Flag that survived Waldo fire finds home on wall at The Drive In
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This flag that survived the Waldo Canyon fire hangs on a wall at The Drive In on North Weber Street. Photo by Ryan Maye Handy, The Gazette.

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The Drive In on North Weber Street has a simple all-American vibe - it serves basic burgers and sweet soft-serve, blasts oldies on a stereo and has a tattered American flag pinned to storage shed.

For the Drive In's new owner, Bill Miller, the flag has a greater meaning: It's tattered and burned, but it survived last summer's Waldo Canyon fire. Miller salvaged it from a friend, who flew it in front of his Wickes Road home, which survived the fire.

"He was going to throw it out," Miller said. "I thought about the Waldo Canyon fire, because there are so many firefighters that come by our place, you know, it would be cool to put it up by our place. It was just one of those things on a whim."

He set it behind a large piece of Pikes Peak Glass, and attached it to a shed on The Drive In's outdoor patio. In basic red lettering he painted around it: "Flown 2012 Waldo Canyon fire, God Bless Our Firefighters."

Colorado Springs firefighters from Station 2, on East San Miguel Street a few blocks down, will stop by for a soft-serve occasionally. Some have seen the flag, others have not.

"There are several of them that bring families and they noticed it," Miller said of the flag. "They will pass little badges, you know junior firefighter badges, to the customers."

The flag is not immediately obvious - it's at the back of the business, in a dark corner with picnic benches where couples can sit out of the glare of The Drive In's lights. But last summer, from that back side, Miller could see the firestorm as it descended into Mountain Shadows on June 26, as it consumed 347 homes and killed two people. His friend on Wickes Road had been evacuated and stayed with him for eight days until residents were allowed back home to survey the damage.

The summer of Waldo was also Miller's first "season," so he says, with The Drive In. It opened in 1955, and the Waldo flag is an oddly contemporary relic from a new chapter in Colorado Springs history.

He bought the place as a retirement project, and is "trying to grow it slowly," fixing it up and improving the basic fare.

To keep the business running, Miller's trying to stick to his life's mantra, a saying he heard years ago: "The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing."

He painted that, in red letters, next to the flag.

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