Meeting the Actual Flagman

It’s been a while since I wrote the story of the Flagman, a sweet story of me writing a letter when I was 10….

A quick recap….

Growing up on the way to school, we watched a flagman put out flags every morning. It became a part of our routine each day to discuss the flagman when we passed Haywood Tire Company. I wrote the flagman, a letter when I was 10 telling him what a great job, he was doing setting the flags out every morning. The owner of Haywood Tire kept the letter in his top desk drawer for over 40 years and in 2020 was found and returned to me by his daughter and granddaughter after his death.

Shortly after I shared my story about the Flagman in February, I received a comment from Coleen, an Instagram follower who lives in Oregon, saying she thought she knew the Flagman and a short time later another saying yes, she did, her friend Marcie was married to him and she had just talked to THE Flagman. I had no daydreams that I would ever know who the actual flagman was, I mean this was 40+ years ago. And yet here I was on the phone with his wife.

The next week, My dad and I went to meet THE Flagman. His name is Clifford, and he still lives in Huntsville. He still works for the tire company that bought the business after Mr. Haywood retired.  He worked for Mr. Haywood for 27 years. Clifford remembered Mr. Haywood calling him into his office to read him the letter with tears in his eyes.

Clifford recalled the story of how the flags came to be. Mr. Haywood wanted to dress up the place to drive in more business and so bought some flags to place around the property. Clifford remembered driving the pipes into the ground that would hold the flag poles. He would come in early to put them up before he needed to start work. “One corner of the lot would flood after a hard rain, so I had to take off my shoes and roll my pant legs up to get to the flags and in the winter the poles would sometimes freeze in the post and have to stay out overnight.” Clifford told me he never imagined that anyone was watching him do this daily task.

I never imagined getting to meet him.

Clifford is a Vietnam Veteran. He joined the Navy and while in basic training received his draft papers. He was on a minesweeper.  (His father had been in the Navy too and was stationed at Pearl Harbor and his ship left the harbor the day before the bombs landed) Clifford returned from the war and started back to Haywood the very next day.

A faithful employee.

Over the years Mr. Haywood and Clifford would become more like father and son. Clifford was still mowing his lawn when Mr. Haywood passed away. He said Mr. Haywood got to where he couldn’t remember things well and would ask Clifford if he was all paid up on the mowing and Clifford would tell him they were all settled up, even though not true.

A faithful friend.

It was a great pleasure to meet Clifford. An honor really. We recently were interviewed by a local TV station and had the pleasure of seeing him again. Jerry Hayes interviewed us at the original Haywood Tires location. Deddy and I stood side by side telling the story, his hand on my back. His eyes glistening.

It’s hard to capture the story and what it truly meant to me and my dad to see it come full circle.

I’ve got my letter tucked away with the letters written to me by Mr. Haywood’s daughter and granddaughter. Deddy calls those type letters “keepers”. Mr. Haywood kept my letter in his “keepers” drawer.

We all need to write more “keepers”


Sharing the link if you’d like to watch it. The Story