here’s the scrapbook entry

Sept. 11, 1953 – We were allowed to draw or do what we wanted for awhile and I practiced on some addition and wrote the alphabet with a picture of a Flag in colors under my writing. Mrs. Kelpe is telling us a story on Pinky the Pig which she did not get to finish. We got a surprise today and it was a free ticket to get ice cream. The kids that had marks behind their name even got a ticket.

Note that I already understood the elements of a good story: food, scary mystery and explosive action. It was clear that I had a much better future in math and literature than art. If you don’t believe me, take a look at my sketch book from Ohio University’s Art 101, a required course for photo students.

Bill Adams’ American Flag

I overshot my street this morning and ended up going down Anna Street. About a third of the way down the hill, my eye was drawn to what I thought was a huge plastic flag hanging in front of 1733 Anna. I was almost halfway to the next house when I saw that it wasn’t plastic, it was an American Flag made out of red, white and blue license tags. I hit the brakes and the go-back lever so fast I may have left black marks. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

Bill Adams and his wife were walking out to the car with keys in hand, but Bill was kind enough to chat with me. His wife must have known what a talker he is when he encounters another talker, so she went back inside the house where it was cool.

Found license plates on eBay

Bill, who said he isn’t really a license plate collector, started acquiring his tags on eBay around November 2010, and snagged his last plate toward the end of January of this year.

The cheapest tags were about a buck each; the most expensive was $55. “I could have gotten them cheaper if I had waited around, but I wanted to get the project done,” he said. Overall, the tags averaged about $7 to $10 each. His favorite tags are the ones with the state slogans on them. His least favorite are states like Delaware that have flat plate without embossed numbers and letters.

I think he said he had every state represented except Idaho, New Hampshire, Georgia and California.

Flag folds up for storage

After getting the plates, he spent a little time trying to figure out how to mount them. Instead of one large unit, he decided to string them together with Nylon ties so the whole contraption could be folded up into a storage container. The two support poles are made of two 2x4s joined together on each side and dropped into a 4×4 sleeve so they can be removed.

Bill is thinking about using the poles for other holidays, but he’s not sure if he’ll make the displays out of license plates. There are a lot of green and white tags, though, he said. Those would work out well for Christmas.

Riding the Mother Road

Bill just retired from a career as a postal carrier. “Retirement is great. For awhile, I thought I’d better make a list of things to do. That didn’t mean I had to KEEP the list; I could put off a task to the next day, change priorities…”

One thing on his list is for the couple to take a trip to see their daughters in Seattle. They’re going to fly this time, but Bill’s other obsession is to drive every inch of Route 66, the Mother Road. He’s managed follow it as far as the New Mexico-Texas border. “I’m not looking forward to Southern California and LA.” He admits, however that even big cities can have quiet moments. They hit Chicago on a winter Sunday morning and had the road almost to themselves.

Tattered Flag on Veterans Day

A couple of decades ago, World War II veterans started the Avenue of Flags tradition on Cape County Park North on Highway 61 between Cape and Jackson.

On patriotic holidays, including September 11, volunteers put up flags representing a deceased veteran who served in a war era or in combat.

American flag was frayed

While I was walking around looking at the flags, I noticed this one that was a bit yellow. It had a hole or two in it and part of the edge was fraying. There was no name on the pole, that I could see, so I don’t know who it represents.

Just then, a gentle breeze stirred the flag and I saw a square field of stars. This was a 48-star flag. Alaska gained statehood in 1959 and caused the rows of stars to be staggered. This flag could be as much as half a century old. I’d love to know the story behind it.

Photographers’ delight

Cars with license plates from all over the area drive by. Some stop and their occupants take photos. The late afternoon wind was calm, so the photos weren’t as dramatic as other holidays.

Law Enforcement Memorial

Some visitors pause to look at the Law Enforcement Memorial for officers killed in the line of duty. Others charge off, apparently to track down a specific flag.

Nearly 700 flags are displayed

A Missourian story said that one person can put up the nearly 700 flags in less than two hours.

Display of the flags is governed by the Federal Flag Code. If there is a 40 percent or greater chance of rain, the flags aren’t displayed. Flags are supposed to be up only between sunrise and sunset unless they are illuminated. When we passed the park after dusk, the flags had already been put away for the next patriotic holiday.