A Grand Old Flag

A Grand Old Flag

Main photo by Smith Hardy

Immediately in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, my high school cross country team did a training run through downtown Statesville. A solid 50% of cars passing by me as I ran had American flags flying from their windows. At Kenan-Flagler Business School, I learned Wal-Mart's incredible ability to quickly move and stock product allowed them to make loads of money selling Old Glory on 9/11 (they sold 115,000 on the day of the terrorist attacks). This is only tangentially related to today's post, but it's interesting nonetheless.

The Story Behind the Item
As a child of two parents who attended NC State (shocking, right?), I went to many a game in Carter-Finley Stadium growing up. We had season tickets for many years. I remember wearing my Carolina gear to games even when the Heels weren't playing. Once, Mr. Wuf stole my UNC hat and playfully stomped on it as we walked toward our seats. Jerk. I always hated that wolf.

However, at some point a combination of (a) living nearly three hours from Raleigh, (b) me being a Carolina fan and my brother not necessarily caring a lot about footballl, and, (c) if I had to guess, Mike O'Cain being the head coach, led my dad to finally give up his season tickets. Also, I think at some point the University wanted him to pay $1,500 per ticket for a PSL. Like me, my dad is also an accountant, so how do you think that went over?

Be that as it may, during the fall of my seventh grade year, our family still had four season tickets. So when opening day rolled around, my dad said "who wants to go watch the Pack take on Georgia Tech?" Crickets. Unfazed, Dad said everyone else could stay home and he'd go alone. Feeling guilty and not truly having anything else to do, I changed my mind and volunteered to ride along so he wouldn't have to go solo. (Now that I'm a parent myself, however, I'm starting to wonder if he might actually have been content to go by himself.)



Once I changed my mind, my brother changed his mind, and once everyone else committed to going, my mom decided that we might as well make it a family outing. So we all loaded into the 1988 Toyo Wagon (I had really hoped when I typed that into Google Images that it would come back with pictures of a cooler vehicle than I remembered, but alas, my recollection aligns perfectly with the picture you see here), put the Wolfpack flags in the windows, and made our way east on I-40.

A couple of important pieces of backstory. Number one, the ol' Toyo Wagon had just been in the shop for some major repairs the previous week, and number two, Hurricane Fran had just blown her way across the state of North Carolina. You'll understand why you should know this momentarily.

You can probably guess where the first piece of backstory leads. Despite our buddy from the Toyota West service department promising my father that the vehicle was in perfect condition to make the round trip to the football game, the vehicle was not, in fact, in that condition. It informed us of that when we reached Chapel Hill. I believe we heard odd noises, I'm sure there were warning lights on the dashboard, and there may also have been smoke. All these factors led to my dad taking the next exit, where we sputtered into literally the only gas station in Chapel Hill that had power due to the extensive outages caused by Hurricane Fran (hence, the second piece of backstory).

I have tried numerous times to figure out which exit we took, each attempt less successful than the last. I'm almost positive we coasted down a hill when taking the off-ramp, but exit 266, 270, and 273 are all uphill, so I'm at a loss. What I do recall is getting to the stoplight of the off-ramp and my dad telling my mom to take the State flags in the windows down, clearly thinking someone would be more likely to help us if we weren't flying the enemy flag on Carolina's home turf. I also remember waiting on the tow truck for an eternity. And I remember it being hot. And there was an insane line of cars waiting to get gas at the only open station they could find. And did I mention how hot it was?


All in all, it was a truly miserable day. One that, in a perfect world, only my dad would have had to endure because he would have gone to the game alone as he originally planned. (Or, you know, none of us would have endured because the van wouldn't have broken down.) But it was what it was, and one of my lasting impressions from the entire ordeal was taking down those car flags. We flew those flags en route to scores of State games during my youth. Our van also had the Wolfpack logo (pictured) on the back glass. In the Carter-Finley parking lot I would often draw an interlocking NC and hold it up beside this logo to show folks I was a Carolina fan.

So when I came to the age of being old enough to own my own car and have my own family, I got my own set of interlocking NC flags. I may not have followed my parents' example of what team to cheer for, but I learned a thing or two from them about how to show school pride.

Carolina Collectibles Description


There's not a lot to say here. The flags are essentially a white plastic "pole" that hooks over your window and wedges between the window and the door/window frame. The flag is, you know, flag material. Nylon? I don't know. Carolina blue background, white interlocking NC logo. That's about the extent of it. You know. A car flag.

Carolina Collectibles Comparison: Orlando Melendez
Melendez didn't get a lot of playing time during his days on the Carolina basketball squad, and if I'm being honest I often forget to throw my flags in the window before heading out to a game, meaning they spend more time than they ought to riding the pine. But man, that guy could sit on the bench and wave a towel with the best of them, and when you're driving down I-40 obeying the posted speed limit of 65 MPH, these flags can really whip in the wind.

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Carolina Collectibles Rating: 3 Stars
I would not describe these flags as "cheap" nor would I describe them as "high quality." They are right in the middle of those options. The very definition of three stars. White plastic posts that secure over your window with a Carolina blue flag flying from them. After time, the flags do fade and tatter, but they held up about as long as one would expect them to. Not longer than you'd expect, not shorter than you'd expect. Just as long as you'd expect. Three stars.