For the first time in close to a year, a giant Canadian flag is waving in the wind above a Surrey car dealership on 104th Avenue.
The red maple leaf was unfurled from the 86-metre pole late Monday afternoon (Nov. 2), prompting several locals to call Go North Surrey GM the following day to voice their pleasure.
“I’ve taken four phone calls today,” company vice-president Bob Hewitt told the Now-Leader on Tuesday. “One elderly lady who lives down the street called and she was almost in tears saying, ‘You’ve made my year.’ It’s like, wow. You don’t realize how much it means to everybody.”
Installed in 1987, the landmark flag pole sits on property where a Barnes Wheaton car dealership operated until the Oct. 1 transfer of ownership to Go North Surrey GM.
In recent months, repairs to the pole’s interior ladder and winch systems stalled attempts to fly the flag, until now, with all-new ropes, rigging and more.
Barnes Wheaton operators had wanted to have a flag flying in time for Canada Day, but the recent delays mean it’s now flying for Remembrance Day.
“We’d like to do something for it, but during this time we really can’t have a ceremony or anything like that,” Hewitt said.
The Go auto dealers have inherited the pricey upkeep of the pole and flag, which they plan to fly proudly, according to Hewitt.
“The previous ownership was good and got it all set up and fixed, dealing with that, but now with making sure the flag isn’t ripped and is in good condition, that’s on us,” Hewitt explained. “We have two backup flags right now, and every six months we’ll probably have to order another two. Our goal is to fly it 365 days a year. We’re excited to take on the ownership of the flag.”
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, according to recent estimates. Big windstorms are especially troublesome, and Hewitt said Go ownership is aware of the issues.
“Over the years it’s been brought down when it’s getting windy, or a windstorm is coming, but we’re just going to keep it up all the time, and if we have to burn through six flags a year, then so be it,” Hewitt said.
“The only issue we have is if there’s a big storm and it rips, apparently the phones ring off the hook here, with people upset that how dare we have a ripped flag. But if it happened six hours before that, the crew isn’t there yet, it’s coming. A bit of time is required, so people have to understand that. It’s not a normal flag pole where you grab a rope and down it goes.”