By Todd Travis
A Patriotic vision
The Southport Flag Project was started by George Julius, a war veteran serving on the Southport City Council at the time. The idea came from the town of Wanamaker that had been doing a similar project for a number of years. His idea was to have a flag flown on every utility pole in Southport. Today that has amounted to over 270 flags flying throughout the area.
Julius was an ambulance driver in WWII and went in on the second wave to the beach of Normandy. He was the recipient of the Purple Heart. He passed away in 2011 but the Southport Flag Project has continued to fly and maintain the flags all around town. John Wombles joined the project from the start and welded all the brackets that secured the flags to the utility poles. Jack Harmon was the original treasurer of the project. Greg Dant was one of the original members and continues to be a member today.
Raising the funds in record time
When the project began, Ken Winslow was asked to help raise money to the tune of about $10,000.
“In 2002, George told me it was going to cost $10,000 or more and that he thought it might take up to four years to raise all the funds. So my brazen response to him was to prepare for May 2003. We’ll have the money, you can buy the equipment and start putting things up – and that was achieved,” Winslow stated.
“The mayor at the time was Nanette Tunget, and she used to kid with people that if they didn’t give $20 to Kenny he’d camp out in your front porch,” he laughed.
Flag upkeep and maintenance
Thomas Quinn, current chairman of the project, is responsible for getting the flags up each year and taking them down at the end of the year. He begins putting flags up the last week in April so they’re ready the first week in May. The flags are then taken down after 9/11 for the winter. Plaques can also be purchased to put up on the poles to honor veterans and flag project members who have passed away. Those stay up all year round.
“Every year we put new flags on the exterior of the city. We go through all the flags and inspect their condition. When a flag begins to get faded and no longer looks respectful, we will retire those flags. The ones that are still in good condition, we will continue to fly them within the city,” Quinn explained.
“It’s really amazing to think how the project began. All of the brackets were welded and made by hand, and everything was put up using a ladder. Today, when I put the flags up, I’m thankful to be able to use a bucket truck that the city has generously allowed us to use,” he continued.
Retiring the flags
The Southport Flag Project holds a retirement ceremony where they can properly retire flags. This last year the ceremony was cancelled due to high temperatures, but the Boy Scouts were given the flags to retire. The boys can earn a badge for learning to properly fold and retire flags.
“We had some help from the son of one of our former members and his friends who are NASA engineers. A few of the brackets were needing to be replaced so we sent one of the brackets over to them and they made 10 exact replicas that we are now able to use to replace some of the damaged ones,” Quinn mentioned.
“It’s nice to have some of that outside support to keep this project going.”
Consider supporting this project
The Southport Flag Project is a not-for-profit organization which is run by volunteers. They are able to continue the upkeep of the flags and the ceremony by means of donation from local residents. Donations are always appreciated. Checks may be sent to the Southport Flag Project at:
Southport Flag Project
43 Church St.
Southport, IN 46227