There aren’t many jobs that allow you to start at the top and work your way down. But that’s what makes Warren Hinrichs job so interesting.

He not only starts at the top, he starts at the top working with gold.


There aren’t many jobs that allow you to start at the top and work your way down. But that’s what makes Warren Hinrichs job so interesting.
He not only starts at the top, he starts at the top working with gold.
Hinrichs of Spokane, Washington, is a flagpole painter, an unusual profession, one not many people in the United States find themselves employed as. “I can’t imagine there are many flagpole painters out there,”?he said.
“I?can say this. In my job, folks look up to me,”?he said smiling. “But my job is always up in the air.”
Over the past 50 years, this 68-year-old flagpole painter has left is mark in nearly every state. He said he has painted over 4,000 flagpoles in his career.
On Saturday, he was in Sleepy Eye, brushing paint on the flagpole at Sleepy Eye Public School. He started at the top of the flagpole, painting the ball gold, and worked his way down, brushing a fresh coat of silver color over a tired, worn finish.
“I recommend re-painting flagpoles get every three years,”?Hinrichs said. “Three years ago I was here (in Sleepy Eye)?painting the flagpole and I expect I’ll be back in three more years.”
So, how does a guy get into the flagpole painting business??In Hinrichs’ case, painting in high places is in his blood. “My dad started painting flagpoles in 1935,”?Hinrichs explained. “It was the Depression days and dad and his brother were hobos jumping boxcars in North Dakota.
“He started a painting job working for a dollar a day.”
Later, Hinrichs’ dad, Bill, started his own steeple jack company painting structures like flagpoles, bridges and water towers. “When I was eight years old, Dad told me to climb up a 100 foot water tower. You do anything to please your dad when you’re eight years old.”
Hinrichs discovered he didn’t mind heights. At 17, he went into business with his dad. One of his early jobs was painting a 200 foot high water tower, a job that earned him $2.50 an hour.
All these years later, Hinrichs makes his money by the foot. He charges $9 a foot for silver flagpoles and $10 a foot to paint a flagpole white. Why a dollar more for white poles??“I just really don’t like painting with white,”?he said chuckling.
The Sleepy Eye Public School flagpole is 40 feet high and, if uninterrupted, Hinrichs can paint it in no time at all. That’s a cool $360. “Well, you’ve got expenses though. Hotel, gas,, food,” Hinrichs said.
The seasonal job of flagpole painting begins in May when Hinrichs sets out west from Spokane with his pickup filled with gear and his best friend, Stitch. “I go with the weather and when it’s done, I work my way back to Washington.
“After high school in 1959, I?had wanted to go on to college but dad said I?didn’t need it,”?Hinrichs said. “He wanted me to go into the family business. He said all I?would need is the gift of gab.
“He said I?would be talking to supervisors, maintenance men, maybe one day I’d even get to talk to a governor.”
Hinrichs went on to say he not only spoke with a governor, he got his photo taken with one, a former Washington state governor.
“I even shook Ronald Reagan’s hand once,” he recalled, adding he shook Reagan’s hand while in church, not anywhere near a flagpole.
In all his years, Hinrichs has never fallen on the job. “In my line of work, you only fall once,” he said. “You only get to fall once.”
He said he has been struck by lightening but came out of it just fine. Hinrichs also found himself flipped upside down once or twice but he just pulled himself up and kept on going. “I believe God and my dad and mom are looking out over me,” Hinrichs said.
Hinrichs said the best part of his job is feeling appreciated for the work he does. “Everywhere I?go people appreciate that I?paid the flagpole and make it look new again,” he said.
“I do the best job I can,”?he said. “I?like to make people happy and flagpoles look nice.”?