By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Come Veterans Day this Thursday, Imperial residents and those passing through will notice a main street lined with U.S. flags.
Weather permitting, that’s the way it is each major holiday and special event here, thanks to the Imperial Lions Club.
For the past 25 years, maybe more, the club has sponsored its flag project. Today, 52 businesses in the community take part, all but about six of them along Broadway.
For a minimal annual subscription, a business can have a flag flying in front of it each holiday. The annual fee also provides replacement of the flag as it’s needed.
“It would be missed if we quit doing it,” said Lions President Merril Humphreys.
“We can also get chewed out if we miss a business” who’s a subscriber, he smiled.
Lions member Larry Radcliffe has coordinated the flag project since its inception in the 1980s. He brought the idea to the club after seeing a similar project in Sidney, where his brother lived. He even drilled the first holes in the city’s sidewalks for holding the flag poles.
Radcliffe, a Lion since 1979, agreed that it’s a great project. He picks up the annual subscription fee each President’s Day holiday in February.
“It’s one of my most enjoyable days all year,” Radcliffe said.
That’s because he gets to visit with all the business owners as he makes his annual rounds.
“They always know why I’m there,” he smiled.
But, Radcliffe said he and the club don’t see its flag project as a fund-raiser.
“No, it’s a service project,” he said.
There’s quite a system to getting the flags out each holiday. Special events like the Chase County Fair and Imperial’s recent 125th also merit the placing of the flags.
They’ll put out the flags for most special events when asked, Radcliffe noted.
Radcliffe said two people can get the flags out and up early each holiday morning in about 25 minutes, but it works better if three are on “duty” for the pickup which takes a bit longer.
For several years now, the task has been eased because of the trailer that carries the group of flags around town pulled behind a pickup.
That trailer was built by former Lion Tilbert Wright, now deceased. He made it from scrap material the club acquired, a lot of it from the John Deere dealership here. That was thanks to another former member, Ralph Spradlin, also now deceased, a John Deere employee at the time.
Previous to the “modern” trailer now used, the flags were transported around in a rack on the back of a pickup.
It’s about a three-mile trip around the community today to get the flags out and another three miles picking them up later in the day.
Just like with its bingo stand, Radcliffe and Humphreys both said a lot of dedicated Lions have helped make this project a success over the years, as have many non-Lions.
They always get a lot of comments on how impressive main street looks when the flags are out.
But, Humphreys said there’s also some other good that comes from the project.
“It also makes people ask, ‘Why are the flags up?’ Then they remember the holiday,” Humphreys said.
Like Veterans Day.