By Abigail W. Adams
Wiscasset High School Student Council President Ridge Barnes secures Wiscasset High School’s new American flag while Vice President Kayla Gordon and American Legion Post 54 members look on Friday, Nov. 14. (Abigail Adams photo)
Patriotic music thundered from the speakers at the Wiscasset High School gym Friday, Nov. 14 as students entered to witness the raising of the school’s new American flag under the tutelage of American Legion Post 54.
The WHS flag assembly was the end result of the successful fundraising efforts of students concerned that the American flag that hung in their gym was becoming dingy.
“We’re showing how we feel about our country,” Ridge Barnes, president of the Wiscasset High School Student Council, said. “By bringing a new flag here, we’re showing how proud we are.”
“We want to put our best foot forward,” Kayla Gordon, vice president of the student council, said.
The condition of the flag was brought to the student council’s attention by Wiscasset High School science teacher Ralph Keyes, who had tried to clean it to no avail. Students put out money jars for spare change at school and at soccer games. In approximately two months, $200 was raised and a new flag was purchased.
The student council decided to hold the assembly close to Veterans’ Day and honor not only the country and veterans, but also, Wiscasset High School’s longtime teacher, former vice principal, and community leader Gene Stover.
Members of American Legion Post 54 helped Barnes and Gordon lower the old flag and fold it. It was then handed to Stover in recognition of his service to the school.
“I am humbly grateful that you have presented this flag to me,” Stover said. “I will honor it always.” Stover explained to the students the history behind the flag that hung in the gym, named Stover Auditorium in his honor.
Nearly 50 years ago, U.S. Congressman Stan Tupper, raised in Boothbay, put aside the historic Boothbay-Wiscasset basketball rivalry to donate a flag that had flown over the nation’s Capitol to Wiscasset High School. Stover recalled that after great discussion and debate, the student council voted to make the gym the home of the American flag.
After almost 25 years, the flag donated by Tupper was replaced with the flag that Stover was going to take home with him and place with the other flags given to him by family members in the service. “I hope this [new] flag sees as many years,” Stover said.
As the Legionnaires, Barnes, and Gordon raised the new flag, all in attendance faced the flag for the first time and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. “The flag represents the independence of our nation,” Principal Cheri Towle said to students before dismissing them.
“It’s fitting that we replace our flag this year after we withdrew from RSU 12 and became our own independent school district,” she said. “There’s some symbolism there as well.”
Students sang the Wiscasset High School anthem and screamed out the school cheer, “We are small, but we are mighty,” complete with fist pumps, before returning to their regularly scheduled class.