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  • Writer's pictureKaren Terhune Duncan

Old Glory

The Capitol Flag Program began in 1937 when a member of Congress requested a flag that had flown over the Capitol. Requests for Capitol flags rapidly outgrew the supply; hence, a program was instituted of flying smaller flags arranged through senate offices. Flags are flown daily year-round, weather permitting. Currently, more than 100,000 flag requests are made annually.

In 2000, New Jersey’s Jon Corzine was just elected senator. That next summer I spent an enjoyable morning interviewing him for Matters Magazine, which at that time I owned and published. Somehow this flag program came up, and I was intrigued by the idea. A few years later he arranged for the flag that had flown on Doug’s and my 25th wedding anniversary to be shipped to us. (Corzine went on to become governor in 2006.) We were tremendously honored.

2001, My interview with then Senator Jon Corzine in his back yard.

It’s a large flag, 5 x 8 ft. We were unsure what to actually do with this treasure, so it sat in its handsome box, for years, along with its certificate. We moved to Savannah and the box came with us.

Outdoor landscaping has been an ongoing project with this home. We’ve removed 6 overgrown trees on the property; 5 Georgia pines and a hickory. We still have dozens of trees on our half acre. They are, for the most part, lovely specimens of Live oaks, loquat, river birch, palms and camellias. Then there is our magnolia. The granddaddy and most popular of all southern trees.

A southern magnolia is often planted on university campuses and can reach a height of 90 feet with is striking dark green leaves and large fragrant flowers. They are lovely. From afar. In one’s yard, they are a menace. The dark green, stiff, heavy and leathery leaves rain down, year-round. The large, showy, white flowers, up to 12 in across, are stunning and fragrant, but short lived. The waxy petals emerge from twigs they continually push off. And our messy towering specimen is smack dab in the middle of our circular driveway. We sweep the driveway several times a week. Nearly as soon as we do, hundreds more dried up leaves flutter down.

We’ve determined this tree was here long before our home. It’s on the plans when the property was purchased. Clearly the architect and original homeowner decided to work the home, and the driveway, around the tree. Near as we can determine it is easily 75 years old. The time had come for it to go. Call out the National Guard! A travesty is about to happen.

Determining whether it is acceptable to remove a southern magnolia from your property can be complicated. Our island association has a strong reputation for tree preservation, maintenance and protection, under the laws of the state. They are also highly responsive to specific issues where a tree has maxed out of its attractive and healthy state. Ours, thankfully, fell into that category. We live on a barrier island where storms are frequent and tree safety is a concern. After several visits from the Tree Association it was determined ours could come down.

Our old magnolia. It had seen better days.

Many were understandably disappointed to see it go. Not us. It took 6 men 9 hours to take it down, branch by branch. Then the trunks (it had grown from a double base) and finally grinding the stumps. We had irrigation lines and electrical lines to maneuver.

We had thought to replace it with another specimen tree. We were encouraged to consider several options. But we felt all were going to eventually be another problem. The circular area too small, too tight and too close to the house. We decided it was the perfect place to showcase our flag.

We hired a coastal flag company to install the pole (black anodized) which required pouring cement. The installed pole has a wind rating of 118 miles per hour. We kinda figure if a wind stronger than that comes through our island, we’ll have bigger problems than the pole coming down. Then it had to be lit, irrigation and new plantings. It was a big, 4 month project all in all.

Hoisting this flag was ceremonial for us. And since Doug and I don’t know how to do anything in a small way, we had a party, socially distanced in golf carts, with champagne and the playing of the National Anthem.

It's now the cornerstone of the front of our property, and we don't miss that old magnolia one bit.

Take a look at the VIDEO journey~

Before and After

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