Greg Peters column: Run this story up your flagpole
I took an unofficial poll of friends and colleagues. The most hated sound on Earth is a buzzing old-school digital alarm clock. A distant second is the beeping noise my car makes when the seat belt isn't buckled while in drive. I wear my seat belt, but during the winter months with the heat blasting inside the car, it's necessary to remove one's jacket from time to time. Cue the incessant seat belt beeping noise and cue my seat belt story from fourth grade in 1981.
My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Garnett, at Cherokee Elementary on Eglin Air Force Base near Fort Walton Beach, Fla., informed her class of a seat belt safety poster contest sponsored by the Florida Highway Patrol.
At some point during the late 1970s, someone mus've had the novel idea toddlers wrestling around in the backseat of a moving vehicle with the windows down was somewhat unsafe, hence the promotion and education of seat belt safety.
At one point in time, there was a picture of my third grade brother, Jeff and I holding up our posters donning red Kool-Aid mustaches and smiling. Sadly, this picture has vanished along with the tight-fitting dark green polyester Florida Highway Patrolmen shorts of yesteryear.
Jeff's slogan of "Click It Or Else," showing a highway patrolman beating a seat belt-less kid with a Billy Club was a tad aggressive and, unfortunately, did not garner any awards. My poster, however, did receive a second place ribbon and a free pair of Kinney Shoes.
Apparently, the top two seat belt safety poster slogans from each elementary school were submitted to a state committee. From there, however, it was a Judy Blume tale of a fourth grade nothing for me.
You want to know my fourth grade second place seat belt safety poster slogan in 1981? You probably won't believe it. I know my wife has been rolling her eyes at this story for the last 20 years every time we pass a "Click It Or Ticket" sign on the interstate.
Now, I can't say for sure what came first at our house, Jeff's "Click It Or Else" or my "Click It Or Ticket," but that's how it all went down in 1981.
If there's anyone that could believe my story, it's Bob Heft. Bob was a 16-year-old high school student living with his grandparents in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1958 when his American History teacher assigned a school project. Each class member could choose anything they wanted to do. Bob's friend chose to tape three leaves on a piece of white paper labeling them "oak, elm, and maple." His friend received an "A" for a few minutes of work.
Bob Heft, assuming Alaska and Hawaii would soon become official states, spent 12 hours cutting and re-sewing his grandmother's flag. His grandmother refused to help because Bob was"ruining a perfectly good flag."
Bob used 50 stars, with five rows of six stars separated by four rows of five stars. His teacher said his project was "unoriginal" and gave him a B-minus. Bob complained to his teacher and told him he was going to send it to their congressman and enter it in the national flag contest. The teacher said if his flag idea was awarded the new national flag of the United States, he would change Bob's grade to an "A." A little over a year later, in 1960, Bob's history teacher was true to his word.
After 21 letters and 18 phone calls to his Ohio congressman, Bob Heft's flag design was chosen to be the new flag design of the United States of America by President Eisenhower. Eisenhower was said to have liked the simple and uniform design. Others claim to have had the same design but Bob Heft was the only person in the entire country to actually sew it and mail it to President Eisenhower.
The flag designed by 16-year-old Bob Heft is still used to this day over 60 years later.
June 14 is Flag Day. It commemorates the adoption of the U.S. flag on June 14, 1777, by the Second Continental Congress.
If you were carousing the River Falls' streets this past June 14, you may have noticed an army of large identical American flags lining the front lawns of over 200 River Falls' homes and businesses.
The "Avenue of Flags" subscription is an annual fundraiser by the River Falls Area Optimist Club. For $35 per year, the Optimists will place a flag in your yard seven times per year from Memorial Day through Veterans Day.
The Optimists, in turn, use the dollars raised to help fund their mission of helping area kids in need. Last year, the River Falls Area Optimists donated over $11,500 to 15 different organizations in town specifically benefitting area youth.
If you'd like to unfurl your patriotic pride and help area kids in the process, call Tom or Mary
Bednarowski at 715-425-8000 or Troy Dostal at 715-531-5085. You may also reach them via their River Falls Area Optimist Club Facebook page.
I took a second unofficial poll for one of the sweetest sounds. Tops on the list of those polled was the sound of an American flag flapping in the breeze. Simple and uniform sewed together with perseverance and hope, just the way an optimistic Bob Heft drew it up in 1958.