Near the end of World War II my grandmother, Beatrice (Lockwood) Bates created a service banner to honor those in her community that served in World War II. The banner is on display at the local history museum in Valley Center, California.
I only became aware of its existence several years ago from cousins at Bates Nut Farm. We subsequently paid a visit to the Valley Center History Museum, where I took several photographs and made some notes.
The Service Banner
Beatrice was an accomplished seamstress. She sewed the banner entirely by hand, and a project this size must have taken a considerable amount of time.
The banner measures 37 inches wide by 50 inches long, not counting the frame. To get an idea of its size its frame, see the museum photo on Google Maps which shows the banner on the right-hand wall.
The gold lettering at the top of the banner is a bit difficult to make out in the photograph. It reads “Valley Center Community World War II”.
Below the title is a field of 170 stars on a white background, arranged in seventeen rows of ten. Each star represents a member of the community that served in the army or navy during World War II. The five gold stars represent those who died in the service of their county.
A gold metal plate on the frame around the banner reads:
Valley Center World War II Service Banner made by Mrs. Gilbert Bates, Beatrice 1944
The Honor Roll
Accompanying the service banner is a rather elegant honor roll listing all the service members.
Each name on the honor roll is represented by a star on the banner. The five gold stars on the banner have been lightly indicated on the roll call as well.
Pictured at the bottom of the Honor Roll are emblems of the U.S. Army and Navy.
We are not certain who made the roll call or the frame, but we surmise that the Bates family may have hired a calligrapher.
James and William Bates, the youngest of Beatrice’s five sons are listed here, along with Clint Tompkins, a longtime friend of the Bates family.
History of the Banner
Beatrice’s banner initially hung in the Valley Center Community Hall. At some point, it was transferred to the local library and became the property of The Friends of the Valley Center Library.
I recently had a phone conversation with Robert Lerner, the historian Valley Center History Museum. He has been most helpful in providing the history of Beatrice’s service banner after it left the Community Hall.
For many years it hung in the storefront of the library, which was then located in a small shopping center. The library moved to its current location in 2002 and the banner was transferred to the new facility. In 2003, the Friends of the Library transferred it to the Valley Center Museum, which is in the library complex.
In 2017, the banner was part of Special Veterans Day Displays at History Museum.
Of course, this article would not be complete without a picture of Beatrice. Also, it seems appropriate to include pictures of her sons James and William in their (at least partial) uniforms.
I was discussing the banner with my cousin, Kathy Bates-Lande, and she pointed out some old photographs showing small service flags hanging in the window of my grandparents’ house. I had seen at the photographs several times but never noticed the service flags.
Indeed, there is a flag inside the glass door behind William and Mary in the previous photograph. Here is a closeup of that part of the photo.
Kathy also directed me to a great article on Wikipedia (see Wikipedia – Service flag ) which provide the history and background of the service flags and banners. There are specific guidelines and restrictions as to their use, but I am not sure if the rules were in use at the time that Beatrice produced her banner. Although I have heard of ‘Gold Star Families’, I really had no idea that term referred to the stars on these service flags.
This is is another case where a little investigation yields some unexpected but interesting details. I can really appreciate the effort that my grandmother made to display her patriotism and feel proud that her handiwork made its way to the museum.
Last, I want to thank Robert Lerner and my cousin Kathy for their input to this article.
Betty Harris says
What a great Honor!
Great find for me! I am the grand daughter of Cora and Donald Swain, my grand mothers sister Dorothy was married to Clint Tompkins or as I called him “Uncle Whiskers” I was hoping maybe you had some old photos you would be willing to share with me? If so please do email me! [email protected]
Michael Bates says
Thanks for visiting my blog. I remember seeing the Tompkins sometimes when I visited the nut farm in Valley Center, back in the fifties.
I’m sorry that I don’t have any pictures of them, but I have a couple of contacts who might. I have sent a private email.