Table of Contents

Richard "Red" Skelton
  1. The Ragged Old Flag
  2. The Pledge Of Allegiance
  3. O Canada

  4. A Masonic Biography of Red Skelton

A 3-minute audio clip of this poem, as performed by Johnny Cash, is available at Patriot Files.

The Ragged Old Flag

I walked through a county courthouse square.
On a park bench, an old man was sitting there.
I said, "Your courthouse looks kind of run-down."
He said, "Nah, it'll do for our little town."
I said, "Your old flagpole's leaned a little bit,
And that's a ragged old flag you've got hanging on it."
He said, "Have a seat," and I sat down.
"Is this the first time you've been to our little town?"
I said, "I believe it is."

He said, "I don't like to brag,
But we're kind of proud of that ragged old flag.
You see, we've got a little hole in that flag there
From when Washington took it across the Delaware.
And it got powder burns the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it, writing, "Oh Say Can You See."
And it got a bad rip down in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tugging at its seams.
She almost fell at the Alamo,
Next to the Texas flag, but she waved on, though.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville,
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There were Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg,
And the south winds blew hard on that ragged old flag.

On Flanders Field, in World War I,
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun.
She turned blood-red in World War II.
She's hung limp and low a time or two.
She was in Korea and Viet Nam,
And she went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam.
She waved from our ships on the briny foam,
But they've about quit waving her back here at home.
In her own good land, she's been abused,
She's been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused,
And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the lands.
She's looking threadbare and wearing thin,
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in.
'Cause she's been through the fire before,
And I believe she can take a whole lot more.
So we raise her up every morning and bring her down every night.
We don't let her touch the ground, and we fold her up right ...

On second thought, I do like to brag ...
'Cause I'm mighty proud of that Ragged Old Flag."

As a schoolboy, one of Brother Red Skelton's teachers explained the words and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance to his class. Bro. Skelton later wrote down, and eventually recorded, his recollection of this lecture. It is followed by an observation of his own. A 4-minute audio clip is available at Patriot Files.

The Pledge of Allegiance

I - - Me; an individual; a committee of one.

Pledge - - Dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self-pity.

Allegiance - - My love and my devotion.

To the Flag - - Our standard; Old Glory; a symbol of Freedom; wherever she waves there is respect, because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts, Freedom is everybody's job.

United - - That means that we have all come together.

States - - Individual communities that have united into forty-eight great states. Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose. All divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.

And to the Republic - - Republic - a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people; and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.

For which it stands

One Nation - - One Nation - meaning, so blessed by God.

Indivisible - - Incapable of being divided.

With Liberty - - Which is Freedom; the right of power to live one's own life, without threats, fear, or some sort of retaliation.

And Justice - - The principle, or qualities, of dealing fairly with others.

For All - - For All - which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine.

And now, boys and girls, let me hear you recite the Pledge of Allegiance:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands; one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance: "Under God." Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said that is a prayer, and that would be eliminated from schools, too?

O Canada

"O Canada":
I see mountains and valleys and rivers and trees; it is truly Mother Nature's warehouse.

"Our home and native land":
A place where families live with dignity on rich soil that shares food and beauty.

"True patriot":
Patriotism, a pride, a privilege to say, I, me, an individual, a committee of one, and dedicate all my worldly goods, to give without self-pity.

"love in all thy sons command":
That powerful youth that gives all their love and devotion, holding the standard with the Maple Leaf high in the air; for it is a symbol of courage and wherever she waves, she shouts "Freedom is everybody's job."

"With glowing hearts we see thee rise":
A warmth that incubates incentive; wisdom that feeds beyond superstition and ignorance.

"the true north strong":
She is that compass needle that points to inspiring reality, and the courage to struggle on, to find a dream and make it come true.

"and free":
That right of power for one to live his own life without fear or stress or any sort of retaliation.

"And stand on guard, O Canada":
Not that we want to flaunt our strength, but to be capable of facing the strongest should that enemy appear.

"We stand on guard for thee":
We protect all doctrines and share thy spirit of logic and reasoning.

"O Canada, glorious and free!":
That means justice, the principle and qualities of dealing fairly with others.

"O Canada , we stand on guard for thee":
So we can stand proud and say to our neighbor, "This is as much my country as it is yours."

This explication of the Canadian national anthem, "O Canada," was given by Brother Red Skelton during a visit to that country in 1990.

Richard Bernard "Red" Skelton (1913-1997)

(This bio is condensed from an article by Bro.Tom Sawyer.)

Richard Skelton was born on July 18, 1913, in Vincennes, Indiana, where he was raised a Master Mason in Vincennes Lodge No. 1 on September 20, 1939. His acting career began at age 10 in a medicine show, but during WW II, Brother Skeltonís military career found him on the front lines in Italy in the field artillery unit for 22 months. After the war, Red returned to Hollywood and his career in movies and TV.

When travelling across the country, he made it a point to visit as many Masonic groups, especially Shrine Temples, as he could, and he asked permission to visit with the clown units, to give some professional tips on clowning. He said children are frightened of people who wear paint, so if the Shrine clowns follow a simple recommendation he uses, their success with children would be overwhelming. When they visit a hospital ward or a room of kids, they should not go directly into the room, but peek around the corner three or four times before entering. This builds trust and confidence!

His own personal first experience with Masonry occurred in Vincennes, Indiana, when he was seven or eight as he sold papers on a street corner. A man bought a newspaper and tipped him the remainder of a $5 bill. Red asked, "Why did you give me so much money to keep?" The man answered, "I am a Mason and we are taught to give!" "Well, I am going to be a Mason, too, when I grow up," Red stated. "Oh, Sonny, you mean you are going to try to be a Mason." This conversation stayed with Brother Skelton all his life.

He had a full Masonic career. Aside from his membership in Vincennes Lodge No. 1, he held membership in both the Scottish and York Rite Bodies. He was the recipient of the General Grand Chapterís Gold Medal for Distinguished Service in the Arts and Sciences. On September 24, 1969, he was coroneted an Inspector General Honorary Thirty-third Degree in Boston, Massachusetts, by the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. Also, he was a member of the Al Malaikah Temple in Los Angeles, California, and he received the Grand Lodge Award of Gold from the Grand Lodge of Indiana in 1993.

Brother Skelton died of pneumonia September 17, 1997 at Rancho Mirage, California, and was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.

See his IMDb biography for information on his movie and TV career.