Calipatria is known for its iconic 184-foot flagpole where the flag flies at sea level.
The idea of installing a flagpole was first suggested during a Chamber of Commerce meeting in the early 50’s, however, the costly flagpole would remain nothing more than an idea. On the night of October 5, 1957, a local tragedy occurred that would shape the history of Calipatria and ignite the creation of the monumental flagpole. That night, Calipatria’s pharmacist Harry Momita and his wife Helen were in a car accident while on their way to see their children in Los Angeles. Helen was killed instantly and Harry remained in the hospital for more than two weeks due to injuries.
Once the news of the Momita’s accident reached town, the response from city officials and townspeople was nothing short of generous. Upon hearing the news, City Mayor, Edward Rademacher, took charge of the matter and sent Councilman Franklin Garrett and Chief of Police, John Beauchamp, to visit Mr. Momita. After visiting with Mr. Momita, Garrett and Beauchamp brought back the keys to his pharmacy. With the help of fellow Calipatrians and a Brawley pharmacist, they managed to keep the pharmacy open. While Harry was in the hospital, money was collected and donated by a number of Calipatrians and people from neighboring cities for flowers in honor of Helen’s memorial. After the money was collected, Mayor Rademacher visited Harry in the hospital to present the donations from town in person.
Harry was amazed by the kindness of his Calipatrian friends, neighbors, and customers. Harry felt that he had to give something back to the people in return. It was then that Harry thought about that old flagpole idea that had always been joked about. After giving it some thought, Harry decided to start the “Build the Flagpole” campaign, in order to make the flagpole possible. During a Chamber of Commerce dinner, dedicating the flagpole to Helen Momita was discussed, but Harry didn’t quite agree with the idea. He stated, "She was always a shy and gentle person." He felt that she would not like such a display. Instead, Harry proposed that it should be dedicated to "Good Neighborliness” in honor of the service his fellow Calipatrians showed him and his wife.
In response, donations started to arrive from free-will offerings in the valley and the fund continued to grow, but there still wasn't enough to get the work started. The story of the Momita family was eventually picked up by international press and radio, after reporters heard of their history in Japanese relocation camps. Upon hearing the story, the president of the Pacific Southwest Pipe Company wrote to Calipatria’s Mayor and volunteered his company’s services to design and build the monument. He mentioned he was "happy to figure this job without profit." Worldwide publicity gave Harry the opportunity to appear on "This Is Your Life,”a television show in which Harry won a new car and several other gifts. The biggest gift of all was $1000 in cash so that he could build Calipatria’s flagpole!
Now Calipatria boasts of the tallest flagpole in the United States, flying ‘Old Glory’ 184 feet high; and when the wind blows, as it often does in the Imperial Valley, there is no more beautiful sight than to see the colors of the flag waving high above at sea level.