The giant American flag flies over the Great Bend Perkins restaurant parking lot non-stop.
Because of this unwavering display of American pride, the Sons of the Plains Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution honored the eatery with its Americanism Award last Thursday morning. Chapter President Stan Jantz and Secretary John Ames presented a plaque to Perkins Regional Manager Lori Jamieson as a gentle breeze tried to stir the massive banner.
“This is quite an honor,” Jamieson said. She, Jantz, Ames, Associate Manager Christy Turner and Kitchen Manager Joyce Nelson met in the shadow of the flag’s pole.
“We try to do this at different times during the year,” Jantz said. “Our goal is to promote patriotism.”
Why the big flag? A news release from Perkins tells the story.
The feeling in America in the early 1970s was changing, full of turmoil and political unrest. America was beginning to retreat in Vietnam, and the Watergate scandal was draining citizens of their patriotism. The negative public sentiment and disrespect toward America and the flag deeply disturbed our owner at that time, Wyman Nelson. During all of this, Perkins was expanding rapidly with an average of two store openings per month bringing the total up from 12 stores to over 350 in a few short years.
Wyman Nelson and an associate from Corporate Development were in Coralville, Iowa, on a site selection tour when they came upon an enormous American flag flying proudly in the morning sunshine. Seeing this brought back memories of growing up as the son of a World War I veteran with his family proudly displaying the flag from a small pole on their front porch. Wyman and his associate began discussing the idea of flying the flag over the new restaurant and headquarters being built on 50th St. and Highway 100 in Edina, Minn.
He found a business in Pennsylvania to make a flag of giant proportions. The aluminum used for the poles was priced per pound and fluctuated greatly and often depending on supply and demand, and the flag itself cost over $600. At that time there was no company able to repair such a huge flag, so Wyman’s wife, Charlotte, repaired them herself in their living room at home. Wyman remembers an evening when he went to take down the flag before a storm. The wind came up as he was gathering it and caught it like a sail sending him flying through the air about 30 feet. He recalls he was fearful he would end up lying on the highway. According to Wyman, in that situation there is nothing to do but let go.
Over the years, it has become a Perkins tradition to fly the largest American flag possible over the restaurants. At each new store opening members of the community and local veterans’ groups are invited to gather around for an official flag raising ceremony. Wyman was accused of flying the flag as a marketing strategy even though he was actually marketing respect and loyalty to the American flag.
The flag has gained support and renewed interest due to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, after 9/11 the Edina Support Center received so many letters and calls thanking Perkins for displaying the flag that they began stocking extras to be loaned out for events in the local community. Through all of America’s future endeavors Perkins will continue to proudly fly the flag and to inspire new feelings of patriotism in Americans across the country.