By Muriel Smith
HIGHLANDS – Close to 100 people joined Sheriff Shaun Golden and students from Rumson Country Day School in pledging allegiance to the flag in front of the Twin Lights, a scene enacted for the first time publicly at the same site 123 years ago April 25.
In a formal ceremony officially reopening the Museum at the historic lighthouse, Mary Jo Kenny, president of the Twin Lights Historical Society, welcomed guests to the 2016 season at the state-owned museum and introduced the program which followed the US Coast Guard honor guard presentation of the flag. Golden led the group in saying the pledge as it was first recited at the site 123 years ago, and the current day passage, adopted in 1954.
Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone and Senator Joseph Kyrillos spoke on the importance of preserving the site, once the strongest beacon on the East Coast as well as the location from where Gugliemo Marconi sent his first wireless message. Kyrillos pointed out the state Division of Parks, which owns and operates the site, would not be able to handle the crowds should the public realize the importance of the 1862 brownstone towers in American history. Freeholders Lillian Burry, John Curley and Serena DeMaso presented a citation to the Museum Society for its work in preserving the history of the pledge’s importance and the renovation of the museum, together with the presentation of Seeing Stars, the present exhibition at the Museum. Burry, who said “it is important to know where we’ve been in order to know where we’re going,” an adage she has oft repeated, noted the Freeholders declared April 25, 2016 Twin Lights Day in Monmouth County.
Featured speaker Dr. Peter Keim, an author and American flag historian, noted the flag “means more to you than it did to George Washington,” and traced the history of the different standards from the time of the Revolution to the present. The group paid tribute to Dick Seuffert, former Middletown Township administrator and a naval veteran of World War II and Korea, who attended the ceremony.
The Society expressed it thanks to the families of the late George Moos, Dan Seitz, and Millicent Mercer Johnsen, whose collections, history and interest had contributed towards Monday’s ceremony.
In 1893, the Pledge was part of a special flag-raising ceremony and dedication of the Liberty Pole, a 135 foot high pole that stood in front of the Twin Lights and was twice as high as the towers. The John Paul Jones flag was hoisted at the time, and hundreds of dignitaries and curiosity seekers came by train and steamboat to attend the event, kicking off a week of parades and parties and the opening of the Chicago World’s Fair. Until that time, the pledge had only been recited by students in classrooms.
The Seeing Stars exhibition on display at the museum explores the American experience through its flags and other patriotic artifacts, from the Grand Union flag, the 13-star, 13-stripe flag with the Union Jack in the canton, considered to be the first national flag of the USA and unveiled in 1776, through the current 50-star. 13-stripe flag Also included are other flags which have important in the nation’s history, a video featuring Ed Asner speaking of the flag at the Museum, and unique items including a flag made from baseballs and part of a uniform, a infant’s dress featuring the American flag, and a bugle that saw action in the Spanish American War to assemble troops.
For more information on the Twinlights and the museum, go to facebook.com/Twinlightshistoricalsociety.