June 2008 Issue
So Proudly We Hail’d
Along with millions of other American schoolchildren in classrooms across the country, we would stand each morning, face the flag and place our hands over our hearts. We’d recite the familiar words: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America...”
It was all quite patriotic and inspiring, and it remains a wonderful way to begin the school day. In my case, however, there was one very significant problem. Reared in a family where we wore politics on our sleeves — we not only had political signs on the front lawn but, during the 1960 election, a JFK poster was prominently displayed in our dining room — I sometimes tended to see everything through glasses tinged red and blue.
I mouthed words I thought I understood but found rather disturbing. “...and for theRepublicans for which it stands,” I would dutifully say, all the while thinking how terribly biased and unfair that was.
What about the Democrats? I demanded to know. Finally a kind teacher gently pointed out that the word was “Republic,” not “Republicans.” Oh. Never mind.
Despite my initial issues with the pledge, it never occurred to me to fail to give the flag its due. Reverence, honor and respect for the flag were drummed into us. One of my favorite exercises as a Boy Scout at summer camp, in fact, was raising and lowering the flag at the day’s beginning and end. And though I may have been less than earnest in my pursuit of merit badges, I was something of a perfectionist when it came to folding the flag in its proper triangle with only the star-studded blue field showing.
Ohio was not yet among its stars when Francis Hopkinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence, designed the American flag. But today, Ohio is the birthplace of countless flags fluttering from sea to shining sea.
The banners are lovingly made at the Annin and Co. factory in Coshocton. Contributing Editor Dave Golowenski tells the factory’s story, accompanied by pictures from photographer Megan Nadolski, in “Broad Stripes and Bright Stars.”
“This is where my heart is,” says Annin seamstress Susan L. McCombs, a true modern-day Betsy Ross. “It’s pretty cool to be making American flags. It’s a little more patriotic than a lot of other jobs.”
A remark from Annin packaging supervisor Cheryl Bartholow simply and beautifully captures the spirit of the flag-maker’s environment. “If you’re not patriotic before you get here,” she says, “you will be when you leave.”
Which sets the stage nicely to complete the pledge: “...one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”