On Flagpoles: The Bach’s Pete Douglas Tells Me What’s Waving Over the Jazz House

More than 20 years ago I sought out the very opinionated Pete Douglas, the man behind the world class jazz house Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society in Miramar. The BD&DS overlooks the Pacific Ocean and it’s a wonderful place to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Pete, I said, tell me about flagpoles. He had one in front of the BD&DS; he liked to display the flag that most represented the musical artist he was showcasing at the jazz house on Sunday afternoons.

Classic Pete Douglas, in attire and pose, his usual laid-back self, talking to me about flags (and in an upcoming post, about wrinkles on women).

June: What do you think about flagpoles?

Pete: I think peopole should really get into flagpoles. Mine is a simple, common flagpole but I intend to buy one with cross bows so I can fly one flag up and two flags across.

June: When do you raise the flag? Is there a ritual involved?

Pete: No ritual. But sometime before a Sunday afternoon jazza concert or a Friday evening classical concert, I raise the appropriate flag. For instance, when the Woody Shaw Quintet played, the Kenya flag waved in the breeze and when the Israel Piano trio appeared, the musicians were happy to see the Israeli flag.

Once, he told me, when he was feuding with a lady friend, he raised the Uganda flag, although he claims he didn’t do so “consciouslyâ€?.

The history of the BD&DS flagpiole goes back to 1962. Douglas was sitting in front of his place in Miramar Beach when he saw ‘Bob the Woodcutter’ drive by with a long eucalyptus tree trunk in his pick-up truck. There were lots of aptly named characters living on the Coastside then. Pete saw the tree and in his mind he saw the perfect flagpole.

Pete called to Bob. Pointing at the ecucalyptus, he said, “What are doing with that?â€? Before Bob could answer, Pete said, â€? I’ll buy it.â€?

Douglas was so anxious to put something on the flagpole thaqt he raised a red curtain. For a moment he had forgotten that he’d been a “curiosityâ€? in Half Moon Bay since arriving in the late 1950’s, as that man with a reputation for being “a liberal beatnikâ€?.

When certain neighbors saw the red curtain hanging on the new flagpole Pete said, “I was reported to the American Legion for suspicion of flying a Communist flag,â€?

The red curtain was the beginning of the Douglas Flag Collection which grew to include flags from 32 countries as well as the Revolutionary flag and some state flags.

Pete: My flag collection stems from my attitude of a cooperative world and mutual respect for each other’s culture. Politics and national attitudes asisde I pick a flag on the basis of interest and beauty.

June: What’s your favorite flag?

Pete: Arizona. It’s one of the most symbolic looking flags. Sandy yellow with a sunburst–and Indian sunburst design. Another favorite is the Turkish flag. It’s solid red with a half moon and a star, and the Kenya flag, a shield with spears.

June: Are you going to get more flags?

Pete: I can’t wait to get more flags. I want to get thaat pole so I can fly three plags. Then we really can get things going.