Hinsdale man keeps flags straight
Jim McElherne of Hinsdale makes sure the American flags are straight using a golf ball retriever in downtown Hinsdale before the start of the Memorial Day parade May 28. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun Times Media
Name: Jim McElherne
Talent: Straightening flags
Tool used: golf ball retriever
Updated: July 3, 2012 10:08AM
There’s no magic formula for how the American flags that hang from street poles in downtown Hinsdale on Memorial Day always seem to flow freely.
About 150 flags are attached to the street poles five to seven days before Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. The work is done, using ladders, by three Boy Scout troops based in Hinsdale and some adult assistance. The process takes about three hours to complete.
It would be easy for the flags to become tangled around the poles between the time they are attached and the actual holidays.
But for the past five years, longtime Hinsdale resident Jim McElherne has make certain that the flags look perfect for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and, if he’s in town, also for Labor Day.
McElherne spends about an hour the morning of those holidays walking around downtown Hinsdale with a golf ball retriever. Whenever a flag has become tangled, even slightly, he uses the golf ball retriever to straighten it out.
“I have it down to a science,” McElherne said. “I’m able to have the flags looking pretty much perfect, and that’s how I want them.”
On Memorial Day, McElherne’s schedule includes a 9 a.m. walk out of his downtown Hinsdale home with his golf ball retriever so that all of the flags look their best for the 10 a.m. holiday parade in Hinsdale.
“I just hate to see the American flags messed up; I want them to flow free and look elegant,” McElherne said. “When trains stop in Hinsdale, I want people to look at the flags and see that this community has it together.”
The idea for making sure all the flags look good while on display for holidays was prompted by McElherne’s respect for a couple of old friends.
“I had two buddies who went to Vietnam and came home a month later in body bags,” he said. “They sacrificed their lives, and this is a tribute to them. It’s my way of giving a little something back. My friends deserve that, just as all of the veterans deserve it.”
McElherne became involved in helping to attach flags for holidays in Hinsdale before he took on the added chore on holidays.
“The Scouts have been involved in putting up the flags, and I’ve been involved with the Scouts since 1997,” he said. “I have four beautiful children, and my two boys both were involved in Scouts. One didn’t stay involved, but the other, James Jr., was an Eagle Scout.”
McElherne has remained involved with Hinsdale Scout Troop 8, even though his children no longer participate.
“I like mentoring younger kids; I think it’s good for them to have some direction,” he said.
McElherne said he plans to continue his involvement with Boy Scouts, just as he will make certain American flags hanging for holidays in Hinsdale don’t look messy.
“I love Hinsdale; I raised my four kids here,” he said. “There’s no reason I can’t do something to give back a little.”