When we moved the Gillece Services headquarters from Bethel Park to Bridgeville earlier this year, lots of renovation was required to turn a former car showroom into a first-class office, dispatch center, and training facility for Pittsburgh’s biggest residential plumbing company. Thousands of man hours went into refitting nearly the entire property, from the parking lot to the roof and everything in between.
However, there was part of the property that company president and CEO, Tom Gillece, refused to change – the 1,800 square feet American flag that that flies more than 100 foot above our parking lot. Visible from miles around – even at night, when it is bathed in floodlights – the flag has become a local landmark in the six years since it was first raised.
It’s one of the largest U.S. flags in the Pittsburgh area, and virtually impossible to miss if you’re driving anywhere near Bridgeville. When we first moved into the building, though, we didn’t realize what a landmark it had become.
While we were remodeling the building last fall, a storm blew through one Friday night, leaving the flag in bad shape. By 10 a.m. Saturday morning, we had received more than 30 phone call asking us what was going on.
Fortunately, our replacement flag was already on its way to the office. It’s a little-known fact that the Flag Day holiday has roots in this area. When Harry Truman signed Flag Day into law in 1949, at his side was William T. Kerr, a native of Collier Township who had long lobbied Washington for the holiday.
The flags we fly from our parking lot measure 60 feet by 30 feet. Rather than the traditional cotton used in most flags, these are custom ordered and are made of the same nylon-silk blend used in parachutes. This makes them expensive, at $1,200 per flag, but the lighter material helps the flag fly in even light winds. Each flag lasts 2 to 3 months before it needs replaced.
Tradition dictates that the United States flag should never touch the ground. To hoist a flag that big while obeying that custom, we use a crew of five men who move the new flag from a truck to the pole. The old flag is then placed in the truck and folded. It is then given to the Boy Scouts who dispose of it in the appropriate fashion.
Some might balk at spending upwards of $6,000 per year on flags, but we think that it’s more than worth it – the flag has become a part of the community, it symbolizes our values, and, frankly, we just like seeing it up there.
Hopefully you agree.