BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
With applause and an audible sigh of relief from some, the moving electric flag atop the former First National bank building lit the downtown skyline of Greeneville last night.
The flag, which has been a part of downtown Greeneville since the 1920s, has been dark for at least a decade.
On Thursday night, July 4, however, it came to life again, exactly 29 years after it was last restored and and relighted.
The flag, along with the building itself, is owned by Scott M. Niswonger.
Built by the Post Sign Co. in the late 1920s at the commissioning of First National Bank President T.D. Brabson and the bank board of directors, the flag was a familiar, and popular, Greeneville landmark for decades.
Eventually, operational problems developed, and it stopped functioning.
But it was fully restored, and even improved, in the early1980s as the result of local interest, through a lengthy process coordinated by the late Robert H. (Bob) Reynolds, a master electrician and president of Reynolds Electric Co. at that time.
Eventually, problems again developed.
It had been dark for more than a decade until Thursday night, when it was relighted after a new restoration commissioned by Niswonger several weeks ago.
Reynolds' widow, Patsy Reynolds, her daughter-in-law, Kay Reynolds, her grandson, Dr. Drew Reynolds, of Nashville, and two of his children, viewed the relighting Thursday night from in front of the First Baptist Church on North Main Street.
"It's beautiful, and I'm thrilled that it's working again!" Patsy Reynolds said.
"I always loved that flag when I was a kid, and I was so proud that my grandfather took care of it," Drew Reynolds added. "I enjoyed telling my kids about it tonight."
As was the case on Thursday, the relighting of the flag in 1984 was the climax of a downtown Fourth of July celebration.
This year, contractor Jeff Idell, vice president of Idell Construction, coordinated the flag's restoration for Niswonger, including replacing the frosted red and white bulbs and doing other needed updating.
The controls developed in the early 1980s continue to be used, giving the flag its rippling effect.
Also taking a role in the project was John Fisher of Fisher + Associates.
Boyd Hodges Electric, of Jonesborough, completed the actual restoration work on the 14-foot-long flag.
Scott and Nicki Niswonger, the Idells, Debbie and Ken Oldenburg and others gathered to view the relighting from the second-floor terrace of the General Morgan Inn.
The official relighting took place at 9:50 p.m., shortly after the downtown fireworks display. Idell flipped the switch after a call from Amy Rose, public relations director for the Town of Greeneville, letting him know that the fireworks display was over and the relighting could proceed.
The flag quickly brightened the skyline, bringing a sigh of relief and appreciation, followed by applause, from the small crowd at the General Morgan Inn.
The flag will now operate on a dusk-to-dawn sensor, coming on automatically at dusk and shutting off at dawn year-round.
In a telephone interview a little after 10 p.m., Niswonger said he and Idell were both very pleased with the appearance of the flag both at night and during the daylight hours.