It#039;s a grand old flag
Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 16, 2007
It happens only 4 times every 28 years - Flag Day falling on a Thursday, that is.
And Col. Earl Tisdale of Greenville, a true fan of “The Grand Old Flag,” was thrilled it happened this week.
“Our Rotary meetings fall on Thursdays, and today happens to be Flag Day and I happen to have the program,” the patriotic Tisdale, sergeant-at-arms for the Greenville Rotarians said.
He has been sharing historical facts and fascinating tidbits of information about “Old Glory” each week with his fellow club members and their guests in his role as sergeant-at-arms.
Thursday's program, falling on the 230th anniversary of the adoption of the first American flag, gave the proud military veteran the opportunity to truly spotlight that “grand old flag.”
Tisdale encouraged everyone to remember the Pledge of Allegiance should be said not as a mere recitation, but with a clear understanding of its meaning.
“Never say the pledge by mechanical rote. It should come from the heart and be spoken with respect, reverence and passion. We should know what those words mean and how they affect us,” Tisdale said, He asked
the audience to silently salute the flag as they listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing the pledge's words.
Flag Day become an official part of America's celebration in 1949, when President Truman signed into law an act making June 14 National Flag Day.
Tisdale discussed a display showing three significant U.S. flags - the Betsy Ross-designed flag of 1777, the 15-star flag of 1795 and the 48-star flag of 1912.
“When Ross suggested having five pointed stars on the flag, the committee believed it couldn't be done. Most flags had six, seven or eight-pointed stars, Ross said, ‘I can do it with one snip of the scissors,'” Tisdale said.
He proceeded to fold a piece of paper five times and prove Ross's point, much to the delight of the audience.
The 15-star flag of 1795 was the only flag with “more than 13 stripes,” featuring 15 stripes for each state.
“When the flag was next revised, there were 20 states - and that's a lot of stripes. A naval officer suggested going back to 13 stripes for the original colonies,” he explained.
The 1912 flag served us for 47 years, until July 4, 1959, when Alaska joined the Union.
“That is our longest-serving flag until July 4 arrives this year. The 1960 50-star flag will surpass it then,” Tisdale said.
Contrary to popular belief, “older flags are not decommissioned,” he said.
“If you own any version of the flag, you are perfectly in your rights to fly that flag.”
While a code was created in 1912 concerning how, when and where to fly the flag, “no penalties have ever been established for failure to comply,” Tisdale explained.
“That is why it is important for us to set the example for younger generations. I am sure you have been actions at various ceremonies and events that seemed to mark disrespect for the flag.”
Tisdale shares an abbreviated version of John Jay Daly's ‘A Toast to the Flag,' and led the audience in raising their glasses of sparkling white grape juice to Old Glory.
Patriotic music is also Tisdale's hobby, he said.
“I've discovered most of our patriotic music was borrowed from someplace else,” the colonel said with a wry smile.
The tune for the “Star-Spangled Banner,” for example, was set to the tune of a bawdy song about drinking and carousing.
“My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” is sung to the same tune as Britain's “God Save Our Gracious Queen (King).”
The exception, Tisdale said, was Irving Berlin's inspiring “God Bless America,” first performed on Armistice Day in 1938 by Kate Smith.
The Rotary audience also heard a stirring recording of the story behind the “Battle Hymn of The Republic,” which actually began as a southern camp meeting song.
Tisdale ended his program by presenting a new U.S. flag for the club's use. He shared a certificate signed by Senator Jeff Sessions with President Roy Hale, certifying the new flag had flown over the U.S. Capitol on March 31, 2007.
“It came to my attention that Rotary did not have a flag of its own, so I would like to present this to the club,” Tisdale said.
“It is a grand old flag!”