The Grand Old Flagpole
A City Icon
Our Statue of Liberty
In April 1917, the United States entered World War I, “the war to end all wars.” Like the rest of the nation, Bixby romanticized the war. Huge dances at the Bixby Palace Hotel, special events at the Electric Theatre, parties, luncheons, parades and rallies were send-offs for soldiers as they departed for training camps in Texas and Arkansas.
A donation was taken to purchase a flagpole at one of the rallies for patriotism. The flagpole was soon set at the intersection of Dawes and Armstrong streets, the center of the Bixby business district. Harvey E. Crosby, home on leave from the Army, dedicated the flag which was donated by James Farris.
The home-front kept track of events in Europe through extensive coverage of the war in the Bixby Bulletin which ran weekly patriotic editorials. Bulletin editor, E.E. Norvill reported that one send-off had the largest parade and crowd Bixby had seen with speeches by politicians and preachers. He predicted, “When the first bunch of American dead are announced, this war will not seem such a gay affair.”
Arch Call and Frank Poorman, the first World War I volunteers from Bixby did return, but several men did not. The first killed in battle was Harvey Crosby, the young soldier who dedicated the flag for the Bixby Flagpole. Other World War I heroes whose memory is held sacred by that flagpole are Ike Buffalo, Jerry Morrison, James Bumby and Wayne Miekel.
The flagpole was symbolic of freedom, hope and courage throughout all wartime. As years passed and other wars were fought, the Bixby flagpole was not only a constant reminder of the price paid for freedom, but also a icon representing the folks who lived in the light and breathed the air of that freedom. It served as a background for senior pictures, a Christmas tree at a time of disaster, a starting gate for celebrations, a meeting place, a reminder to be safe & courteous, and a beacon welcoming newcomers and those who returned from afar. A longtime resident once commented, “The Bixby flagpole is our Statue of Liberty.”
The City of Bixby removed the flagpole during a beautification project in 1986 an attempt to update the image of the small farm community that was rapidly expanding into urban sprawl. The Bixby icon was replaced with a metal pole surrounded by a small flower bed that is sometimes filled with artificial flowers & a variety of homegrown weeds. The imposing old Lady Of Freedom did not give ground easily, however. It took two months to dig the concrete foundation from its firm hold in the city pavement, dispelling the City’s rationale that the flagpole was about to topple.
Battle lost, the once ennobled flagpole conceded. Like an old pair of scuffed but comfortable shoes, it too became a victim of latest fashion & uptown style. Its crumpled remains were hauled to the city dump where they lay in disgrace until rescued by a group of caring citizens.
The profane old icon was brought home, restored and placed in Charley Young Park where it stands with grace to honor those who cherish freedom. It is forever a reminder to accept the gift of freedom, care for it responsibly, honor those who fight for it, and live in peace with hope and courage for the future.Photo courtesy Shirley Clark Coyle