Monday, June 1, 2015

Flags around town and how it started - By Dave Tanguay

It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since the American Legion Field-Allen Post under the leadership of Don McCormack started placing flags on the utility pole of the high ways and byways of Windham. In the spring of 2005 Commander McCormack pitched the idea to the Post and approached the Town of Windham concerning the viability of the project. Commander McCormack and Service Officer Dave Tanguay met with the town council and received approval pending agreement from the utility company that owned the poles. In the interim, Post members canvased the business communities for funds and pitched the project. Most local business were more than happy to donate the $35.00 required to place a flag in front of their business. Many gave generously of additional funds to fill in the areas between businesses. 

After a few delays, the first set of flags went up for the 4th of July 2005 with Don McCormack putting up the first flags. The flags remained up until Labor Day that year. The following year, the Post expanded the number of flags to be set at 100 and formalized the locations to include the South Windham corridor, the Route 115 and Route 35 entrances North Windham, The old parade route along Route 202 to Windham Center Road continuing to the Windham High School, the section of Route 302 from Pope Road to the fire station and the stretch from Whites Bridge Road to Route 35 crossing. Most recently, in 2013, the section in front of the police station and central fire station on Route 202 were added. 

Some of the flag locations in town have been modified due to problems associated with the disproportionate loss or destruction of flags in certain areas. For example, a flag placed on a pole across the street from Dunkin’ Donuts in North Windham would be covered in black soot from the idling big rigs as they waited for the light. So, remove and relocate one flag from there. Along the stretch of Route 202 from the rotary to School Street, the wind damage in the open area was excessive to the point that many flags were lost. So, we scratched that section of road. Most of the current flag damage is due to the flags becoming hung up and torn on the surroundings fixtures on the poles or from high wind damage. Over twenty were lost two years ago during a nasty storm. Flags located at the intersections where there are a large number of boxes and cables on the utility poles take the biggest hits. 

After about three years, the bigger issue for the flag project was sustainable funding. The Post could not afford to continue spend the amounts needed for new flags and hardware. A request and proposal to the town council by McCormack for a shared responsibility for the project resulted in the town agreeing to the purchasing of approximately 30 flags annually for the rotational replacement of the flags. The Post would continue to be responsible for instillation as well as the maintenance of the hardware and replacement as needed. More recently, the town has been using the brackets installed by the Post for the placement of the colorful holiday banners that decorate from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

 Now you have the brief history of the flags around town put up each Memorial Weekend by the Field-Allen Post members. They remain flying until Labor Day except for one location. When Deb McAfee was the principal of Windham High School, she purchased flags sufficient to grace the Route 202 section in front of the high school with the condition that they stay up from Memorial Day to Veteran’s Day each year. The Post has honored that request. 

Now ten years later, a group of about a dozen, slightly aging, Post members with some family support met at the North Windham Fire Barn with ladders and trucks last Saturday at 6 a.m. They broke into teams of two and three and canvased the town’s roadways placing the now familiar red white and blue for all to appreciate. 

It might be noted that several nearby towns also now fly the colors. It is an impressive sight! Please extend a special thanks to Don McCormack on this Memorial Day for his foresight and diligence, and to the legion for continuation of the project. A special note, if you find fallen flag or one in distress, contact a Legion member, by calling 892-1306. Flags from the utility poles, if found on the ground, may be turned into the Windham Town Hall.

Photo: Post members Leon Davies and John Haill steady the ladder for Stan Burke as his places a flag near the rotary on Route 202.
Photo by; Dave Tanguay

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