Jeffersontown’s Oates Flag Celebrates More Than Seven Decades in Business
The Oates Flag company has been making flags for 75 years.
In 1945, after World War II, C. Randy Oates began making flags in downtown Louisville at 3rd and Main streets. The small, family-run company made cotton flags of several sizes dictated by customers’ orders. More than 40 years later, the Oates family moved their business to Jeffersontown.
“It was a great move for us,” says C. Randy (Trey) Oates, III, the current CEO.
Randy Oates, Sr., ran the company with the help of his family until 1977, when his son Randy Jr. took the reins and the family continued to work there. They added products such as school and team banners, signs, screen printing services, and embroidery of emblems and logos. During this time, Randy Jr. developed an interest in hot-air balloons and participated in the Gaslight Balloon Glow.
“The largest flag we have made is 30’x60’, about the size of a basketball court,” Trey says. “A flag of about the same size was suspended from a cable between fire trucks for a drive-by ceremony on a very icy, cold day, and the ice caused the cable to break. The flag fell to the ground and was shredded in several places by the ice. Because it was damaged when it fell to the ground, it was destroyed in a solemn ceremony.”
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In 1992, Thomas “Ski” Demski made a huge American flag, known as “Superflag,” which measures 505’x225’ feet and weighs 3,000 pounds. Each star is 17’ high and it requires 500 people to unfurl it. The flag has been unfurled at Superbowls, in front of the Washington Monument, and even dangled from the Hoover Dam as part of a torch ceremony during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
On June 22, 1942, the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution that established the U.S. Flag Code. It established guidelines for respectful handling of the American flag. The guidelines include how to act when the flag passes on parade, or is being hoisted or lowered. According to the Code, U.S. armed forces members should stand at attention and salute, holding the salute until the flag has passed. Civilians should stand and place their right hand over their heart.
In the United States, no other flag should be placed above the American flag except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea, when a church pennant may be flown above the flag during a service. When it is displayed with a group of state flags, it should be at the center and higher than the others.
The flag may be flown at half staff to honor the death of any president, former president, vice president, senator, congressman or governor. The flag should be hoisted to the top of the pole and then lowered to half staff during such times. When it is lowered for the day, it should be raised to the top and then lowered once more.
Flags are national symbols. Not only do they identify particular countries, but they also indicate people belonging to a group sharing beliefs and practices of a certain country. Flags that are flown together, such as the flags at the United Nations building, symbolize nations united in a common cause or standard of behavior.
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Oates Flag has erected more than 100 flagpoles with informational plaques at The Healing Field in Lawrenceburg. The Healing Field, according to Betty Butler, president of the American Legion Post 34 Auxiliary, was conceived by the Auxiliary to honor veterans of the war on terror. Only service personnel from Kentucky are so honored. The next flag will be erected at a Memorial Day service.
According to the U.S. Flag Code, “The flag, when in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. Unless hitting the ground once renders the flag unfit for display, there is no need to burn it.”
The American Legion GI Joe Post 244 in Jeffersontown conducts an annual flag burning ceremony. The ceremony will be held this year in June near Long Run park, according to Service Officer John Wright.
“This retirement ceremony is the largest one in the world,” Wright says. “During this solemn ceremony, some 10,000-plus flags will be burned. The conflagration flies some 40′ to 50’ and burns all night.”
The Oates Flag company is a retired-flag collection point for both local and national contributions and cooperates in planning and execution for flag retirement.
“The sizes of the retired flags range from tiny, hand-held flags on sticks to full garrison flags of 20’x38’,” Trey says.