People in Reading who happened to gaze eastward during the day on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, and placed the flag pole near the Pagoda in the range of their vision were surprised to see a large crane.
Crews used the large crane to replace the flag and to shorten the 100-foot pole by about 23 feet so that the top of the pole could be reached by the city fire department's tower trucks eliminating the expense of hiring private trucks to replace the ropes and flag when necessary. Workers also installed a new, vandal-proof pulley system with a built-in security device to address the problem of vandals climbing the pole and cutting the ropes.
The United States flag hasn't flown from the pole for several years. The work was paid for with money raised by McMahon and the Pagoda Foundation.
Because of the strong wind at the top of the mountain, a flag lasts only about a month. Strong winds will shred a flag to bits in two weeks if hoisted to the top of the flagpole during winter months. Ice getting on the ropes also has a tendency to foul up the lines making it difficult at times to raise or lower the flag. The ropes have tendency to tear when fouled up with ice and in those cases city fire company trucks must be used to repair the damage.
In former years a daring climber known as a steeplejack would climb to the top of the Pagoda flag pole to perform repairs or paint the pole. A steeplejack is a craftsman who scales buildings, chimneys, flag poles, and church steeples to carry out repairs or maintenance.
In 1917 Ellwood Keim, a steeplejack, was hired to climb the 100 foot pole to put the rope through the pulley at the top. The rope tore in the howling gale which swept over the top of the mountain while a Boy Scout patriotic exercise was in progress. Mr. Keim climbed to the top and back in 12 minutes.
Hopefully the City can keep the flag flying. A long stick on the hill-top means nothing in its ugly emptiness; but when it holds the flag of our country it becomes a beautiful thing to see when Freedom, from the mountain-height, unfurls her standard to the air.