EMMET MEARA

Flag facts sure to win you a free drink

Posted June 17, 2011, at 4:40 p.m.

Sure, you are as patriotic as the next guy. If you don’t fly the flag for the Fourth of July, you certainly will think about it.

But there are those pesky details about sinking a flagpole or fixing a flag holder to the house. Maybe next year.

And let’s face it, you know damn little, or next to nothing, about your country’s Stars and Stripes. I will prove it to you.

Did you know that only two countries have flags older than the U.S.? Do you know those countries? They are only our enemy-now-friend Great Britain and friend-now almost-enemy France.

Did you know the thing about Flag Day? On June 14, 1777, Congress authorized the first flag. That’s why we celebrate on that day.

Here is a great one for trivia night at the Legion Hall. When and where was the first American flag flown? No one knows this. But you can answer Fort Stanwix (honest to God) in the present city of Rome, N.Y., on Aug. 3, 1777. If you want another free beer, bet that it was first under fire three days later at the immortal battle of Oriskany, N.Y.

Fort Stanwix. The battle of Oriskany. Who knew?

If you know this, you may move to the head of the class. The red, white and blue have specific meanings. Red is for valor, zeal and fervency. White, naturally, is for purity, cleanliness of life and rectitude of conduct. Blue, naturally, is the color of heaven and reverence to God, loyalty, sincerity, justice and truth.

Let’s leave it to one George Washington: “We take the stars from Heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing Liberty.” You want to argue with George?

Here is another can’t-miss trivia question. Who first called the flag “Old Glory”? It was none other than that famed patriot Capt. William Driver in 1831 aboard the brig Charles Doggett. Driver, a Tennessean, transported the survivors of the mutiny on the Bounty from Tahiti to their homes. His flag is now at the Smithsonian Institution. So there.

And David Grima thinks reading this column is a “Saturday morning waste of time.”

Write this one down. The flag first flew in a foreign country on Jan. 28, 1778, in Nassau, Bahama Island, of all places. Fort Nassau was captured by the Navy in the dead of winter. Were these the first official U.S. snowbirds? I wonder how long they stayed, “protecting” the island fort.

I know whether you are lying if you pretend to know this. The current version of the U.S. flag was designed in a class project by an 18-year-old high school student, Robert G. “Bobby” Heft, who received only a B-minus from his teacher.

Heft took exception to this grade and issued his teacher a challenge: If Heft’s design proposal was accepted by Congress, he would deserve and receive an A. By proclamation in 1958, his design was officially adopted as the nation’s flag. Heft rode his fame (and his A) to become mayor of Napoleon, Ohio, and has met eight or nine presidents.

And he only got a B-minus. Tough teacher.

Last one. How many U.S. flags are there on the moon? The answer, my friend, is six. They were placed there by astronauts from Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17. Amaze your friends with that trivia.

But the Soviet Union, European Union and India also have flags there. Well, India’s smashed against the moon at a few thousand miles an hour in a fiery collision. I’m not sure that counts.

If I don’t see you before then, happy Fourth of July. And fly that flag. For Robert Heft. For Capt. Driver. For Fort Stanwix.

Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at emmetmeara@msn.com.

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