Emotions on home front spur run on yellow ribbon WAR IN THE GULF


January 22, 1991|By Randi Henderson

Pat Lazenby had to go all the way to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to get the pale yellow trash bags that she cuts into strips and transforms into her own version of the yellow ribbons that are proliferating on homes, businesses, buttonholes and car antennae to show support of U.S. troops in the gulf.

She hasn't been able to find appropriately colored bags any closer to home, but that hasn't stopped her personal war effort, said Ms. Lazenby, a resident of Brooklyn Park who has three nephews serving in the Persian Gulf.

Around the corner, Teresa Yerge explained the motivation for the yellowish-gold ribbon around the tree in her front yard, one of a dozen or so displays of ribbons or American flags on the block.

"We are a patriotic neighborhood, very much so," she said. "We believe in our country. We believe in what these men and women are doing for us."

The use of yellow ribbons as a symbol of support for fighting men can be traced to a Civil War story about a Union soldier who came home from a Confederate prison and was welcomed by yellow ribbons.

In the 1949 John Wayne cavalry movie "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," the ribbon stood for a woman's devotion to her soldier.

The 1973 hit song by Tony Orlando and Dawn, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree," firmly entrenched the decoration in pop culture. Americans have since displayed them to show support for hostages in Iran and Beirut.

These days, to find evidence at home of support for the gulf war, look no further than local fabric or crafts store, where yellow ribbon is in short supply.

"We're out of yellow ribbon and American flags," said Don Enright, owner of the Ben Franklin Variety Store in Pasadena.

"We haven't sold out quite yet but just about everyone is buying them," said Duane Butts, manager of the Ben Franklin store in Joppatowne. "People are buying wide, thin, everything."

"Sales of yellow ribbon have been exceptional," said Joyce Schmitt, owner of the Fabric Corner in Annapolis.

"One woman came in and stretched out her arms as far as she could reach and said, 'I have an oak tree this big.' She bought 10 yards."

At Blank's fabric store in Northwest Baltimore, customers can pick up yellow ribbons free from a basket at the cash register. "Almost 500 people took them over the weekend," Albert Blank, owner of the store, said of the 10-inch strips.

"We sold yellow ribbon last week like we've never sold it before," said Helen Silber, owner of Boutique Fabrics in Randallstown. "I'm selling to women and men, to young, middle- aged, old. People are getting several yards. It's a very odd phenomenon."

Institutions and commercial establishments, as well as individuals, are wrapping themselves in yellow ribbon.

Union Memorial Hospital put about two dozen large yellow rosettes on pillars and posts around the hospital last October, in tribute to reservists on the hospital staff who have been called to active duty.

"They're quite weathered by now," said hospital spokeswoman Amy Strong. "We've ordered new ribbon and we're going to try to replace them by the end of this week."

At Hardee's on Route 175 near Fort Meade, there are yellow ribbons inside and outside the restaurant. "All the managers are also wearing yellow corsages while we work," said William Winkler Jr., a manager. "When people ask why, we explain we're trying to help our servicemen."

He added that the restaurant is trying to organize a party with free food for the children of area servicemen and women serving in the gulf.

"We want to keep people awake," said Samuel G. Kemp, owner of Cedar Hill Florist in Brooklyn Park, which is giving a free yellow ribbon to any customer who wants one. "We've been giving them away for years. To me that yellow ribbon is a reminder that there are men and women on the line ready to sacrifice their lives if necessary."

A ribbon from Cedar Hill Florist hangs outside the home of Kim Weber.

"It's support," she said. "That's all we can do right now."

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