The citizens of Brookfield pass by the front of their village hall and they see it. When meetings are held in the village hall courtroom, they see it. Everyone sees it, at least in folds, or when an outdoor breeze unfurls it more fully.
This is the flag of Brookfield, and very few people know how it came to exist.
When Brookfield was in its early Grossdale days, over 100 years ago, there was no village flag. Any flag flown from free-standing flagpoles, or from flagpoles on the tops of buildings was bound to be the good old American flag, and that was all. Back then, probably many people would’ve been proud to say that that was flag enough for them.
But if the early woodcuts from village founder S.E. Gross’ 1891 tenth real estate catalog can be credited as accurate, there were other flags flying in the village as well. For instance, page 20 shows that on the large pavilion that he always set up around Eight Corners, flying from the top were two long pennant-type flags reading “Grossdale” and “Lots $100 an Upwards.”
When Brookfield was incorporated as a legal village on Nov. 7, 1893, to the time of its eventual name change on Aug. 17, 1905, there still was no such thing as a village flag. It is never referred to in the village board minutes books, nor does it appear in any of the many old photographs taken throughout the village.
In the middle of the heading of the village’s own stationery in 1912 is a photo of the village hall with a flagpole atop its tower, and what appears to be an added drawing of a flag that reads, simply, “Brookfield.”
For some reason only to be guessed at, our own village seal featured a beehive in its middle section. Old residents, up until 1962, wondered if it once symbolized a “beehive of activity” in the village. One old resident, Ernest Tabor, said he then remembered “a beehive caretaker who attempted to label Brookfield ‘The Town of Beehives.'”
This caretaker apparently did not succeed, but may have inspired the symbol. Years later, some residents remember the village, as Brookfield, flying a flag with a beehive on it. Such a flag is not known to current exist, not even in any old photos.
In 1962, Brookfield Village Manager Fred McGuire took note that there was an ordinance on the book banning beehives in the village, “And thought it inappropriate to have something considered illegal as a village symbol.”
So he began the process to make up a new village symbol “to incorporate the features about Brookfield that differentiate[s] it from other villages.”
Inside a 10-sided area, representing the village borders, he set up three dolphins (for Brookfield Zoo) jumping and swimming against as background of water, with an F-86L Sabre Jet (for the Korean War memorial in Ehlert Park) flying overhead. The legend “Village of Brookfield” was spelled out above the plane. So far, so good. But then world events got into the picture.
On Tuesday, Feb. 20, 1962, Lt. Col. John H. Glenn “Successfully completed three orbits of the globe in a space vehicle … and pioneered the United States’ entry into the field of manned space flight … requiring not only the utmost in personal sacrifice and courage but long, tedious periods of training … manifesting the successful completion of Project Mercury and the beginning of new and more frequent probes into the universe.”
In other words, the world was making a big deal about this, and Brookfield was, too. Six days later, On Feb. 26, 1962, the village board passed a resolution and sent a copy of it to Col. Glenn, congratulating him on his flight, and making him “an honorary citizen of our village with all the privileges and rights attended thereto.”
Furthermore, he and his family were invited to visit the village. He does not seem to have ever done so.
Now, around the 10-sided borders of the village symbol were added, on one side, a space rocket hurtling up into the starry heavens, while on the other, a small, round space satellite floated within its own pool sprinkled with stars.
This became Brookfield’s new village emblem. The border element, sans space images, was quickly put onto “Welcome to Brookfield” signs around the village.
However, the village still had no real flag. The Village of Brookfield Report for 1964-67 stated that “the Intra-Fraternal Council, composed of the American legion, Amvets, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Loyal Order of the Moose came forward quickly when it was determined that the village was in need of a new flag.”
The new flag had “to adequately portray the village.” Apparently it was a no-brainer. The new village emblem was used–space elements and all, with the words “village of Brookfield” around it against a white background.
Finally the village had an official flag, although to this day many residents wonder what Brookfield had to do with a rocket and a satellite. Other than having astronaut John Glenn as an honorary resident (and perhaps the village’s only honorary resident ever so designated), there is none.
Brookfield no sooner had this flag than another was created for the village’s Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1968. Mind you, now, the flag wasn’t all that elaborate. It featured an old-time steam engine puffing up smoke within a diamond-shaped border, with the years 1893 and 1968 at either side, and the words “Brookfield Diamond Jubilee” at the top. All this was done in black ink over a yellow background. After the jubilee, the flags were saved as souvenirs.
But the regular flag was still very popular. In March of 1970, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Victor or 4000 Park Ave. presented a replica of the flag to the Brookfield Police Department. To create this had talent many, many hours, painstakingly cutting and hand-sewing the letters, background and images.
It was called “an accomplishment of art and love,” and still appears to be a very professionally produced replica. In the middle 1980s, it was given to the Brookfield Historical Society and put on display for many years.
There were other people who loved the village flag, too. One local cartoonist going by the name of “Skip” (aka Chris Stach) incorporated it into his drawing for the July 2, 1980 issue of the local Times newspaper. The strip, titled “Hailey’s Comic,” concerned the local adventures of Hailey Brookly, a Brookfield boy.
For this issue, he and a crowd are watching the Fourth of July parade. The American flag and the Brookfield flag are passing by, and girl next to him asks, “Why are you saluting twice, Hailey?” He answers: “Once for the American flag, and once for the flag of Brookfield.”
Years passed, and the regular village flag, space images and all, remained the standard. During the village centennial in 1993, a new flag made its brief appearance, incorporating the new centennial seal against a blue background.
The seal was oval in shape, showing the central road, Grand Boulevard, arcing up to the Eight Corners fountain and beyond. From the fountain, six other road lines streamed out. The bottom of the seal featured crossed baseball bats and a ball, two leaping dolphins and a passing modern-day train. Around the seal were the words “Brookfield Centennial 1893-1993,” and at the bottom was the legend “100 Years of Progress in All Directions.”
After the centennial, there was discussion at the village board meeting of Feb. 21, 1994, about adopting the centennial flag as the new village flag, pointing out that the space age elements were outdated.
Trustee C.P. Hall favored the idea and had previously advised the winning designer of the centennial seal to be at the meeting. The designer not only attended, but also brought a large drawing of how such a flag would look, suggesting colors and the lettering.
Despite this, the idea failed to fly. Trustee James Gavin didn’t think the centennial design was especially beautiful. The proposal was tabled and never taken up again. Trustee Hall raised his hands to the designer with a “well, we tried” look.
By the way, that winning seal designer was me.
The old Brookfield flag of the 1960s still waves proudly in front of the village hall, and also stands separately in the courtroom inside. It does not look like it will be subject to change any time soon.
How many people, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before each meeting at the hall, realize there is one flag they have never pledged to? One standing close by, almost ignored. The flag of the Village of Brookfield, around 40 years old by now.
Oh yeah, and what about that blue one from the centennial? Is that old thing still there?