OUR FLAG: Celebrations at Pickersgill Retirement Community

For many Baltimoreans the American Flag holds a special meaning because of the historic connections between our city and The Stars and Stripes: connections such as the War of 1812, Fort McHenry, the “Star-Spangled Banner” and of course because of the famous local seamstress who made the great garrison flag that inspired the national anthem, Mary Pickersgill. Since Mary Pickersgill is not just the namesake of Pickersgill Retirement Community but also a founding board member of our organization, we’ve come to think of the American Flag as our icon, and because of this, here at Pickersgill, we take every opportunity to celebrate our flag and its symbolism.

Celebrations

Flag Day, June 14, commemorates the adoption of the Flag of the United States (aka the American Flag) which happened on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the 2nd Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War.  June 14 is an important day at Pickersgill Retirement Community.  On Flag Day we invite family, friends, neighbors and elected officials to honor our resident veterans and to celebrate with us. This year we honored over 40 men and women living at Pickersgill who served in the United States Armed Forces. At our celebration residents and guests recited the Pledge of Allegiance, sang the “Star-Spangled Banner,” enjoyed refreshments and were treated to patriotic songs and classic American harmonies performed by both the Pickersgill Singers and Harbor City Chorus.

Independence Day, July 4   As celebrations took place in cities and towns across the country to mark our nation’s birthday, residents were doing the same at Pickersgill.  On a day known for picnics and barbeques Pickersgill residents and their guests dined cookout style.  The traditional menu for the fourth: hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw, watermelon, apple pie and ice cream was served as a buffet in the Independent Living Dining Room. A lively concert in the Willard Auditorium performed by pianist & vocalist Dick Smith featured numerous patriotic standards.  One resident remarked that it was her “favorite concert of the year.”  Some residents ventured out to attend fireworks displays with their families at local venues while residents in who preferred to stay in the air conditioning enjoyed watching the Inner Harbor Fireworks live on widescreen TVs.

Flags on display!  Pickersgill Retirement Community is lucky to have a friend named Bob Knowles.  Twelve years ago, to help Pickersgill Retirement Community, Mr. Knowles set up a special display– flags from his private collection. Knowles’ flag display quickly became a much-loved annual event.  Each year, Mr. Knowles goes through his flag collection – which consists of more than 600 flags – and carefully chooses pieces to display at Pickersgill.

The display, which features flags from all over the world, is so massive that it covers the entire auditorium at Pickersgill as well as the main hallway, creating a walkthrough exhibit for residents and their families.  “I’m very thankful to Pickersgill and glad that my flag display has become a tradition,” Knowles said.

Knowles, an avid flag collector since the age of 14, became interested in Pickersgill when looking for a retirement community for his mother in the summer of 2004. After looking at several different communities; Knowles found that Pickersgill was “the nicest one.” During a meeting between Knowles, his mother, and Pickersgill staff, Knowles mentioned that if his mother decided to live at Pickersgill, he would do a flag show for the community.

His mother moved in a few months later, and Knowles thought that Pickersgill forgot about his offer. That is, until he received a phone call in April 2005 asking him to bring some of his flags for Flag Day.  At that first show, Knowles displayed approximately 85 flags. Each year, he has increased the number of flags he brings so that residents can see something new.

Though Knowles’ mother passed away in 2010, Knowles still loves visiting Pickersgill, interacting with the residents and seeing people enjoy his flags. “Pickersgill was wonderful to my mother,” Knowles said. “She was always very social, and Pickersgill allowed her to be a social butterfly once again. I’m glad to see that the residents still look forward to my flags.”  One resident remarked, “I think it is one of the best events that happen at Pickersgill all year.”

This year, Mr. Knowles brought more than 200 flags to Pickersgill which will be on display from July 4th through the end of the month.

Hanging the flags throughout the building takes a lot of preparation.  Before hanging the flags, Knowles creates and laminates information tags about each flag for viewers to read.  When Knowles started displaying his collection at Pickersgill, he hung the flags himself. Now, he has several volunteers help him hang the flags, a process that usually takes several evenings to install.

All of his hard work is worth it, he says, when he sees how appreciative everyone is of the display.

“I’m a regular person during the rest of the year, but when I go to Pickersgill for the flag show, I’m a rock star,” Knowles said. “They treat me like I’m P!nk or Mick Jagger.”

With so many flags in his collection, it is hard for Knowles to pick a favorite. “Cool” flags in his collection include the Star-Spangled Banner, flags from the United Kingdom, and flags from Canadian provinces and territories. The Maryland state flag is also one of his favorite flags.

Knowles hopes that when he retires from his job as a Metro engineer, he can display his flags elsewhere as well.  “The only thing that would ever stop me from displaying my flags is if something physically stopped me from doing it,” Knowles said. “I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.”