Answer Man: I’ve worked/frequented Commercial Street for years and I often walk by the Commercial Club Building at 299 E. Commercial St. The city adopted a new flag Jan. 10 and until then the Commercial Club Building flew only the American flag. Now that the city has a new flag, the flagpole now features the retired City of Springfield flag under the American flag. Why? — Paden Chambers, of Springfield
The short answer, Paden, is because Mary Collette, president of the Commercial Club and long-time booster of all things C-Street, had requested to fly the old flag, also called (since February) the “historic flag.”
The Springfield Commercial Club building, constructed in 1910, is owned by the city.
Cora Scott, spokeswoman for the city, told me via email that Collette, a former member of the City Council and owner of Historic Fire House No. 2, at 101 E. Commercial St., an events center, had asked if the historic flag could be flown at the Commercial Club building.
That might seem odd to many because the new flag — and not the historic flag — is flown at other city locations, including City Hall, for example.
According to Scott, the former flag has ties to Commercial Street and “there is no prohibition” from flying it at the Springfield Commercial Club building on C-Street.
I was unable to reach Collette by deadline.
Nevertheless, I am aware of the former flag’s connections to Commercial Street. In fact, I wrote about it when I was at the Springfield News-Leader.
Having a city flag in the first place was the idea of William Paul Harris, who was 86 when he died in 1983.
For several decades, he owned and operated Harris Book Store at 234 E. Commercial St., where Café Cusco is today.
The newspaper over the years described him as calm and polite. He worked tirelessly for Springfield in general, and Commercial Street and north Springfield in particular.
Looking back, it should have been no surprise that it was Harris who realized that as the city’s 100 birthday approached, the city was flagless.
Yes, hard to believe today, but there was a time when we had no flag.
John Sellars, former executive director of the History Museum on the Square, has said the 1938 city flag was designed through a contest among art students at Springfield High School, which is now Central High School.
I believe this to be correct because I found a 1966 news story under the vague heading “Off Beat’s Ode of the Week, By the Leader and Press staff.”
It said a reader by the name of Mrs. Gean Hanselman gave a shout out to her sister when she reported to the paper:
“The flag was designed by her sister, Amy Southerland, a Senior High School senior back in 1938. Miss Southerland is now Mrs. Allen J. Nicols, of Joplin, where her husband is with the Bell Telephone Company.”
The old flag has its roots on Commercial Street. That’s why it flies there today.
This is Answer Man column No. 6.