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Kiwanis Club keeps an Erwin tradition flying

By Kayla Carter
Staff Writer
[email protected]
Four years ago, the Erwin Kiwanis Club revived one of downtown Erwin’s former traditions: The club hoisted the project into the air by placing flag stands on utility poles along North Main Avenue and Gay, Love and 2nd streets.
There was a time when downtown Erwin businesses would honor the Fourth of July by displaying their flags along the sidewalk. Sidewalk insets for flag poles were installed for businesses to show patriotism during the holidays, said Jim Long, director of the Kiwanis flag display in the downtown area.
“Erwin used to have holes in the sidewalk along all of Main Street,” he said. “People who owned the businesses had a flag that was on a metal pole, which they put down in that hole on the holidays.”
In the past, businesses would take care of their own individual flags, but Long said they revisited how to manage the tradition.
Long said the Kiwanis Club is happy to be the keepers of the flag closet at town hall. It helps to ensure the safety and recurrence of the flag display. “This way the businesses bought them, we paid for them and store them,” he said.
Long said the only business that honors this tradition today is an antique mall owned by John Hashe.
“It’s the only one left,” he said. “I don’t think they have done that since the ‘50s.” Long said he lived here in 1952 and doesn’t recall when the flag display tradition ceased. However, they figured out a new way to keep the tradition going.
“We started this four years ago to reinstitute the tradition,” he said. “Rather than put the flags in the ground we figured we could put them on the utility poles.” Long said the club was met with no opposition from the utility company about the idea.
On Friday at 7 a.m. sharp, eight Kiwanians met at Erwin Town Hall to mount the flags for the third time this year.
Unique to the Fourth of July display are six Revolutionary War era flags.
Project leader Joe Chambers said a Guilford Courthouse, Star-Spangled Banner (the only U.S. flag with more than 13 stripes), Bunker Hill, Cowpens, Fort Moultrie and the first Marine Corps flag, and The Gadsden flags are always displayed on North Main Street in front of the courthouse.
“We put them up and take them down,” Long said. “That early in the morning there’s normally only a few places where cars are parked.” He said they can normally get all the flags up in around 20 minutes.
“We try to put them up the weekend before the holiday,” said Long. “We will take them down again a week later.” Displaying the flags before and after the holiday adds emphasis, said Long. “The supporters we have pay for this and we want them to get the full benefit,” he said.
Long said the flags help citizens and visitors remember the holidays and what they mean.
“It’s a patriotic gesture,” he said. “It renews our sense of patriotism and faith in America.”
The flags are displayed up to six or seven times a year, Long said. Holidays for which they are displayed include Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day and during the annual Apple Festival.
A recent expansion of flag stands was supported by local businesses, said Long. Originally the flag display did not include 2nd Street from Walgreens to McDonald’s. Gay Street flag displays were also installed the year before last.
“We thought we could get enough supporters because somebody had to pay for the flags,” he said. “So, various businesses have made donations.”
The money went toward buying brackets, which were installed on the light poles as well. “We bought the flags and put up the brackets in the new locations,” he said. A letter sent by the club to local businesses says that they are seeking funds to expand the flag display further.