Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society (PLLPS), Inc.
for a Very Special Event
July 11, 2009 - The Power of the Flag
The July open house hosted very special guests, Raymond Hartzel, who turned the light off for the last time on January 11, 1966; State Senator Roy Dyson and Civil War re-enactors from the Friends of Point Lookout's Company "C" . For the first time in decades, the American Flag flew over the Point Lookout Lighthouse Complex; for the first time ever, the Maryland State Flag flew and proudly demonstrated to the world that the citizens of Maryland are now the owners and caretakers of such a wonderful landmark, our Point Lookout Lighthouse Complex.
How did the flag pole get restored?
It may seem like a small thing that we take for granted, but lately we have noticed the American flag standing watch at many of the places that we go in our day to day lives. The journey from our initial discussions about flying the flag at the lighthouse to making it a reality has been an interesting one.
When we first started the flag pole repair project a year ago, I had no idea of the amount of work that would be required to restore the existing flag pole. We reviewed architectural drawings from the 1920s which showed the flag pole, so we knew that it was a period appropriate fixture for the lighthouse complex. A number of volunteers offered advice and were willing to tackle the project head on. We discussed shimmying up the pole to install the “works” but quickly ruled out that solution as we were unsure of the condition of the flagpole as it tapered skyward.
We moved on to plan “B”. With volunteers from the Navy, we managed to drop the flag pole – quite literally- to the ground. The dull thud that the pole made as it hit the ground can only be described as disconcerting. We all had images of the flag pole hitting the ground and being turned into a million toothpick sized chards. Much to our surprise, the flag pole sustained only minor damage. The damage amounted to rotten sections at the lower end that was underground. The pole had been gradually buried by storms from decades past. The skyward end was also damaged, having been battered by those same storms and the harsh day to day elements down at the Point.
Our hearts sank when we noticed that a large portion of the pole separated from the large mast-like structure until we noticed that in fact, the damage was cosmetic and not structural. Nails had been holding together the outer peelings of wood for many years.
Our crew, led by Hobie Statzer, quickly evaluated the wood and began repairs. We used screws to restore the outer shell so that the pole would retain is elegant round stature; we used caulk to ensure that water would not be able to damage the wood again in the near future.
Hobie recruited two additional volunteers, Tony and Alma Pasek, to help him on several long work days to sand, prime and beautify the pole with 4 coats of paint. Hobie studied the problem and consulted with engineers and others to ensure that the support system for the flag pole would be in tip top shape. Hobie and his team also primed and painted the uprights, drilled holes and created the plan of attack to point the refurbished pole skyward once again.
As we all gathered around the pole discussing the task at hand, we divided into two subgroups: the tallest of the bunch and the rest. The vertically inclined were positioned along the pole, while the rest took up positions along the cleverly thought out rope that would be used to pull the pole into position. Without so much as an “are you ready”, the more vertically gifted volunteers began lifting the surprisingly heavy pole off the ground; as this group pushed the pole and walked toward the support braces, the other group tugged and tugged on the thick rope, pulling the pole upright.
As if playing a cleverly conducted game of leap frog, the vertically gifted rotated positions as the flag pole moved from the 3 o’clock position on the ground, to the two o’clock position, to the one o’clock position. There were a few seconds of hesitation when the flag pole lingered as the vertically advantaged became advantaged no more, but not to worry, the leverage advantaged crew pulled and tugged, until the flag pole was being gently cradled inside the brackets.
Dustin Rusk quickly sprang into action and secured the leeward brace to hold the flag pole in place while final adjustments were made. In short order the support rod was installed to return the flag pole to the full and upright position. Once the flag pole was aligned and secured, we had one more hurdle to concern ourselves with. Would we be able to pull out the thick rope that had been instrumental in lifting the flag pole? We didn’t need to worry; Hobie’s careful planning had the heavy duty rope on the ground in a matter of seconds, as we all stood and marveled at what had taken a year to accomplish. We were now ready for the big day.
We invited Ray Hartzel, the man who turned off the light for the last time on January 11, 1966 and who also dealt with the bureaucracy to keep the last flag flown at the lighthouse. Luckily for us, he prevailed and donated the flag at our season finale open house back in 2007.
Unfortunately, the last flag flown at the lighthouse would not be strong enough to be flown again without causing additional damage to the frail fabric.
The weather could not have been more perfect on Saturday, July 11, 2009. While it was a warm day with overcast skies, at least the humidity and rain held off and there was a nice breeze. It only seemed fitting given that Mr. Hartzel should hoist the new flag since he had taken down the last flag some 40 years ago. Flying a flag once again marks the beginnings of the restoration of the lighthouse back to its 1927 grandeur.
Raymond Hartzel prepares to raise the Maryland State flag that Senator Dyson donated, with an assist from PLLPS volunteer Hobie Statzer.
Senator Dyson and Ray Hartzel prepare to raise the American, Maryland and US Lighthouse Service flags.
As part of the celebration, State Senator Roy Dyson joined us and presented the lighthouse with a Maryland State flag which would fly for the first time over this prized possession of the Point Lookout State Park and the State of Maryland. The compound has always been federal property so no state flags have flown here before the 11th.
Senator Roy Dyson and former keeper Ray Hartzel chat near the flag pole
Hobie Statzer graciously donated an American Flag to accompany the Maryland State Flag; Sandra Sableski completed the flag trio by donating a US Lighthouse Service Flag. We all watched in anxious anticipation as the flags were clipped to the ropes and Mr. Hartzel hoisted them skyward. The American flag was on top and there was just enough breeze to see it unfurl for the first time. Next, the Maryland State flag followed suit and proudly waved to the crowds below. The third and final flag, the US Lighthouse Service flag, had a brief moment of being contrary and remained folded in half. As if on cue, the breeze increased ever so slightly and the third flag joined the others, standing at attention in a near perfect breeze.
The flags ascend the pole skyward, as the skies shadow the lighthouse and threaten rain.
Ray Hartzel repeats the duty he peformed when stationed at Point Lookout.
A hush came over the crowd as we all stared at the flags flying majestically on the Chesapeake Bay side of the lighthouse. Company C re-enactors performed a special ceremony to honor the flag raising as the flags were slowly moving skyward. It was an interesting contrast to see the last keeper from the 20th century standing side by side with soldiers from the 18th century’s Civil War era.
The Third Flag holds out for the perfect breeze, which unfurled the flag seconds after this picture was taken.
Company C performs a patriotic ceremony to honor the flag, with an audience watching from the ground and up in the lantern room.
For the last 2 years, we have been flying a flag on the Potomac River Porch of the lighthouse. This flag was a better-than-nothing-solution until we could decide how to proceed with the repair of the Bay side flag pole. This flag did a great job of greeting visitors to the lighthouse, but as of July 11, 2009, it has been retired and replaced by the newly refurbished- and much taller- flag pole proper.
Company C Joins the celebration. From left to right are: Chris Dickson, (holding the flag), Dave Ferraro, Tim Martin, Janet Williams and Bob Crickenberger. Notice the flag on the Potomac River side porch.
Robert Hall, Ray Hartzel, Senator Dyson and Dustin Rusk stand beneath the flags.
PLLPS gives a special thank you to all of our volunteers for their tireless efforts. Hobie Statzer did an incredible job of coordinating the efforts and encouraging the team. Special thanks to Tony and Alma Pasek for joining Hobie during the week to make this dream a reality, and to the Navy volunteers for their help lowering- and raising- the flag pole.
Photos by Sandra Sableski