Friday, June 14, 2013

Flag Day and the 49 Star Flag - 1959

I remember the day as clearly as if it were yesterday. We were getting a new flag in my Kindergarten class- but there was a twist to it. Alaska was being admitted as a state, to be closely followed in a year, by Hawaii. There had been 48 stars on the flag since about 1912, and now there was set to be 2 changes to the flag in one year’s time. Although the school authorities were very much concerned with the fiscal aspects of the changes, I was more enthralled with the idea that I was living through an historical event.

The schools I went to were the Public Schools in Brooklyn, New York. In my case I was at PS 197 on Kings Highway and East 22nd Street, when these events occurred. Our teacher, a young boy’s dream named Mrs. Gerber; she wore seamed stockings; explained that buying two flags in one year for each classroom would be too costly for the City to bear. Instead, they were jumping ahead to the following year when Hawaii would be admitted, making 50 states, and 50 stars, on the flag. Seriously, I was a bit miffed at the decision, even at the age of five. Let me explain.

My favorite TV show at the time was “Yukon King”, which starred Preston Foster, who played a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, and his dog, who pulled his sled. So, I was very excited to hear that we were getting a piece of the action in that part of the country! Hawaii, on the other hand, was just a very faraway place where pineapples came from, for which I had no use. I could not, at the age of five, see the strategic advantage of having Hawaii as a state, thus extending our borders. The events at Pearl Harbor were just a vague concept to me at the time. I knew that something had happened there, but wasn't quite sure what.

Alaska, on the other hand, held an immediate connection for me. It was, as I said earlier, my favorite TV show at the time. So, this is my earliest memory of our flag. I do vaguely recall learning the Pledge of Allegiance, but that was more of an assignment than a personal connection. The flag is human to me; when it flaps in the breeze I am happy. Some may call that imperialistic, or empirical. I just know that I grew up feeling pretty secure under that banner. Though the past few administrations; both Democratic and Republican; have been disappointing to say the least, the flag has remained as a symbol of what we once were, and can be again. 

By the way, if you were looking for some sort of lesson in the above story, sorry to disappoint you. It's just a story about one of my earliest memories of the flag.

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