The Old Glory's old guard shows its new caretakers

The Old Glory's old guard shows its new caretakers how to operate it recently at landmark. Josh Clement and his son Teagan recently took over for the previous caretakers of four years, Herschel Mays and his son Adam.  

The Old Glory Landmark off Last Chance Gulch is one of the most iconic places in Helena, but it takes a lot of work to keep it that way. 

Since it was established in 2003, the Old Glory Landmark committee has enlisted the help of others in maintaining the 50-by-30-foot flag near downtown Helena. Josh Clement and his son Teagan recently took over for the previous caretakers of four years, Herschel Mays and his son Adam.  

"We officially did the transfer over Memorial Day weekend," said Clement, a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Army who recently retired.

Clement said Boy Scouts of America Troop 214 has been involved in the care of the flag for a long time, and Teagan recently moved up to the rank of First Class Scout.

Clement, who has had some involvement with the landmark since it was first installed, said protecting America's flag is important to him. He gradually became more involved with the month-to-month care of the flag after Troop 214 leader Doug Wheeler asked for his help. 

As time went on, Clement started doing more. When Teagan began showing interest in caring for the landmark, the father-son pair took over.

"This is really just an honor that my son wants and I'm happy to help him," Clement said. 

The sheer size of the flag presents some unique challenges.

Clement said he is currently working to acquire a chest big enough to hold the flag, which he hopes will help the pair transport the banner between Centennial Park and where it is stored. 

It is difficult to take down the massive flag when wind speeds reach more than 15 mph, Clement said. This can make it hard to raise and lower the flag for holidays and government proclamations.

The flag is replaced about four times a year, Clement said. This wouldn't be possible without the help of various community organizations and businesses that sponsor the flag and help maintain it.

Fred Verzani, owner of Montana Flag and Pole, has been instrumental in providing flags and maintaining the pole since it was established.

Verzani also played a role in designing the mechanized winch system that raises and lowers the flag. The system was designed in Helena specifically for the weight of the flags and other equipment used at the landmark, Verzani said. It can wrap a 5/32-inch cable without bunching up and is controlled remotely so tension remains on the line when raising or lowering the flag.

Verzani said designing the system was "quite the undertaking" and that parts can be expensive. The first major replacement of the parts and accessories in the mechanism took place last fall.

Montana Flag and Pole also is the flag supplier for the landmark. A 42-pound nylon flag is used during summer and fall, and a 78-pound polyester flag is used during winter and spring. The retail value of the nylon flag is $2,200, and the polyester flag typically sells for $2,800. 

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Education and Business Reporter

Education and Business reporter for Helena Independent Record.

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