A new American flag hangs from the sun porch here at the Farm House.
It's beautiful. The red stripes and blue background are fresh and bright. The stars stand out as if they could be picked off it. I have to admit I held the folded flag over my heart and hugged it. I was so proud to have a new one before Tuesday.
Americans are programmed to honor the flag, and not to have one displayed prominently on July 4 is sacrilege.
When I took the old flag from the garage and unrolled it, I was surprised to see that it was tattered from high winds. A torn section was even hanging loose. But I put it in the old holder anyway because my class reunion was the next day at my house. I knew if I didn't have a flag up, someone would make a remark. We graduated in 1946 on the heels of World War II; hence we are patriots to the core.
Nevertheless, one classmate, who was wearing a cap with "Navy" embossed in bright gold letters, didn't hesitate to say that the torn flag was a desecration and that he had a notion to take up a collection to buy me a new one.
Not to worry, Bill. You can forget the collection. I bought a flag myself and I knew just where to go. We all remember that flags were hard to find in local stores after Sept. 11, 2001. That is not the case now. According to my rounds of local stores, they are plentiful in a variety of sizes and prices, and come in cotton and polyester. But I wanted more than simply buying a new flag. I wanted to get a few answers.
The place to do that is on Summit Street in Toledo, in a 1927 firehouse where Howard Pinkley would rather talk about flags than politics or even how wonderful the Point Place festival is each June.
Mr. Pinkley says that he opened Flags Sales & Repairs in 1960 because he is patriotic and loves the American flag. He served in the U.S. Navy in World War II and in the U.S. Army in the Korean War. His business partner is his daughter, Wendy Beallas.
The company deals with all kinds of flags, but five days before July 4, the subject was our own red, white, and blue.
In addition to the retail shop and sewing repair room, Mr. Pinkley has done extensive community flag service. As an example, he was responsible for the two Ohio flags at the World War II memorial in Washington. The 17th star on the flag was hand-embroidered by several Toledo women to recognize Ohio as the 17th state to enter the union.
Because of a $3,000 donation by townspeople, Mr. Pinkley and his wife, Mary, can display 110 flags in Point Place each year from May through Thanksgiving. In December half of those flags are replaced with Christmas flags. The Pinkleys' friends, Donna and Bill Bargy, help with the project.
Now that I have a beautiful new flag, Mr. Pinkley, what should I do with the old one?
Mr. Pinkley wishes people would take discarded flags to their local American Legion or VFW Post, where he says they are disposed of properly in a burning ceremony. Or they can be taken to his store and he will see they are given proper disposal.
Here's one more question: Should I take down the flag every night and raise it again in the morning like we were taught as children and not let it be out in all kinds of weather?
I salute the answer from the flag master: "I believe that as long as we have men and women fighting for us we need to have the flag up 24 hours every day."