AUBURN — One flew over the U.S. Capital to honor his 50th birthday. One was draped over his uncle’s casket. His very first, the American flag that started it all for Richard F. Bastow, was rigged on his canoe during a business trip down the Allagash River in 1965.

Bastow, 75, keeps his collection neatly folded in antique leather suitcases that belonged to his grandfather. He guesses it numbers around 50.

“It’s a grand ‘ole flag, that’s all there is to it,” he said.

Bastow has taught at Central Maine Community College for 41 years — he’s now chair of the architectural and civil engineering technology department — and back in 1991, the collection went to work with him. At the start of Operation Desert Storm, he told students: Every school day of the war, to honor soldiers, he’d hang a flag.

The conflict, at the time, was supposed to last maybe 10 days.

“I said, ‘No problem,'” Bastow said. “Ten days went pretty fast. Then we got to 20.”

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He ended up hanging 40 flags in all. As word got out, strangers offered donations.

“The president (of the college) brought his father’s casket flag in for me to borrow, the janitor brought one in,” Bastow said. “All you could see were the stars and stripes as you walked down that hall.”

His brother even snowshoed a mile into the family camp to grab two flags, but those never had to go up, he said. The war ended.
Bastow’s largest flag measures 8 by 12 feet with 45 stars. Paper-thin in spots, it used to hang off his grandfather’s old Victorian home. Another flag was a gift for teaching 30 years at CMCC. Another he hiked up to the top of Mt. Katahdin.

Still another he remembers carrying to protest Desert Storm.

“This is the flag they talked about in Baltimore (that) the rockets red glare over,” Bastow said pointing to a replica with 15 stars and stripes.

His wife bought that one on their anniversary. His last one was a gift from his daughter on Father’s Day. On the Fourth of July, he’s been known to unfurl a few flags and, sometimes, dress red, white and blue to match.

Know of a collection that makes you proud? We’re always looking for ideas. Contact writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]

Richard Bastow stands among some of the flags in his collection at his home on Weaver Street in Auburn.  He sometimes wears red, white, and blue to match Old Glory.


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