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Harris Blackwood: Rocky Balboa, Betsy Ross and why the American flag still matters
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

In front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is the statue of Rocky Balboa. At times during the day, there are people who will wait in line to get their picture made with the Rocky statue.

There is no Rocky Balboa, he is a fictional character played by Sylvester Stallone. But that doesn’t stop thousands of people from paying homage to him.

A couple of miles away is the little house where Elizabeth Griscom lived. She married a man named John Ross and became known as Betsy Ross.

Yes, that Betsy Ross.

A couple of years ago, I took my daughter to Philadelphia where we visited the Liberty Bell, the real one with a crack in it.

I asked one of the park service rangers where the Betsy Ross House was located. He looked down at me and said, “Why do you want to go there, you know that’s not true.”

Yes, Mr. Ranger, there was a Betsy Ross and while there is compelling, but not conclusive, evidence, I think she sewed the first flag of our fledgling country.

No one else has stepped forward to claim to be the seamstress of our first flag. There was even a brand of bread named for her. If you have bread named for you, you’ve got to be worthy of some kind of recognition. Ask Little Miss Sunbeam, the Coppertone girl and the Pillsbury Doughboy, although the latter has risen to greater heights.

Some people don’t believe in Santa Claus, but they will put little statues of him around their house at Christmastime.

So why can’t we be content to name Betsy Ross as the official flag maker and leave it at that?

Later this week, we’ll celebrate Flag Day. It is observed on June 14, the day in 1777 when the Continental Congress adopted the design. (The Betsy Ross design.)

But the idea of an observance of Flag Day didn’t happen until 1885 in Fredonia, Wisconsin.

Fredonia is a village in Ozaukee County on State Route 57. It’s about 15 miles from West Bend, the home of the West Bend Co. that made appliances. One of my daddy’s most coveted possessions was a West Bend percolator. If he had known this, we probably would have vacationed there every year.

I digress.

Sadly, our love and respect for the American flag has gone by the wayside. Play the National Anthem it at a ballgame and folks are still trying to get more popcorn or trying to find their seats. A handful may salute the flag.

We’ve decided that those Nazi bullets that penetrated my daddy’s body for our freedom includes the right to burn our flag in protest.

(Insert your own ugly words right here.)

I may be a dinosaur, but I still get a little lump in my throat when I see her waving proudly.

If you don’t have one, you can buy one for a few bucks and be sure and display next Friday on Flag Day.

Betsy Ross would thank you.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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