• Eric Palm

It’s A Grand (Very) Old Flag

In Newtwon there is a giant 100 foot flagpole in the middle of the road. If you live in this part of the state, you’ve probably seen it. Old Glory flies over traffic on Main Street waving happily to motorists and pedestrians alike as they go about their business in the borough.

Most of us who work and live in Newtown, love our flagpole. It’s a convenient landmark and tends to make an appearance when we give each other directions. If you’re headed into town and you’re looking for a good place to have lunch, ‘take a right at the flagpole.’ There’s a place called ‘Burgerittoville’ that puts hamburgers with all the fixings in tortillas instead of buns. It’s an unholy, but delicious combination. If you’re on a budget and looking something to do on the weekend, they play second-run movies at the Edmond Town Hall. The tickets are only a few dollars and if you can find the flagpole, you’re practically there already. As for our smiling faces, if you’re looking for us you’re going to want to head a couple miles South of the flagpole. We’ll keep the lights on for you.

But why is it in the middle of the street? For those rare souls who don’t seem to appreciate the flagpole, this seems to be their main criticism. One guy on the internet, using language that can not responsibly be reproduced here, made it clear in no uncertain terms that placing a large metal tube in the middle of a busy intersection is not at all the best choice when it comes to the continued smooth flow of traffic or public safety. Part of me wants to ignore Internet Man because he obviously hates America. But even while I take issue with the rainbow words he used to express himself, and I love my flagpole with every patriotic bone in my certified 100% American body, I’ve got to confess that he kind of has a point.

It’s in the middle of the street. I’ve personally witnessed people turning onto Rt. 25 take some let’s say ‘creative’ routes around the pole. There are arrows, people. Follow the arrows. Visitors and passersby who haven’t seen our flagpole before tend to take a good look when they encounter it for the first time and while we appreciate their appreciation, you really need to keep your eyes on the road. And it’s not like it’s some quiet little intersection in some quiet little town. Depending on the time of day it’s quite the busy little intersection in our quiet little town and making a left onto Main Street around the flagpole requires either the patience of a Saint or the acceleration of a much nicer car than mine.

So whose bright idea was this anyway?

A patriot. Obviously. But a patriot whose indifference to and ignorance of the challenges faced by the modern motorist can not be forgiven.

Unless it can. Because according to the Newtown Historical Society, there has been a flagpole within a couple of feet of its current location for over 140 years. This puts us back in the horse and buggy days when the first automobile was still more than a decade away and Henry Ford, whose assembly line would usher in widespread use of the automobile, didn’t even have to shave yet.

The flagpole wasn’t always as tall as it is now and we used to make them out of wood. The wood would rot, the pole would fall down or start leaning to the side. And we fixed it. Every. Time. The pole gets struck by lightning. We fix it. A windstorm knocks the pole over. We fix it. In 1949 when the pole was badly rotted and in need of repair, what did we do? We tore that sucker down and replaced it with the 100 foot steel monstrosity that we all know and love. And this thing is apparently immortal—nearly 40 years ago it survived a high-speed collision with a car with little more to show for it than a small dent (the car was reportedly totaled).

We love our flagpole. It may be something of an issue for rude men on the internet and the cars on the road at that particular not-so-quiet intersection, but frankly we don’t care. Our flagpole was here first.

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