The new Utah flag adds color to life in the hive. | Private Eye | Salt Lake City Weekly
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The new Utah flag adds color to life in the hive.

Private Eye



I don't make but perhaps two trips a year past our Utah State Capitol, having learned that—for me—it provides little else than heartburn wrought by decades of political malfeasance whenever I see it. So, I avoid it. That's a real shame, as I recognize it as a beautiful structure and have fond memories of my first visit there in the late 1950s, and of subsequent visits with my classmates from Copperton Elementary on grade-school field trips.

For kids from faraway Bingham Canyon in the Oquirrh Mountains, the Utah State Capitol was a sight to behold, constructed as it is from stone and not wood or cinder blocks. We never really knew such permanence, as the homes and buildings we grew up in were obliterated by the expanding Kennecott Copper Mine. In time, everything was torn down, all of our solid buildings. Copperton Elementary? A parking lot. Bingham High School? A pile of dirt. And they are the lucky ones.

Up in the canyon, everything we knew was not only torn down, but also buried. The elementary schools in Bingham and Highland Boy, the original Bingham High, the post office, the jail, the Gemmel Club, the Civic Center, the Princess Theater, the Bingham Clinic and so on. Up and down the canyon, every store, every structure, every home that housed the peak population of around 10,000 people vanished long ago.

Therefore, the preservation of a building such as our Utah State Capitol was reassuring to us, something that people who still live and shop in the neighborhoods they grew up in may have a harder time relating to.

We kids all marveled at the Mormon Meteor display, the Bonneville Salt Flats racer developed by Ab Jenkins that flew along the salt at nearly 175 mph. That's about what a Tesla does these days on the way to the local grocer (assuming it has a fully charged battery). It was a sight for those of us who grew up traveling canyon roads that were narrower than the Mormon Meteor was long.

We gawked upward into the rotunda and pointed at the paintings that even back then—well painted or otherwise—we recognized as fantastical versions of what life among the early explorers, the pioneering locals and original Native Americans was really like.

I mean, it's true that it's hard to bullshit a kid from Bingham Canyon, Utah. Our realities were nothing like those painted inside our state Capitol. Our menfolk were smoking self-rolled cigarettes and losing hands in mine explosions while our womenfolk were hanging wet laundry out to dry in the dead of winter—not gawking at blue lake waters or forests of green. Half of our neighbors could barely understand the other half, thanks to nearly everyone being the child or grandchild of an immigrant. To be sure, however, we did get along.

Back at school, we were sometimes asked to draw or sketch a memory from those field trips. I don't remember a single such drawing other than those that simply expressed the building's exterior, with the dominant capitol dome sometimes accurately portrayed and other times more resembling a melting ice cream cone. But melting or sturdy, there was always a flag flaying in each of those drawings, our stars and stripes waving proudly in the wind.

Not once did a kid go back to school and pencil in the second flag waving up there, the Utah state flag. That wasn't due to everyone forgetting that they saw it—rather, even a child's eye could tell that the Utah state flag was the ugliest flag known to humanity. Plus, why have a flag that also doubles as a spelling test?

How it became so revered is one of the great mysteries of my life among the Utahns. As flags go, it was a joke. If you put our old flag next to that of Belize, most Utahns couldn't tell the difference.

That's why today, as I was driving down State Street, I nearly drove off the road when I saw the new Utah state flag waving in the wind, rightfully beneath the Stars and Stripes, but waving nonetheless on the property that houses the O.C. Tanner office complex. It, believe it or not, was the first time in these years of hubbub regarding Utah's adoption of a new state flag that I actually saw one up close and personal. Until today, all I'd seen were artist renderings. Heck, our office is downtown, and I'd not even looked up at the City & County Building and noticed our new flag.

All I really know is that we have a new flag and that many Utahns spent the past couple of years arguing about what a redesigned flag should signify. There even remains some radical, woeful diehards like gubernatorial hopeful Phil "Presidential Pardon" Lyman who still attempt to make issue with Utah's new flag. Simply put, I wouldn't give a single flesh-tone Crayola of credit to anything that Lyman may offer up relating to what a state or national flag stands for or symbolizes.

If you asked 1,000 school kids to draw the new Utah state flag, 999 of them could do it. Take those same kids and ask them to draw our former historical flag, and 999 of those would just as likely draw a cat's eye marble sitting on a plate of blueberry pudding.

The new design is red, white and a really dark blue in color. It has some yellow—I guess to impart rays of hope or something like that. It has a star and a giant beehive. It's simple. It makes a point. I like it.

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