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By Jim Boylan
I have never considered myself a flag freak, but I feel I have always had a good understanding of flag etiquette. Dating back to my youth when I was a member of a Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) band in greater Boston, I played clarinet in concert and was the drum major when we marched. We were an award-winning band that represented an American Legion post when we participated in competitions and parades around the Northeast. I learned flag etiquette early. When our band stepped off in a parade or competition, as the drum major I (no adults) was the one responsible for the entire unit. Believe me, when you are the 15-year-old drum major at the Boston Memorial Day parade and a major from the Yankee Division (who are marching to your band's music) comes up to you and the 14-year-old color guard captain to explain about flag etiquette and the presentation of the colors, you pay attention.
This brings me to my flag etiquette concern. We have a flag bracket on our house and we display the flag on appropriate holidays – Memorial Day, Flag Day, July 4 and Labor Day. We put the flag up in the morning and take it in at night.
It has always bothered me that here in The Valley and elsewhere some people seem to think that "honoring the flag" means hanging it on utility poles 24 hours a day in good weather and bad until the flags look like faded rags.
This past Saturday, June 14, was Flag Day. We put out or flag in the morning and brought it in when the sun went down. That day I received my copy of This Old House (TOH) magazine. TOH has a sidebar piece on Page 21, "Flag hanging dos and don'ts." This piece cites the Flag Code, United States Code Title 4 Chapter 1 which President Roosevelt signed into law in 1942. One of the highlighted items in the piece is the guidelines for 24-hour display of the flag.
I looked up the code and it states:
Section 6. Time and occasions for display
a. It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
The utility pole flags around The Valley are not illuminated and are clearly out of compliance with the code. It appears to me that the "utility pole patriotism" that is going on here is misguided and in reality not respectful of the flag.
I would much rather see a well done, centrally located, community flag pole that is illuminated all night and is respectful than this odd proliferation of out-of-compliance slipshod displayed flags throughout our towns.
I have sent a copy of this letter to the select boards of The Valley towns and Waterbury, as well as Green Mountain Power and Waitsfield Telecom who own the utility poles.
I hope that whoever is responsible for our proliferating "utility pole patriotism" will abide by the flag code and take down those flag displays that are out of compliance with the code.
Boylan lives in Waitsfield.