In all its faded glory, Spokane’s flag hung Tuesday in its rightful place, third only to the American and Washington flags.
What would normally be unremarkable background at a mayoral news conference in a City Hall conference room became a highlight because city officials have largely shunned the city’s flag in recent years – so much so, in fact, that the only known remaining city flag is wrinkled, yellowing and had been missing for years.
Spokane Mayor David Condon, at the end of a news conference about his first 100 days in office and a forecast deficit, said the city’s flag will no longer be ignored.
“Isn’t this great, guys?” Condon said when asked about the mysterious white flag next to the Stars and Stripes behind him. “This is the city flag.”
Restoring the city flag to prominence isn’t exactly on the mayor’s 100-day plan, or any other plan, really. But as an Army veteran, Condon understands the importance of tradition and symbols – even a city flag that might seem a bit out of date, complete with figures that look as if they might have been plucked from the signs on men’s and women’s restrooms.
“I’m in the military, so I’m a big flag guy,” Condon said.
Spokane’s flag was designed simply with two large stripes the colors of Expo ’74, Spokane’s World’s Fair – the same shades of blue and green that adorn Spokane Transit Authority buses. It has a bright yellow sun and the phrase “Children of the Sun.” That’s the Salish language translation of Spokane.
It was designed by Lloyd L. Carlson, the art director of a local advertising firm who also designed the logo for Expo. He answered the call of then-Spokane Mayor David Rodgers who in 1975 described the official city flag approved in 1958 as “blah” and asked for designs for a more modern flag.
The City Council named Carlson’s design the official flag in October 1975. But the first flag wasn’t made until the next spring when two members of St. John’s Episcopal Church who were known for the sewing abilities agreed to stitch it.
“We were told that the city wanted a new flag but that no one could be found to do it, and if they were it would take months,” one of the two women, Margaret “Peg” Lutz, told the Spokesman-Review in 1976.
Condon had wanted the Spokane flag at his swearing-in ceremony in December.
“I said, ‘Well, we’ll have three flags right? We’ll have the U.S. flag, the Washington flag and the city flag.’ They said, ‘Mayor, we can’t find it.’ ”
It showed up later, folded up in a storage box, Condon said.
City spokeswoman Marlene Feist and City Clerk Terri Pfister said they couldn’t remember the flag ever being used at a city event since they’d been working at City Hall – both over a decade. Pfister said there used to be a city flag on file in the clerk’s office, but sometime in the last decade or so a mayor requested that it be loaned out to a Boy Scout troop. It never returned to the clerk’s office, though it might have been the one that ended up in city storage, she said.
Pfister said the only city flag she recalled seeing on a pole was in front of the Avista building next to City Hall on Post Street.
Avista spokeswoman Debbie Simock said the flag flew on one of four poles that were installed in 1989 to celebrate the company’s centennial.
“We don’t know what happened or when it ceased to fly,” she said.