An anniversary of sorts will be observed this coming Monday at the Patterson District Cemetery north of town.

This Memorial Day will mark the 50th anniversary of the Avenue of Flags – a project initiated by the local American Legion post in 1969. But what a difference 50 years has made.

Back 50 years ago, the Elijah B. Hayes post and its auxiliary had been decorating the cemetery’s military graves with small American flags and white crosses with poppies attached. But with more and more families choosing to bury their veterans in the local cemetery, it was decided to erect what was – and still is called -- an Avenue of Flags.

These large flags are given to families of veterans at military funerals. Rather that stowing them away in a closet, the Legion asked that flags be donated to be used once a year. The names of the deceased veterans were inscribed on the hems, and about 30 of them flew atop 15-foot poles that first year in 1969.

But the cemetery grew in size, and the Legionnaires grew in age. In the early 1980s, the local Boy Scouts took on the task of putting out the colors on the holiday. Their service project has continued annually for some 35 years.

And the project itself has been greatly expanded. Now some 180 flags will be flying at the cemetery on Memorial Day, where a special public ceremony will be held this Monday at 10 a.m. Flags that were stolen in a break-in last winter have all been replaced, and the Legion, Scout groups and the American Heritage Girls invite the community to come and have a look at what pride has accomplished over the past 50 years.


Another longtime West Side resident has observed her 100th birthday. That would be Thelma Fitzsimmons, who moved here in 1934 from the Southwest and lived many years in Grayson, where she and her late husband Leroy raised a family.

Thelma now lives in a Modesto care facility and is the fifth centenarian on our 90-plus list. Others are 100-year-old Laurence Kolding; Vera Bettencourt and Esther Hamilton who are each 101, and of course Dorothy Wiesendanger, who earlier this month had her 109th birthday.


Our Persons of Maturity remember when the intersection at Highway 33 and Las Palmas Avenue had only two stop signs – and no red light. Those were the days when Patterson had a small zoo in the north park that housed noisy peacocks


It’s hard to imagine a major league baseball team beating another 15 consecutive times.

But that’s what the Oakland A’s have done to the Detroit Tigers. Fifteen straight wins, and it hasn’t ended yet.


How about another Burma Shave sign:

At intersections

Look each way.

A harp sounds nice

But it’s hard to play

Burma Shave

Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at

PI editor/publisher emeritus

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