Surrey’s giant Canadian flag should soon fly again, after nearly a year of nothing on that landmark pole in Guildford.
Repair work on the 86-metre-tall flagpole has been a headache for operators of the Barnes Wheaton car dealership, on the 104th Avenue lot where the big flag has flown since 1987.
Go Auto recently took over operations there, as Go North Surrey GM, with the flagpole still under repair.
Problems with the pole’s interior ladder and winch systems have stalled attempts to have a flag fly in recent months. The plan was to have one flying for Canada Day on July 1, but the repair work and required inspections dragged on.
“It’s been frustrating,” said Barnes Wheaton GM Larry Holcroft, tasked with co-ordinating flagpole repairs.
“It’s been probably a year since it’s flown, other than the five minutes it was up in the summer, before the rope broke,” Holcroft added.
“We’re in the homestretch here, it’s just a matter of making the hoisting system 100 per cent. We might as well do it right to have it last another 30 or 35 years.”
Parts for the flagpole’s winch system are on order, Holcroft explained. “They made the climb to the very top, for the rigging – it’s a trapeze act, and we’re refurbishing all the winches that hoist the flag. Parts should arrive in seven to 10 days, and then they’ll do the work after that.”
Holcroft said he will oversee the current flagpole repair project before Barnes Wheaton hands over flag caretaker duties to Go Auto. “We’ll pass it over to them after the flagpole is fixed,” he said. “We don’t want to give them a broken flagpole.”
The flagpole was brought to Surrey from the Expo 86 site in Vancouver, a year after the fair ended.
Sherrold Haddad, the auto dealer who brought the flagpole to his business in Guildford at a cost of close to $250,000, died last March at the age of 90. In 2012, Haddad sold the dealership to Barnes Wheaton.
The pole supports a Canadian flag that measures close to 50 by 80 feet.
The cost to maintain the flag and pole is not insignificant – close to $40,000 annually. Big windstorms are especially troublesome.
“It’s a lot of work and a big expense, and we’re in excess of $20,000 to refurbish it and keep it operating, in addition to the climbing system we had to upgrade,” Holcroft said. “It’s around $6,000 each for flags, and it depends on the weather we have. We’re able to repair the flags sometimes, when they’re tattered and we can repair sections of it, but we’ve had instances where big windstorms annihilate the flag and there’s nothing to save.”
The pole was dedicated on the dealership lot on Dec. 4, 1987, according to a blog post on barneswheatongmblog.blogspot.com, which includes some flag facts.
“It takes 15 minutes to climb (the pole)! Sorry, no elevators,” the blog notes.
“To change the flag, a team of 2 men and 6 man hours is required.
“The Surrey Fire Department has used the flag pole for high rescue training and has been used for fund raising by the RCMP’s Kids with Cancer campaign.
“Sometime in the ‘90s a protest group got a key to the flag pole door and put a protest banner down the side of the pole. They jammed the trap door in the crow’s nest and propelled down the outside of the pole, right into the long arms of the law.”