DRUMRIGHT — Veterans of VFW Post 1118 in Cushing and members of the Honor Guard from American Legion Post 108 in Cushing assisted in a flag-raising ceremony Thursday morning.
Not just any flag-raising: a giant 30-by-50-foot American flag was unfurled on a new 100-foot white flagpole in Cleo Hutchison Centennial Memorial Park in Drumright.
The park is near Federal and Cimarron Streets, two blocks south of SH 33 in downtown Drumright.
The park was dedicated on Memorial Day in honor of Hutchison, a longtime Drumright resident, former mayor and local businessman who died in 2001. He opened a grocery store here in 1946 and operated it more than 60 years.
Hutchison was the town's mayor for 22 years. He served in the Marine Corps during World War II.
The idea for a park and new flagpole came less than five months ago when the town's old water tower was torn down. A city employee suggested a flagpole be placed on the vacant lot.
Greg Roberts, president-elect of the Drumright Chamber of Commerce, said city leaders liked the idea of a large flagpole and flag, but the anticipated costs for the project prevented them from actively pursuing it.
The town's acting city manager, Danny Cooper, decided to try to raise cash from residents, organizations in the community, and area businesses to fund the project. Roberts remembers the city manager's enthusiasm as he went through the town talking to business owners and seeking support.
Roberts said sufficient funds and materials for the project were collected in just more than a month after Cooper began the campaign for the flagpole.
Magellan Oil and Keystone Gas donated large sections of pipe for the pole. Another store donated fittings. A local electrician donated and installed three lights with 1500 watt bulbs that will illuminate Old Glory so it can be properly displayed on the pole night and day, year round, Roberts said. Many citizens and store owners donated cash. Southwest Petroleum and Swiena Well Service also made donations.
Drumright Fire Chief Wade Guyer, who participated in the flag raising, said the town was “100 percent behind the project.”
After Cooper had secured al the materials and funding for the town's newest project, he now had to decide where to put it.
Lifelong Drumright resident Sandy Hutchison Perry said she and her sister, Janie Hutchison Nickles, were approached by Cooper about donating some of her family's land near the location where the old water tower once stood. The women, daughters of Cleo Hutchison, were excited about donating eight lots for the park where the flagpole would be erected.
The new flag can be seen from many vantages in the hilly town of 3,000 people. It is on the second-highest spot in Drumright Fire Chief Guyer explained. He said the city's new water tower was built on the highest point.
Guyer talked about the town he claims as his home, and said he was “glad to live in this little town.” He has been on the local fire department for 16 years and he knows most of the townspeople. He said the reason for the success of the park project is the people of the community. “When somebody needs something, everybody pitches in to help.” He's raising his family, including a son and a daughter, in Drumright and he plans to “grow old and die” here.
Guyer brought the huge flag to the ceremony in the back of his fire department truck. It was neatly packed in the bed of the truck, with sections of the flag folded on top of the others.
When it was time to raise the flag, members of the American Legion and the VFW, dressed in starched white shirts and wearing pup-tent hats, lined up in two columns behind the truck's tailgate.
Carefully and respectfully, the oversized flag was unfolded, with a man on either side taking hold of the material and walking about ten paces until two more men stepped in to grab the next section. This process continued until the entire flag was being carried by 20 men up a slight incline to the towering flagpole.
Guyer and a city worker raised the flag slowly until the flag was hoisted to the top of the pole.
A steady southerly breeze quickly caught the bundled fabric and caused it to wave freely in the air as about 50 people applauded as they watched from below.
Sandy Perry came to the ceremony and said her emotions swelled before the flag was even on the pole. “I cried just watching them get the flag out of the truck.”
She admitted to being filled with pride as she watched the veterans carefully carry the flag and as she thought about her dad, who she said would love the park and the big flag.
Kenneth Seeberger, retired postmaster and Korean War veteran, looked up at the waving flag and remarked, “That's a huge flag.”
The sight of the new flag created a reaction in Seeberger, too.
“I got tears in my eyes when I saw it.”
On the east side of town, almost a mile from the park, Jackie Landis, who was born in Drumright, stood in her front doorway, looking at the flag that can easily be seen rising above the tops of downtown buildings. She said she likes the flag and enjoys seeing it from her porch or from the chair in her living room.
“I can enjoy it, rain or shine,” she said. The flag makes her feel patriotic and she's glad it will be up all the time.
She thinks the people of Drumright “did a good thing,” by providing the new flag. “I wish they would have done it sooner.”