Proud and close-knit : A Phoenix neighborhood unites under Old Glory

PHOENIX – The American flag doesn’t always bring people together. Old Glory was burned to protest the Vietnam War in the ’60s and, more recently, used by the “alt-right” and its opponents, and in demonstrations against police injustice toward people of color.

But residents of one north-central Phoenix street, 11th Avenue just south of Northern Avenue, have rallied around the American flag itself for nearly 50 years.

The 1950s-era ranch houses are well-maintained; kids play out front. And almost every yard has a flagpole flying Old Glory every day, not just Memorial Day, Flag Day and the Fourth of July.

Carolee Kraker said she raised her flag as soon as she moved to 11th Avenue 23 years ago. (Photo by Connor Murphy/Cronkite News)

It isn’t a response to President Donald J. Trump’s election, as the rust on some of the poles attests. Residents say flying the flag is a part of their identification as a close-knit neighborhood where people look out for one another.

Carolee Kraker said flying the flag is rooted in her deep appreciation for America and respect for the opportunities she and her family have been afforded in the United States. When she was a child in Yuma, she said, her family often would visit Mexico, where the poverty she witnessed left a lasting impression.

Many residents have lived on 11th Avenue for decades, but the tradition is embraced by newcomers as well. Marc Ashton, a member of the board of directors of the Diamondbacks Foundation, said that when he moved in and noticed the flagpoles up and down the street, he immediately put up his own in solidarity.

Fifth-grader Jack Snyder said he takes great
pride in seeing the American flag waving along his block. (Photo by Connor Murphy/Cronkite News)

And one of the avenue’s youngest residents, fifth-grader Jack Snyder, said he takes great pride in seeing the American flag waving throughout the block. As for why the tradition remains so popular, Jack had a simple answer: “They like seeing the red, white and blue.”

Bernice Tretter said her decision to raise a flag was a simple gesture to show support for the nation and be patriotic.

Gail Stoner said she and her husband, Mike, hung a flag from their doorway soon after they moved in 43 years ago. And they weren’t the first on the block to raise the stars and stripes: They followed the example of Anne Roberts’ family.

“The guys decided everybody needs flagpoles,” Roberts said. “My husband was a veteran, and that was one of the things that was important.”

Phoenix residents Carolee Kraker, Marc Ashton, Jeff Kraker and Anne Roberts talk about why they fly the American flag. (Video by Connor Murphy and Samie Gebers/Cronkite News)

Neighbors say their unity isn’t about political affiliation. Signs for both Democratic and Republican candidates are displayed on the lawns during election season.

Ron Dominguez, who served in the Army, said he flies the flag for a simple reason: patriotism.

Dominguez and Jeff Kraker, another longtime resident, repair flagpoles and replace flags that are frayed or faded. Several widows on fixed incomes live on 11th Avenue, Kraker said, so neighbors replace the flags unsolicited. It isn’t uncommon to wake up to see a new flag flying in their yards, Kraker said.

“We’ve all kind of stuck together through things,” Jeff Kraker said. To his wife, the tradition is at the heart of what has brought this community together.

“I say 11th Avenue and people say, ‘Oh, the flag street,’” Carolee Kraker said. “I say, ‘Yes, the flag street.’”

But Anne Roberts isn’t surprised by the support her neighbors show her and others when they replace aging or worn down flags unsolicited. “That’s what being neighbors are for,” she said.

Flying Old Glory in the front yard has been a tradition for residents of 11th Avenue for nearly 50 years. (Photo by Connor Murphy/Cronkite News)

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