Flags Bay (and The Daily Flag) began, however faintly, in 1959, when Alaska entered the Union as the forty-ninth state in January, and Hawaii became our fiftieth state in August.
As a first-grader, I was enchanted with the idea of far-away Alaska becoming a state. My teacher showed the class the map of Alaska, and explained how big the state was (bigger than Texas!), and now the biggest in the United States.
What interested me in particular was the beautiful Alaskan flag. I was enthralled by the story of thirteen-year-old John Bell “Benny” Benson, who created a flag that so perfectly represented his state. I didn’t understand that Benny’s design had occurred thirty-three years prior to Alaska’s statehood. But all through the years I remembered Benny’s name, and his “Big Dipper” flag, which is how I thought of it. The Big Dipper was the only collection of stars that I could recognize as a six-year-old.
The next school year, when I was a second grader, Hawaii came into the Union. This time I had a better understanding of statehood. And if I thought Alaska was far away, Hawaii was a string of eight tiny islands, practically lost in the Pacific Ocean, and 2,390 miles from California. I could hardly see it on the map! What a contrast to Alaska.
Why I was more familiar with Hawaii’s flag is a mystery, but I knew that it included the flag of Great Britain, which I recognized from watching television (especially Victory at Sea) and looking at my father’s Navy Reserve magazines. I thought the Hawaiian flag was an amazing concoction of red, white and blue, and as colorful as the islands themselves.
The statehoods of Alaska and Hawaii were the first events of national importance that I can remember, and their flags made a great impression on me.
Fast forward to 2004, when my husband and I moved into a little cottage on Galveston Bay, in Texas. Where others might have a back yard fence, we had a bulkhead and small pier, and the Houston Ship Channel was three miles away. Each day I watched an endless variety of ships flying every flag in the world making their way to and from the Port of Houston, Baytown, and Barbour’s Cut in the upper Bay.
It rekindled my interest in flags, all those flags in the bay. Flags Bay.