Stories and Memories of Our American Flag

On a Friday afternoon in the spring of 1958, 17-year-old Robert G. Heft was riding the bus home from school and thinking about the assignment given by his history teacher — to present something visual and original that would show an interest in history.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

As the bus passed the city hall of Lancaster, Ohio, Robert saw the American flag on top of the building and decided that he would design a new flag. He knew that Alaska would soon become the forty-ninth state and that Hawaii was likely to follow as the fiftieth state. At home that night Robert sketched out a grid for fifty stars — five rows of six stars with four alternating rows of five stars. The next morning he sat on the living room floor with scissors and began to cut out the blue canton of the family flag. His mother was horrified and screamed at him for desecrating the flag, but he assured her that it was all right because he was working on a history project.

He rode his bike to a store and bought a new piece of blue cotton broadcloth and some iron-on mending tape. Using a cardboard pattern, he traced one hundred stars on the tape and cut them out — he needed to have stars on both sides of the fabric. His mother refused to sew the new blue canton to the old flag, so he got out her old foot-operated Singer, sewed on the new blue background and ironed on the stars. The history teacher was not impressed with Robert’s flag, saying it lacked originality, and gave him a low grade. After Robert protested, the teacher agreed to improve the grade if the U. S. government accepted Robert’s design. Then Robert asked his congressman to submit his flag to the Washington committee in charge of selecting a design for a fifty-star flag.

In early June of 1960, Robert had graduated from high school and was working as a draftsman for an industrial firm and going to school at night when he received a call from his congressman: “I’m proud to tell you that President Eisenhower has selected your design for our nation’s new flag, Congratulations!” (Thousands of others had submitted the same design, but Robert’s had been received first and it was an actual flag — not just a sketch.) On July 4, 1960, Robert stood at attention by the side of President Eisenhower and Congressman Moeller as he watched his handmade flag being raised over the U. S. Capitol dome.

Since then, that same flag has been flown over every state capital building and over eighty-eight foreign embassies. It is the only flag In American history to have flown over the White House under five administrations. It even has a patch on it from a bullet hole it caught in Saigon in 1967. Heft has turned down any and all offers to purchase his original flag. He now works with youth in Saginaw, Michigan, and travels extensively throughout the United States speaking to civic, community and school groups about the American flag.

In his book, STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER, Richard H. Schneider gives directions for folding a piece of paper so that a perfect five-pointed star can be cut with only one snip of scissors. Stories and articles about our American flag include: “The Spirit of `76” (painting of a drummer boy, a bandaged fife player and an old man marching be- side a Betsy Ross flag), Betsy Ross, Did She or Didn’t She?~The Story of Flag Day, Our Nation’s Anthem (“The Star-Spangled Banner)”, Confederate Flags, ”The Stars and and Stripes Forever” ( designated as the national march of the United States on December 10, 1987), The Pledge of Allegiance, The American Creed, The Flag That Survived D-Day, The Flag of Iwo Jima, The Flags of 9/ii, The Days to Display Your Flag,

The Only Place to Fly Old Glory at Night, The Flag Folding Ceremony (illustrated) and The Federal Flag Code. There are a number of poems inspired by the flag and heart-felt recollections from celebrities and ordinary citizens whose lives have been touched by our flag. Some of the celebrities are: Hugh Downs (television and radio commentator), Bernie Kopel (starred in “The Love Boat)”, John Philip Sousa (composer of “The Stars and Stripes Forever), Dr. Henry Heimlich (inventor of the Heimlich maneuver), Cliff Robertson (Academy Award-winning actor), Willard Scott (television person- ality), Charlie Drake (module pilot for the Apollo 16 crew), Gail Devers (Olympic gold medalist, 1992 and 1996) and Charles E. Schumer, U. S. Senator, New York.

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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