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Lions Club takes flag lesson to schools
Third-graders taught history, flag etiquette
Lions flaggers
Ceres Lions Club members Dave Mendonca, Darrell Long and Lee Brandt put on a presentation of the evolution of the American flag to third-graders at Virginia Parks School on Friday. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

The Ceres Lions Club is making its rounds at all elementary schools in Ceres to educate third-graders about early American history, the various American flags as they have evolved since the Revolutionary War days and about flag etiquette.

On Friday club members Dave Mendonca, Darrell Long, Lee Brandt and Wes Stamper made a presentation to Virginia Parks School students and brought with them flags as they evolved when the 13 colonies broke free from English rule.

"I've got to move along quickly here - I've got to get 241 years of history into 30 minutes," said Mendonca. He explained that he needed to talk about the founding of the country to explain the story of the American flag. Mendonca touched on how colonists resented British rule after first settling in 1607 in Virginia and the pilgrims landing in 1620 in Massaschusetts. Colonists lived without representatives and were unable to protest excessive taxation until the Boston Tea Party was thrown in 1773. Because secret societies of colonists in Boston were meeting under a large tree later dubbed the "Liberty Tree," the first flag featured a green tree.

He detailed the Washington Cruiser flag that featured the green liberty tree against a white field with the words, "Appeal to Heaven." It expressed the hopes of unity, said Mendonca.

Because the British were stockpiling weapons in the Bahama Islands, General Washington wanted to seize the armament. Because Col. John Gaston needed a flag the so-called rattle snake, or "Don't Tread on Me" flag came into being. Mendonca said that flag has been used in recent years by conservative groups and signs of protest.

"What happens when you step on a rattlesnake?" asked Mendonca. "That's right - he rises up and is gonna bite you. Well, that's a pretty good idea of what the colonists were going to do. You tread on us and we're gonna come back."

The Grand Union flag came along in 1776 which was greeted by the firing of the cannon 13 times. It was the first official U.S. flag, approved June 14, 1777. Some states had their own version of a national flag, one of them being the Rhode Island Regiment flag. It featured the word "Hope" with the symbol of an anchor. Mendonca also showed the South Carolina "Moultrie Flag" with its dark blue field and crescent moon and the word "Liberty."

The Bennington flag was developed in 1777 by Col. Stark with 13 six-pointed stars and red and white stripes starting with white along the top and bottom edges. Later the flag was modified with red stripes on the top and bottom since the white ones made the flag appear smaller on the horizon.

The Lions played a trick with the next flag unfurling, showing a yellow smile face flag. Mendonca said it was to "see if you're paying attention."

Altogether the country has sported 27 official flags since the days of Betsy Ross.

In 1791 and 1792, Vermont and Kentucky became states and two more stripes were added which crowded things. Leaders realized they would run out of room for stripes with each statehood and decided to keep only 13 stripes and have the stars represent the states.

He noted that Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner while watching the shelling of Fort McHenry in 1812. The flag flying was 30 by 42 feet.

The last flag before the current one had 48 stars. It last flew in 1958 before Alaska and Hawaii became states, after which two additional stars had to be added. Mendonca wondered out loud what the flag would look like if additional states are added. Puerto Rico could be next, he told students. Talk of splitting up California could also change the order of things.

The students were told America's tallest flag pole is in Sheboygan, Wisc. Erected by the Acuity Insurance Company, it stands 400 feet tall and flies a flag measuring 120 feet by 60 feet. The pole is coated with 500 gallons of paint.

He detailed that six American flags were left on the moon during Apollo missions 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17. Experts at NASA say photos show five flags are still standing and may have been bleached white. The Apollo 11 flag was knocked over when the module ascent engine blast knocked it over.

Mendonca told students that the flag should not be allowed to touch the ground, become tattered and fades or flown upside down. The American flag is to never have another flag fly above it. If Old Glory is flown at night it must also be lighted, according to flag rules. He informed students that old retired flags can be deposited for proper disposal at a mailbox-type box that the American Legion maintains outside of the Ceres Fire Station #1 on Third Street.

He also gave a little plug against graffiti and a little bit about the Lions Club, which has over 20,000 clubs in the country with 1.4 million members worldwide. The club's motto is "We Serve" and includes projects that promote sight through eyeglass collection and distribution and preventing blindness. The Ceres Lions have been around since 1947.
The club left each third-grader with their own miniature flag.