I write in response to “Confederate flag vexes Walpole High” (Metro, July 19), about the controversy over a neighbor’s Confederate flag, which overlooks the high school field in honor of the Walpole “Rebels” football team.
Rebel mascots rose up in response to federal mandates to desegregate public schools. Even without the appearance of a Confederate flag, the name “Rebels” itself has been connected to those dark days. All over the South those mascots have been disappearing, even since the 1970s.
Walpole had numerous men who suffered during the Civil War, including Private Lowell E. Hartshorn, who perished at the infamous Rebel prison at Andersonville, Ga., where he and nearly 750 Massachusetts men, and 13,000 in all, chose “death before dishonor” rather than join the Rebel cause. Are they to be ignored?
A teaching moment is at hand. I think it is time for a remake of Walpole’s mascot, on the 150th anniversary of the Union victory over the Confederacy. It’s time for a complete dissociation of the town from all of this imagery. It’s time for a new name that does not trivialize our own history.
Mascots are meant to unite people, not divide them. A mascot that requires an explanation, or one that possibly offends members of our community or visitors to our community, is inappropriate for a Massachusetts town like Walpole.
Let Joseph Finneran keep his Rebel flag. And let’s do our DUTY: Rename the “Rebels.”
The writer is former chairman of the Walpole Historical Commission, and a 1971 Walpole High graduate.
I would like to add my voice to those who would like to see Walpole High School change its moniker from the “Rebels” to something else (“Confederate flag vexes Walpole High”).
I attended Walpole public schools from 1957 to 1965, and consider the place my hometown. The teams were the “Hilltoppers” then, an admittedly bland tag. Shortly after I left, the school adopted the “Rebels” nickname and used a Confederate flag banner.
I was dismayed then, and now, many years later and miles away, I am still dismayed to see that little has changed. While the school itself dropped the Confederate symbol in 1994, a neighbor still flies the flag near the high school field.
I have never considered that flag as anything but a symbol of a rotten, not valorous, cause. The memory of Civil War veterans of Walpole is being disrespected every day this continues.
There is no need to build a barrier on the edge of the field. Pick another name for the school’s teams, and support for the Rebel flag and all of its associated slogans would dry up.
To those who cite tradition, honor, and valor for keeping things the way they are, I say those are the very reasons to change.