Our grand old flag

20 comments on Our grand old flag
1 minute

First published 4 July 2018.

Happy Independence Day to my US readers! When I was a kid, we used to sing “You’re a Grand Old Flag” in school a lot. It must have been a favorite of the music teacher. It certainly was easy enough to sing. You know it, I’m sure: You’re a grand old flag, you’re a high-flying flag / And forever in peace may you wave / You’re the emblem of the land I love / The home of the free and the brave. Do you hear the tune in your head now?

It's a high-flying flag

This song was written in 1906 for a Broadway musical called George Washington, Jr. The song was originally called “You’re a Grand Old Rag,” after a line spoken in the musical just before the song was song. But enough people objected to our flag being called a rag that the lyric was changed to flag, as we know it today.

Here’s a 1906 recording of the song, sung by Billy Murray, a very popular recording artist of the time.

During my 1970s kidhood, everywhere you went people flew the American flag on Independence Day. We’ve lost that tradition along the way. We should bring it back. If you have an American flag, do fly it today. If you don’t have one, buy one for next year!

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20 responses to “Our grand old flag”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    For some reason, this history entry on the American Flag song reminds me of the wild story I read on the “Bellamy Salute”, a “Nazi-esque” salute we used to use in America for saying the pledge of allegiance. Nothing is weirder than history!


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve seen photos of the Bellamy salute before but didn’t know it had a name! By the time I was in school in the early 70s we just put our hands over our hearts. Even at age 5 I thought saying the Pledge every morning was strange. I did it because I’m a rule follower, but looking back it felt like indoctrination to me, even though I didn’t have that word yet. I love my country, but don’t like being compelled to pledge allegiance to it. You got in trouble if you didn’t comply.

      1. tbm3fan Avatar

        You did it because you were five and at five you have no say. and so follow the crowd. Some want that to be compelled once more today. That was more obvious for me since elementary was 1959-1965. Imagine the looks I got when smart ass me left out the under God part since I knew it was just put in. I was a precocious kid who was already reading about tropical fish disease when seven to help my tropical fish. Even better I did that in Catholic school and no admonishment could change me to this day.

        Oh, and my flag is up as always on Memorial Day and the Fourth because I want to make it so.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          BLASPHEMER! ;-) I’m sure the nuns were most displeased with you.

  2. fishyfisharcade Avatar

    Happy Independence Day Jim!

    I was planning to watch the Nathan’s Hotdog Eating contest which I find oddly compelling while simultaneously being a horrendous display of gluttony, but 1) I couldn’t find an official livesteam available here in the UK (they were all scams), and 2) It got cancelled anyway due to lightning apparently.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve heard of that contest but have never seen it! I’m sure it’s televised but if it’s on cable we’re sunk as we cut the cord a long time ago.

    2. brineb58 Avatar

      They did it ;ate because of weather, it was still the gluttony fest as usual and Joey Chestnut won again!!!

      1. fishyfisharcade Avatar

        Yeah, I spotted that later on after it had already aired, unfortunately.

  3. Doug Vaughn Avatar
    Doug Vaughn

    We usually have our flag out on holidays and sometimes non-holidays just because. We recently moved and haven’t hung a flag holder yet… need to do so. Something that really gripes me is trying to buy a flag that’s actually made here. The vast majority are made in China or some other place, which is wrong on so many levels. I’ll stop before I get too political.

    Happy Independence Day to all.

    1. Andy Umbo Avatar
      Andy Umbo

      Doug…Eder Flag, in Milwaukee…American made and employee owned!

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      We have a flag but no pole. We should fix that. Our flag flew over the Capitol; my parents got it from their congressman a long time ago. It would be … unpleasant to think about an American flag made in China flying over the Capitol.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        Check out the full offerings of Eder on line…I believe they sell poles, including huge commercial poles! ( and huge flags) 130 years in business! Deep in the online catalog, they had 3 X 5 footers on sale, around 70 bucks, and with short poles (like a porch pole) on sale for under 90 bucks. I’m sure they have poles separately. Nothing more American than having some old midwestern granny sewing your flag up!

  4. brandib1977 Avatar

    Nice memories!

    I fly a flag from a pole attached to my porch from spring through sometime in fall when the wind picks up. It is a grand old flag and I’m glad to see it through my living room window.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We always flew the flag on Flag Day and the 4th when I was a kid. Lots of people did. Boy, how things have changed.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        Indeed. I see a lot of flags here in my rural community but they are rare in most places.

        1. Andy Umbo Avatar
          Andy Umbo

          For some reason, there’s always a lot of flag flying in my neighborhood? Milwaukee Brewers flags if they’re playing in town, the Chicago Cubs big blue “W” on white for Chicago fans of the Cubs if they are playing the Brewers in town, the old city flag, which everyone hated, the newer non-sanctioned city flag that most people like, but was never agreed upon, the Ukrainian flag for solidarity, the Bucks flag when the season starts, more than a few Jolly Rogers, a martini flag! Lot of flags around here! I think it’s one of the things you want to do if you’re a homeowner, along with nailing all your past license plates to your garage wall….

          1. brandib1977 Avatar

            Haha! Lots of flags! In Ohio there are tons of Ohio State flags – a sight that gets old real quick when you’re not a fan. We still see some occasional flags supporting the last president or even the confederacy. Lots of Bengals flags have been popping up since our hometown boy Joe Burrow joined the team. That’s a refreshing change to have a local kid doing good with his NFL fame!

            But I’m glad we still have so many American flags along our streets and country roads!

  5. J P Avatar

    Billy Murray! He made a LOT of records in the early years of the recording industry, and did so consistently through most of the 1920’s. I had to look it up – his first records were believed to have been recorded in 1897 and his last in 1943. He was a big part of America’s sound track for the first 1/4 of the 20th century.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wow, almost 50 years of recording! That’s quite something. Yet he’s all but forgotten today.

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