By Joan Fudala
Flag Day on June 14 is often overlooked and underobserved. However, Scottsdale has a proud history of flag waving, flag honoring and flag philanthropy.
Hoist these facts up the flagpole:
The Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the official U.S. flag on June 14, 1777.
A photo taken on Washington’s birthday 1906 shows early Scottsdale settlers dressed in their finest and holding the 46-star U.S. flag (Arizona and New Mexico were still territories, as were Hawaii and Alaska).
A Civil War veteran and patriot, Chaplain Winfield Scott continuously honored the U.S. flag. During this tenure as an Arizona Territorial legislator, he introduced 16 bills, one of which was to purchase a case to house the battle flag of the Rough Riders, Arizona’s Spanish-American War heroes. Scott also bought a flagpole for the 1896-vintage Scottsdale wooden schoolhouse; the flagpole was dedicated on July 4, 1899. Following his death in October 1910, Scottsdale schoolchildren wrote tributes to their beloved “city father”—including one that simply said: “Chaplain loved our flag.”
Helen Scott, a teacher, Baptist leader and wife of wounded U.S. Army veteran Winfield Scott, published “Half Mast and Other Poems.” In her verse “Our Flag’s Birthday,” Mrs. Scott begins: “Unfurl our flag with joy today, O’er hill and vale and plain! Shout ‘Freedom’s Glory Song’ the way, From ocean main to main!”
On Feb. 14, 1912, Arizona became the 48th state, and the U.S. flag then bore 48 stars (New Mexico had become a state January 6, 1912). A 49th star was added January 3, 1959, with Alaska’s statehood, and the 50th star added to the U.S. flag in 1960 (with Hawaii’s statehood on August 21, 1959).
Since its founding in 1935, Post 44, American Legion has provided honors to deceased veterans and at community events. One of the Post’s time-honored traditions is retirement of flags at a ceremony on or near Flag Day.
On Veterans Day (November 11) 1955, Scottsdale’s American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts dedicated a 50-foot flag staff on the grounds of the Community Center (the former Adobe House, now site of the parking garage between the Civic Center Library and Scottsdale Stadium). The pole honored “all Americans who have given their lives for this great country of ours, and in doing so they served under the United States flag, the greatest symbol of liberty and freedom in the world,” stated a new article in the November 18, 1955, Scottsdale Progress.
Scottsdale hosted its inaugural spring training game, at which the home team Baltimore Orioles beat the visiting Chicago Cubs on March 9, 1956. Scottsdale’s VFW Post 3515 presented a U.S. flag that would be flown during all games at the new ballpark.
As Scottsdale civic, service, veterans and youth organizations expanded along with the community’s growth in the 1960s, many joined forces to honor the flag on patriotic holidays. In 1960, the Boys Club of Scottsdale, the VFW and the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce hung American flags throughout the Town of Scottsdale on Lincoln’s Birthday, Arizona Admissions Day, Washington’s Birthday, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Election Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. In later years, the Scottsdale Sertoma Club decorated downtown Scottsdale with countless U.S. flags on six national holidays as one of its signature community service projects.
In July 1961, the Scottsdale Progress carried a photo, captioned: “The flag which has flown over Scottsdale since its incorporation (June 25, 1951) was formally retired Monday in ceremonies preceding the Fourth of July fireworks show, staged by the Sipe-Peterson Post American Legion, which presented a new 50-star flag to Mayor Mort E. Kimsey.”
In June 1962, Scottsdale’s Elks Lodge again hosted a community Flag Day observance. The flag ceremony featured historic U.S. flags, presented by Boy Scout flagbearers. The Our Lady of Perpetual Help church choir provided music and Dr. R. P. Timmons delivered an address entitled “Americanism,” according to the June 16, 1962, Scottsdale Progress.
Flag Day 1968 occurred shortly after the assassination death of Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. A June 10 Scottsdale Progress front-page photo showed a local tribute, with the caption: “Billy Young, 9, and his brother Jimmy, 6, decided they needed a flag to fly at half staff this weekend in respect for Sen. Robert Kennedy, so they fashioned one of their own. The boys used crayons to color U.S. and Arizona flags, raised a flagpole in front of their home…and lowered them to half staff.”
In 1969, the city of Scottsdale sponsored a family Flag Day concert at the Community Center Park on Second Street, co-sponsored by the Local 586 of the American Federation of Musicians. Twenty-seven musicians played patriotic pieces; the Scottsdale Boy’s Band also performed. Flag Day celebrations during the 1960s were also held at Eldorado Park, often featuring the Luke AFB band, Job’s Daughters drill team, U.S. Marine Corps color guard and fireworks.
During an era of anti-war protests and civil unrest, the Scottsdale Progress ran a Flag Day editorial in the June 12, 1970, edition: “Sunday is Flag Day. For some among us it has little significance. To other people it is a day with deep meaning. In recent years we have seen the American flag spat upon, burned and torn in protest against injustice, real and imagined. Such displays are juvenile and thoughtless. The flag should be a symbol of unity and pride. In times of turmoil and dissent, however, it also becomes a symbol of hatred for those who would tear down our society. While we do not believe in pseudo-patriotic flag waving for any and all occasions, we do believe that the flag has a valid meaning and deserves to be honored even by those who dissent. The Stars and Stripes are a reminder of a proud history. They stand for a nation which is dedicated to freedom and equality for all. To those who say, ‘We have failed,’ we answer that disrespect for the flag solves nothing. Instead we urge them to work for a better country and to right the wrongs instead of committing their own wrongs.”
Only months after they were released from captivity in North Vietnamese Prisoner of War camps, two ex-POWs were honored at Scottsdale’s Flag Day program at Eldorado Park. Marine Capt. Bill Angus and Sgt. William McMurry of the U.S. Army Special Forces were the featured guests; McMurry was a graduate of Scottsdale High School before his Army service in Vietnam. They were each presented with city of Scottsdale flags by Mayor Bud Tims.
In October 1974, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Company D, 6th Engineer Battalion dedicated a plaque and the flagpole at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park “to the men…who fell during the Korean Conflict when the company was called to the colors and to those who contributed their labor to complete this railroad park for the benefit of children of all ages.” The plaque and flagpole still stand in front of Stillman Station at the railroad park.
Flag raisings have long been an important dedication event in Scottsdale. For example, when the then-Scottsdale Foundation for the Handicapped (now STARS) opened in the former Little School building (near Loloma School on Second Street) in 1977, clients, staff and board members joined to raise the U.S. flag, donated by U.S. Congressman John Rhodes. The Scottsdale Historical Society dedicated a flagpole to at the Little Red Schoolhouse, years before it became the society’s museum. Eagle Scouts dedicated a flagpole at the Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
More recently, who can forget the proliferation of American flags as a show of unity after the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
Scouts, Knights of Columbus, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, VFW, school groups, the Scottsdale Police Department, the Scottsdale Fire Department, auxiliaries of veterans groups, businesses, civic organizations and so many more have dedicated thousands of volunteer hours to help Scottsdale honor the U.S. flag—on Flag Day and throughout the year. Times and ways may have changed, but our respect for the Stars and Stripes has never wavered.