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Chapel Hill's Greatest Christmas Story

When I grew up in Chapel Hill in the 1950s and 60s there was an array of raconteurs throughout town that kept me spellbound with fascinating tales of their lives. By 1980 most of these great storytellers had died and this endearing Chapel Hill tradition was only a memory. In 1992 I began compiling many of the greatest stories I heard into a journal so that I could pass them on to future generations. Fortunately one of anecdotists, Kemp Nye, was still alive and had recently written down several of his best stories and sent along copies of several to me. I first heard the following story from Kemp when I was about seven in the Oriental shop that adjoined his world-famous record store. This room was filled with Hindu and Buddhist icons, as well as a case of rare jade and ivory items from the region. It always had a strong aroma of incense and beautiful Chinese classical music was usually being played in the background. At that time "China" was not even recognized as existing by the United States and there was no travel by Americans to this exotic location. Kemp was one of the few Americans who had spent any time in China, having served in a small military attachment with our ambassador prior to the start of World War II. Kemp had many incredible tales about his stay in China and several he wrote fascinating books about, but largely because of his death in 1994 they have gone unpublished. The following is one of my favorite Kemp stories, and among the most enchanting true-life Christmas stories of all time.

Charly Mann


TOUGHIE AND THE BUTTERBALL (A Christmas Eve in Old Peking in 1939)
by Kemp Battle Nye


Christmas Eve was as any other eve in the unheeding Chinese city of Peking.  

Children by the hundreds became lost from their parents to wander helplessly about the hutungs. Hundreds more were purposely abandoned in desperation when meager means were exhausted. As frightened kittens set loose in a strange world to fend for themselves, children were frequently found wandering lost, frightened, hungry, without hope. Before some of them were fortunate enough to find their way into a mission haven, they became prime candidates for the death carts, which always came with the dawn to collect the frozen corpses of those who failed to survive the frigid night.

Huddled little bodies crouched against the walls as if in a deep sleep, half covered by the racing sands when morning came, were not an uncommon sight to those who would pause to look.


Chapel Hill raconteur Kemp Battle Nye beside the Moongate of his Chinese themed house in Chapel Hill in about 1982

Exhausted, they cried themselves to sleep, perishing peacefully into a world of numbness, never knowing the moment of their passing into the contentment of that "Never-Never Land" where all little children go, even little Chinese children.

With sudden fury, another dust storm blew in from the Gobi - the raging, howling sort. The north wind laden with its burden of fine yellow sand blasted the rooftops, dumping its load in whirling eddies sculpturing wrinkled dunes against the walls of the narrow hutungs. Vision of the sky was long blotted out as the storm vented its full fury upon the walled city. The frigid cold added misery to the unfortunates lost to wander. And those fortunate enough to have shelter had long past sought it. The usually busy hutung thinned as darkness descended.

My coolie struggled with his rickshaw, slowed to a walk as he leaned heavily into the fierceness of the howling wind.
"Stop!" I yelled over the madness of the storm.

I leaped from the rickshaw, fell upon my knees, and clawed frantically at the sand building against two tiny bodies huddled against the hutung wall.

"Oh God, don't let me be too late!" I moaned as I dug madly.

Dust was crusted upon the tear-stained faces of the two children. I listened close to each little nostril.

"They're still breathing!" I shouted to the rickshaw boy, as I furiously brushed the sand from their nostrils and mouth with my gloved hands.

The coolie pulled, I pushed, we struggled against the storm, finally arriving before the gates of How Men. I rushed to beat upon the gates with my fists, as I screamed for Big John to open up.

The girl Nan Lee stood startled as I burst through the door, two motionless bundles, one under each arm. I sent her scampering for Butslow to fetch hot water, cloths, towels. . The urgency in my voice was commanding as I deposited the bundles upon the warm k'ang.

"They're half frozen!" I muttered, breathing hard. ,hurry! We must get the sand out of their mouths and noses."

One child squirmed, and then the other showed signs of life as Nan Lee returned. I quickly loosened their clothing, Nan Lee wrung out a towel, steaming dry, wiping crusted dust from their small, moon-round faces.

Butslow stood nervously, a steaming pot of tea in his hands. I commanded him:

"Cast more coals upon the fire so the k'ang will be warmer! And bring another brazier into the great room!"

Under Nan Lee's swiftly moving hands, life began to return. The taller one released the hand he clutched of the fat one. Soon, a painful groan was followed by a weak sobbing cry. The taller one opened his eyes, stared, a fierce scold set upon his little face. I smiled down at him:

"He's tough all right, he's gonna make it!"

I thought it best to give the tykes a cold bath to draw the frostbite. That was how we did it in the mountain country. Start cold, then gradually warm 'em up!

The girl Nan Lee sent Butslow hurrying to fetch the big tub, hot and cold water.

She began to strip the two. Then, in startled surprise, exclaimed:

"Da-Ren, they're both little boys!"

"My Lord, what a Christmas present, two 'stem-winders'! Isn't that something?" I snorted.

I wonder how in the world anyone could abandon two little boys in a raging winter storm, knowing full well they would perish. I remembered the missionary tales about how the Chinese put little girl babies out to die, and sometimes even threw them from cliffs into the sea to drown. But never little boys! Sons were guarded preciously as long as the family could maintain them.

"It wouldn't have made a difference to me," I said, bald-face or stem-winders. Babies are babies, I love 'em all. Besides, what would this world be like without little girls, anyway?"

I smiled as I kissed Nan Lee's cheek and patted her playfully.

Butslow hurried in with the tub and water, and brought the old scrubbing-woman from the kitchen.

"Da-Ren, she knows plenty about babies. She has raised many in her day - vellie savvy, she can make well!" Nan Lee smiled as she stepped out of the old woman's way.

The old woman set to work. The girls, Tara and Soochow Sue, pitched in to help. I stood above them, supervising as apprehensively as if the boys were my very own.

Throughout the night, How Hen was a busy place - no one slept. Came the morning, the boys ceased their crying. They took porridge from the insistent hand of the old woman, and whimpered off to sleep as she massaged their bodies with camphor oil.

The storm passed as suddenly as it came. Christmas morning dawned bright and clear. The houseboys brought warm food and tea. Nan Lee looked upon the sleeping boys and said:

"Da-Ren, how you say stateside? You have two little Jesus boys instead of one this Christmas morn!" She smiled as she sipped her tea.

"Yes! Do you think old Buddha will mind if there are two little Christian Jesus boys in China?"

"I don't think so!" she replied.

"Then I shall give them Christian names and christen them!"

I called Butslow to gather all the family of How Men in the great room. I held one of the boys on each knee and named them.

"This one I shall name Toughie! He always looks so tough without smiling!

"The other shall answer to Butterball, he is so round and fat and happy!"

Then I called for Butslow to bring two little candles. We lit them with ceremony, one for each, and placed them in the window for all the world to see that Toughie and the Butterball had safely found a new home on that Christmas Day.

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Reconnecting with former Chapel Hill Flames

Between the time I was nine and thirty and living in Chapel Hill I had ten girlfriends. Four of those I have stayed close to all my life, but the other six were missing in action until I started  Chapel Hill Memories about three years ago. Since then I have reconnected with all of them, and have been fortunate to spend two to three days with each one.

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Lunch at the Rathskeller

In March of 1988 I invited three of my friends to lunch at the Rathskeller in Chapel Hill. They were Bill Ray who I had known since 1964 when he worked at Kemps Record Store; Richard Abbott my best friend during my freshman year at UNC in 1968-69 and probably the most charismatic person I have ever known; and Fred Castrovinci who had been a teaching colleague at Durham Community College in the early 1980s and with whom I was then a partner with in a software company in Chapel Hill.

Since I was 12 I have been making tape recordings of conversations with my friends and family first on reel-to-reel tape, then cassette, and since about 1981 on a microcassette recorder that was about the size of a large candy bar. When we got to the RAT I told everyone I wanted to record our conversation for posterity and possible use in a newspaper column I wrote called CHATS WITH CHARLY.

The purpose of publishing this conversation is simply to give you an idea of how four late-30s to early-40s men carried on a conversation in 1988. I don't think most conversations are like this today. Almost every time I get together now with more than two other people I notice how little eye contact is made between the person talking and the other people I am with. Much of this is caused by almost everyone checking or using their smartphones fr. Not only does this show disrespect for the person talking, but it distracts everyone else. As a result I think conversation is usually far more trivial than it once was.

Finally I do not think true friendships can be made or sustained through the social media we so often use today, but that it requires hours of intimate conversation to develop and maintain. Without face to face focused conversation we will have no true friends, but only acquaintances.

We were seated at the large table at the rear of the Train Room in "The Rat" and our waiter was "Pops" Lyon.

"Pops": Gentlemen have you decided what you want?

Richard: Let me have the Manicotti, your house salad with French dressing, and a Coke Mug.

Bill: A Double Gambler, French fries, and iced tea.

Fred: Your Lasagna, house salad, and coffee.

Charly: A small mushroom pizza with black olives, your salad with blue cheese dressing, and iced tea. Pops how long have you been working here?

"Pops": This is my 25th year.

Charly: Wow!

"Pops": Thanks … I'll bring your drinks and salads right out.

Charly: What do each of you guys think your best character traits are?

Richard: I have very active imagination, and I can entertain myself, even when I have nothing to do.

Fred: I like that I don't get depressed or have self-esteem issues. I'm pretty self-confident most of the time.

Bill: I am open to music. Sure, I have preferences, but I don't dismiss anything until I've heard it, and I'll listen to anything you think I might like. And if I don't like it, I will tell you. What about you Charly?

Charly: I'm exceptionally resilient to anything in life that tries to derail me from getting what I want. Anything else you guys like about yourselves?

Fred: I'm nice to practically everyone I meet.

Richard: I'm not afraid of getting out of my "comfort zone". Anything else about you Charly?

Charly: I try to see all sides of an issue and keep an open mind. Okay everyone what about your worst features?

Fred: I take almost everything to the heart, which makes me very sensitive to other people's comments.

Fred: And Charly what's your biggest fault.

Charly: Well there are a lot. One that it bothers me is that I often over or underestimate a person's ability or nature. My worst fault though I think is my materialism. It seems like I am spending my entire life accumulating things.

Richard: Welcome to the 20th century Charly – everyone is doing this.   

Charly: Yeah… but it bothers me that I have vast collections of so many things – I want to stop it, and just enjoy what I have.

Bill: So why don't you stop?

Charly: I guess because there always seems like there is another movie, book, or CD I need to add to my library.

Fred: I am sure a lot of authors, film makers, and musicians are happy you haven't quit buying these things.

Charly: I know, but you know I really do not think I derive the same satisfaction from my things as I do from my friends like you guys, my family, playing tennis, my morning walks in the woods, or even my cat.

Fred: Taking some time to enjoy nature brings me peace and fulfillment as well.

"Pops": Okay men I think I've got everything you ordered here.

Charly: Thanks Pops.

Bill: I think our culture places a lot of status and esteem on people who own a lot of things, live in a big house, and make a lot of money.

Fred: Yeah, and Charly you have all that, and for some reason you still have some friends too. 

Charly: Well – yes I guess I'm fortunate, but I truly care more about my moral integrity and character than my enormous music collection for example. 

Richard: Wait a second Charly … Do you enjoy listening to your albums or do you just collect them?

Charly: No I usually listen to them for several hours almost every day …

Bill: ... Then Charly you are getting real pleasure from your music. 

Charly: I guess so – sometimes music seems almost spiritual to me. Are you at all spiritual Bill?

Bill: I think life is completely meaningless. What's important to me are the things that make me happy.

Fred: My kids are really important to me, nothing else really matters. I really want to pass things on to them that will make their lives better after I'm gone. 

Charly: I think raising child well would be both the hardest and most fulfilling thing to do in life. And to me that means making sure she would be happy, curious, confident, and well intentioned from adolescence through adulthood. 

Richard: I think everyone lives their lives like they are going to live forever. Obviously we don't know when we are going to die unless we commit suicide, but I think I'm guilty of acting like life is an inexhaustible well. I really need to keep reminding myself how short it is. Lately I have been wondering just how many truly great days I am going to experience. I'm 38 now and think I've had about 30 really incredible days thus far.  


Train Room table where this conversation was held

Charly: All right Richard you have had more incredibly beautiful and intelligent women lovers than anyone I think who has ever lived. So in the end did you really love any of them?

Richard: I was certainly physically attracted to all of them.  

Fred: You mean they all infatuated you.

Richard: Well yes ... but love ... well what is real love? 

Bill: I think love is more like a long-lasting infatuation.

Charly: Now come on – I think real love should be permanent – like the way a parent always loves a child and vice-versa.

Bill: I'm not sure that kind of love really exists in a romantic sense.  

Fred: I think it does, but it takes two people who really make a serious commitment to each other. 

Charly: I think it probably also means connecting with someone who is not just physically attractive to you, but is also nice and shares most of your interests. I think true love can only happen with someone who is a soul mate – and while I believe some people have them, I have not met mine yet as far as I know. 

Fred: I think it is easier than that. You find someone you are attracted to and share some interests with, and then work really hard to get to know them better so you can create a deep friendship.


Cave Room at the Rathskeller (Note the German Shephard sitting in the chair at the table. My German Shephard "Lucky" often came with me to the Rathskeller between 1961 and 1964.)

Richard: Are any of you guys still doing drugs? I just recently quit doing cocaine.

Charly: I did LSD quite a lot in the early 70s, but nothing much else since except a snort of cocaine a few times in the late seventies. I still have honestly never inhaled marijuana nor had more than a couple of sips of beer.

Bill: Cocaine gives me a wonderful feeling of euphoria and energy. It also really enhances listening to music and is incredible for sexual pleasure. You guys should try giving it to a girl you want to sleep with. It will really make her horny and her orgasm will be incredibly intense.

Richard: I agree it is somewhat of an aphrodisiac, and confess to giving it to several women I wanted to have sex with, but I also began having my only experiences of not being able to get it up after using it regularly for about six months. I also had one girl who was incredibly sexually aroused after giving her cocaine yet after more than an hour of trying she was totally frustrated out of mind because she could not have an orgasm.  

Charly: These days I often wonder why people drink or do drugs.

Fred: I think it is because most people are really shy and need something artificial to loosen their inhibitions.

Richard: I see alcohol used a lot more to overcome the intimidations of life. I call it liquid courage. That's why it is especially useful on a date or in a bar or club situation when you find yourself attracted to a girl and want to put the move on her. I never needed it for this, but it is obvious people are imbibing to feel comfortable.

Charly: I think that's probably true but really sad.

Fred: Face it Charly most people are just uncomfortable in their own skin and alcohol is their social lubricant.

Charly: My experience with people who are drinking is that more often than not it makes them too uninhibited, and it is not uncommon for them to behave in a highly inappropriate or obnoxious manner.

Bill: I have been guilty of drinking too much on a few occasions, but I did it as a stress release. It helped to temporarily put some of my problems on hold.

Richard: I don't know. I sometimes drink too much for the same reason. I have had a lot of stress in my job, but my drinking wound up worsening my stress which actually made me drink more.

Fred: Why don't we give up on drugs and alcohol for a while and ………………..

Charly: … talk about why people hate and fear.

Richard: Like why so many of us were born with negative thoughts about blacks.

Fred: I think we may be biologically programmed as a defense mechanism to distrust and fear people who do not look like us. It's probably a tribal thing and would be the same in most other species too.

Bill: Yeah I agree. I bet Asian and African kids are born being as mistrustful and uncomfortable with a white face as we are with a yellow or brown one.

Charly: I'm not sure I agree. I think there are some races and cultures that are just more innately trusting of other races than we are.

Richard: I think most people see the world both close up and far away as us and them.

Charly: Yeah people just simplify things so much. Everything is black and white. To most people I know being a Republican is almost equivalent to being evil.

Bill: Well I bet there are a lot of Republicans who think the same things about Democrats.

Fred: Yeah – people really do seem to simplify things. I doubt if most people even have the depth of knowledge to look at the complexity of most issues.

Richard: And of course among most Christians I know you're either saved or damned.

Charly: I do wish that peer pressure could be more a positive than negative for adolescents.

Bill: You mean like studying and reading more?

Charly: Exactly.

Fred: I think peer pressure can be good if it induces us to be more outgoing and creative.

Richard: I am pretty much a non-conformist and rarely bow to peer pressure.


Rathskeller rear entrance from Amber Alley

Charly: Actually the main reason I invited you guys together for lunch is you are the three most independent minded people I know.

Bill: To me peer pressure seems to be more based on one's emotion than one's intelligence. It's all about trying to achieve a superficial level of acceptance and popularity.

Charly: Yeah, I still see people our age embracing the political beliefs and choices of their popular or powerful peers. I think Madison Avenue understands this and that is why most ads imply their products will make you more popular.

Fred. Advertising is the ultimate peer pressure.

Charly: Yep and I think all of us are susceptible. Okay then what makes us such individualists.

Bill: With me I think it was that I always knew I was smarter than most people around me which made me less susceptible to peer pressure.

Richard: I just always wanted to be unique. I can't imagine why anyone would not have this desire.

Charly: What always makes me smile are people who say they are different, yet they are part of groups that wear the same kinds of clothes, have the same political beliefs, and listen to the same music. To me they are the ultimate conformists.

Bill: I see them all over Chapel Hill – elementary school students, high school students, and college students especially - people form cliques and they think and act like each other. They are totally predictable …

Richard: … and so boring.

Fred: I just don't see as much self-confidence among people as I used to. Now if someone tries to be an individualist he is no longer respected.

Richard: Exactly – people say "he just doesn't fit in".


Wisdom from a Rathskeller booth

Charly: Do you think people are happier today than they were in the 1950s and 60s?

Richard: No – and I think they are far more ignorant. I mean in my grandfather's generation the average life expectancy was something like 35 and now it's over 70, yet they think the world is worse off now than it was then. 

Bill: Wow – I guess most of us here would have all been long dead then a hundred years ago.

Richard: Yeah and economically we are so much better off. Look at the size of houses today and the number of TVs. ……

Charly: … and every house and building is air conditioned. That sure has made a big difference from when we were growing up.

Richard: Yep … but so many people I run into are so whiny and critical of our economic system and government.

Charly: And from what I hear people usually vent their criticisms with insults rather than substantive complaints.

Bill: I just think that's the way people are today.

Richard: Look guys it's been great having lunch with you but I need to head on back to Asheville.

Fred: It's been great meeting you. Charly has told me a lot of stories about you.

Charly: … and most of them are true.

Bill: Hope we can all do this again soon.

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A Man You Should Know/An Article that May Be Worth Reading

by Charly Mann

The Chapel Hill I love and remember is not a town or place, but an extraordinary group of people made up of UNC students, administrators, professors and all sorts of townspeople ranging from merchants to janitors. For most of my formative years the population of Chapel Hill was 11,000 from September through May and then dropped to only 5,000 during the summer months when the University was not in regular session. (Today by contrast there are 30,000 students attending UNC plus 3,400 full-time faculty members and an additional 3,200 administrators and supporting staff.) Being a Chapel Hillian then meant being part of a nurturing community that created people with a uniquely Chapel Hill attitude. The primary reason I created Chapel Hill Memories was so that it could be forum for all of us to celebrate the remarkable people of this town.

The man who most personified Chapel Hill during my first decade of life was Skipper Coffin who died in 1956 when I was only six, but was so ingrained in the spirit of the town that his presence was felt well into the early 1960s. I vividly remember hearing soon after he passed away that he would never be forgotten by the town, yet I doubt if any of you reading this have ever heard of him. I will now introduce you to him.

O.J. ("Oscar") Coffin was the most beloved man in Chapel Hill for more than thirty years starting in 1920s. Before that he was editor of The Raleigh Times and wrote hard-hitting editorials that were considered quite progressive in his time, including one that supported the teaching of evolution in North Carolina public schools and universities. In 1926 he became the only teacher of journalism at UNC. He was an inspiring teacher who almost single-handedly created the acclaimed UNC School of Journalism and became its first dean. Many of the leading newspaper and TV journalists around the country were mentored by him including the beloved CBS newsman Charles Kuralt who  now rests in Chapel Hill's old cemetery along with Coffin.


Skipper Coffin

Skipper was an incredibly friendly and lighthearted individual who loved talking to everyone he passed as he walked along Franklin Street or through the UNC campus. He was always embarrassed with the title Dean and insisted everyone call him O.J. or Skipper. I remember one or more students at his side whenever I saw him. He especially liked to hang out with students at the depilated bar call The Shack on Rosemary Street (see article: The Shack of Chapel Hill) and drink beer. His wife and many of his friends teasingly referred to The Shack as his "Iron Lung" because they said he couldn't breathe if he stayed away from it for more than a couple of hours. New students were often shocked and saddened when looking for Skipper in his office and then told by his secretary he was in an "iron lung" (which in the 1950's was the name of a piece of hospital equipment that enabled people who were paralyzed from the neck down to breathe).

One time one of Coffin's students walked into class about ten minutes late. Skipper asked him sarcastically if he had anything he would like to say to him. The student just as sarcastically replied, "I think you should dismiss the class now and reconvene it at The Shack for a beer."  Coffin smiled and said, "Class is dismissed and will meet at The Shack in ten minutes. Students who do not show up will have their grades lowered for the semester."

A former student of his told me that on the first day of class he would introduce himself by saying: "My name is Oscar Jackson Coffin, and so there will be no trouble about our social standing, my uncle – who I was named after – was hung. A terribly fine fellow, but the jury didn’t see it that way." Another one of his classroom speeches I heard that typifies his personality is the following: "Ladies and Gentlemen I don't mind you smoking in my class, but I would like you to use ashtrays. Don't let me catch you throwing your finished cigarette on the floor and grinding it under with your heel. The people who clean up this classroom are perhaps a lot smarter than you are, but haven't had the chance like you to get a good education."


O.J. Coffin in his classroom

Coffin believed that the most important aspect of being a good journalist was great writing and that was always his emphasis in his classes. He assigned journalism students passages from the Bible that were to be turned it into dramatic newspaper articles. Skipper would read back each student's article to the class with such sarcasm and hilarity that almost everyone thought he would have made a much better living as a comic than a journalism professor. Coffin said he believed sarcasm was the gentlest method of instilling how much improvement a student's writing needed.

One of Coffin's students was Jim Schumaker who would one day become the model for Jeff MacNelly's Shoe comic strip. Schumaker also became long-time editor of the Chapel Hill Weekly (Newspaper) and after that was a UNC journalism professor. When he was in an editorial writing course of Skipper's he failed to turn in any of the ten editorials he had been assigned during the semester. On the last day of class Coffin told him that if he did not have all those editorials handed into his office by 8:00 AM the next morning he would receive an "F" for the course. Schumaker worked through the night to write all the editorials and handed them to Skipper when he was about to walk into the office the next morning. Coffin took the large stack of papers in his hand while puffing on a large cigar said, "Let's make a deal.  If I don't have to read these I will give you an "A" in the course."  Schumaker accepted and Coffin threw the stack of editorials in the wastebasket.


Jeff MacNelly's Shoe comic strip inspired by Skipper Coffin's student Jim Schumaker

I am not sure if articles like this one have much interest to people who look at Chapel Hill Memories. Since profiling Chapel Hill's memorable characters is what I most enjoy writing about I have decided to try to encourage additional feedback on this piece. There will be a $1,000 prize given after this article receives a total of 1,000 e-mail responses and comments combined. (Currently e-mails outnumber comments on articles about 10 to 1.) When the 1,000 total has been reached all of the e-mail addresses belonging to people who have left a comment or sent an e-mail related to the article the will be entered into a random generation program and the name selected will receive the $1,000. The only rules are: only one e-mail or comment per address will be counted; you cannot enter using multiple e-mail addresses or those of other family members; in order to count the comment or e-mail must directly relate to the subject of this article.

I encourage everyone reading this to submit articles about Chapel Hill people you remember.

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In Search of Chapel Hill Friends
 
 
One of the primary purposes of Chapel Hill Memories is for old friends to reconnect and celebrate meaningful relationships they had while living in Chapel Hill. I would love Chapel Hill Memories readers to e-mail me stories about Chapel Hill friendships. I believe there is an elegance to writing an article that can enlighten and make us all aware of the many unique human beings who made our town great.  We are inundated by a culture of mediocrity and blandness and need to share our own words and creativity to honor our current and former Chapel Hill friends.

During the last five years I have received e-mails, phone calls and comments from readers on the subject of friendship in our town. One of the most surprising things I learned was how transitory most friendships were. The majority of people who had lived in Chapel Hill during at least some portion of their childhood and attended Chapel Hill schools or UNC recall many more friends than people who came to town as adults. During our school years acquaintances were plentiful with hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals in the same year of school and college, we spent many years in parallel lives. We also had the wonderful advantage of being immature and not knowing ourselves very well, which allowed us to be open to many more types of people. However almost everyone who had made good friends in their school and college years schools had lost touch or grown farther apart over the years as they became adults, married, had children, and most moved away from Chapel Hill. Recalling those times almost everyone remembered quite a few acquaintances, several girlfriends or boyfriends, and one or two close friends. When I started Chapel Hill Memories I still considered almost everyone I had known in Chapel Hill (from the time I was born until I moved away when I was 40) as my friends, but I now realize many of them may think of me as little more as an ex-friend or former acquaintance. 


Charly Mann October 2013

Readers I spoke to who came to Chapel Hill as adults said they made few if any close and long-lasting friendships. A common reason was that they had experienced a series of relationships in which they felt they gave far more than they received. They recounted stories of spending time listening to and helping people who they thought were their friends during challenging times for them, only to be ignored or cast aside when they had similar problems. Many also felt people had misrepresented their true nature to gain benefit from their friendship with no intention of forming an authentic friendship. I heard at least a dozen stories about rejection, betrayal, and selfishness from people who were thought of as friends.

I have written articles in Chapel Hill Memories about more than one hundred current and former Chapel Hill friends and acquaintances I admire and really have no ill will for anyone. Five years ago several people who regularly read Chapel Hill Memories convinced me I should join Facebook to connect with even more former Chapel Hill acquaintances. Within three months I had 437 "friends" with Chapel Hill connections. The only problem was that just a small fraction of those were people I had any close relationship with when I lived in Chapel Hill. Going through hundreds of Facebook posts every week from people I hardly knew quickly became very uninteresting to me. If we had talked on the phone or exchanged letters to share common experiences it would have been different, but I soon simply eliminated about 80% of these people as Facebook friends. Even among most people I kept as friends on Facebook there are no real back and forth friendly conversations. Interestingly, most of my closest friends have never even joined Facebook. With them I continue to regularly exchange letters or long e-mails that are both enjoyable and emotionally fulfilling to write and receive. I believe human interaction should rejuvenate, reaffirm and replenish our souls and social media does not do this for me. Although Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter provide us with hundreds of connections, a recent study by the American Sociological Review found the average American has fewer close friends today than they did twenty five years ago. Few of the people I communicated with for this article who were Facebook users had a single close confidante outside their own family.

The last bit of preparation I did before writing this article was to call six people I had previously talked to over the years about Chapel Hill friendships and collect their most current thoughts on the subject. A female, now in her late thirties and living in New York City, told me she had lost contact with all her old friends because she had to focus on the stresses and time commitments of her marriage, children, and job. A male friend in his early 60s who is recently divorced told me his only friends now are co-workers who he rarely sees outside of work. Even though I remember him as one of the most socially active in Chapel Hill during the 70s and 80s, there is only one Chapel Hill friend he keeps up with, by way of an annual phone conversation that lasts about ten minutes. A current Chapel Hill resident, who has lived in Chapel Hill on and off all of her life, says there are several old friends she grew up with who she gets together with several times a year for a meal, movie, or cultural event but they no longer share anything personal or have deep discussions like they did when they were young. A buddy of mine from elementary school, who now lives in Durham, says he still has a handful of good friends in Chapel Hill, but all they do when they get together is watch sporting events and occasional movies. One of my ex-girlfriends who still lives in town has a couple of girlfriends who she has known for most of her life, but one moved to Florida about a decade ago, the other to Raleigh, and now she hardly sees either. She says it is her relationships at work at UNC Memorial Hospital that sustain her, but none of those people are really friends.

Finally I have a friend who is a psychiatrist who I talked to about this subject. He told me that even close friendships rarely last more than seven years. Most people become our friends not so much because we have a lot in common, but because of their proximity to us at the time we met and because they were fun to hang out with. Through his work with patients over many years, he has found that one of the main reasons we seek friendship is it provides an alternative to loneliness.  He says the happiest people he knew were those who married someone with whom they had a lot in common and became their best friend for life.

by Charly Mann

Please send your experiences and stories about Chapel Hill friendships to me at chmemories@gmail.com.

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Chapel Hill Friends, Lessons, and Adventures

I lived most of my life in Chapel Hill until I was 40. From my childhood through late adolescence my social life was exceptionally fluid as new friends came and went almost on a yearly basis. I seemed to always be changing and found it hard to remain compatible with anyone for very long. I had many good friends, but not a best friend by the conventional definition of someone who I felt secure sharing my deepest thoughts with, was non-judgmental, and would always be there to lift my spirits if needed. From an early age I thought of life as an adventure and I have been fortunate to share that journey in a literal sense with more than two dozen Chapel Hill friends. This article details trips and lessons I learned on them with seven of my favorite male travel companions. In a future article I will do the same for journeys with some of my most cherished Chapel Hill girlfriends.

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An Interview with Chapel Hill Memories' Charly Mann

On July 18th 2012 I traveled to Oklahoma to interview Charly Mann, the creator and primary author of Chapel Hill Memories, to get background material for a book I am writing about Chapel Hill. The following is transcript of that interview.

Kathy Brown: I’ve been reading your articles in Chapel Hill Memories for several years and wondered how you know so much about the place.

Charly Mann: Actually Kathy that’s a funny question to me. I have not lived in Chapel Hill for more than twenty years and I was simply searching the Internet in early 2008 looking for some history of the town and discovered there was very little to be found. To make a long story short I hired a programmer to build the Chapel Hill Memories website so that everyone who has ever lived in the town could contribute their recollections about the people, places, and events that they remembered. My plan was just to seed the site with a few stories that I thought a lot of Chapel Hillians would enjoy and then pretty much step away as many others would submit their recollections which my webmaster would post.

Unfortunately few others have contributed and I have become the de facto historian of the town.

Kathy: From the scope and depth of your articles it is apparent you know not only a lot about Chapel Hill from the years you lived there, but from the time it was founded.

Charly: Thanks Kathy. I learned a lot about the town when I was young from about a dozen mostly grey-haired citizens who were fascinating raconteurs who could go on for thirty minutes or more with a story from the past. Fortunately I started a journal when I was about nine and recorded a lot of these stories.

Kathy: Where did they spin their tales?

Charly: It seems like everywhere I went. From the barber shop, to the stores I hung out in, and especially from older friends of my parents who we would visit in the evening or have over to dinner.

Kathy: What inspired you to start a journal at such a young age?

Charly: Actually I think it had a lot to do with a learning disability I have called dyslexia. Back then, in the mid-1950s, the doctors and other specialists my parents took me to just could not figure out why I was having so much trouble reading, spelling, and pronouncing a lot of words. By the third grade I had lost interest in school and began using the time I should have been doing homework to write or draw in my journal. Usually I recorded conversations between my parents and their friends or some local merchant and one of their customers.

Kathy: That’s fascinating did you record many of the conversations and things you were doing with your friends as well?

Charly: Actually I did that very rarely. I think I intuitively knew I could learn more by listening to adults than other kids.

Kathy: Did you do much reading then?

Charly: No Kathy, not until I was about sixteen. My brain is wired very differently from a normal person’s. For me this means the left side and right side do not sync up very well and it took me until I was sixteen before I began to develop tricks that allowed me to read with decent comprehension. Writing and spelling are still very challenging to me.

Kathy: What are some of your tricks?

Charly: Well the one that saved me I did not learn until I was about to start the tenth grade. I also do not think I could have employed it anywhere but Chapel Hill at that time. It involved taking long strolls across the UNC campus and the woods below Gimghoul Castle on a daily basis where I would repeat over and over information from classroom lectures or important facts from my textbooks that I wrote down on 3x5 index cards. I never felt like I was studying in a conventional sense but instead was enjoying the wonders of nature and the beauty of the UNC campus. These walks usually lasted three to five hours, but when I finally got home I always felt mentally and physically invigorated. I also went from being a “D” and “C” student to straight “A”s, often in honors classes, for the rest of my educational career.

Kathy: One of things I envy about you is that you had a hometown to grow up in. I don’t feel like I had a "hometown" as I moved several times as a child, and only lived in Chapel Hill between the ages of 12 and 17.

Charly: I’m not sure you are missing out in the long run. After leaving Chapel Hill more than twenty years ago, I have lived in Florida, California, Texas, and now Oklahoma. I have a love and loyalty to all these places. My philosophy is that one should just enjoy the world around you wherever you are. Having a great life just requires making good choices.

Kathy: Do you miss living in Chapel Hill?

Charly: Chapel Hill is still a magnificent place, but it is no longer the beautiful friendly village I grew up in where you knew almost everyone in town and no one would dream of locking the door of their house or car. Much of what I see of today is characterless suburban sprawl. The Chapel Hill I grew up in for better and worse does not exist anymore.

Kathy: Do you keep up with many people from Chapel Hill?

Charly: Well first of all a lot of my family still live in Chapel Hill. I do also have old friends living in town or in surrounding communities, but the majority of my Chapel Hill friends left long ago and are scattered around the country. I actually see, write, and talk to many more of these ex-Chapel Hillians than those living there now. On the other hand, as a result of Chapel Hill Memories I do get a lot of e-mails from Chapel Hillians that I had not known, or was only casually acquainted with when I lived there.

Kathy: Do you get a lot of the information for your articles from these people?

Charly: Surprisingly very little. We live in a very discombobulating time. In the digital age everyone seems to be multitasking yet no one has the time to concentrate and write down a detailed recollection of a person, place, or event from their life in Chapel Hill. I do however get a lot of very short e-mails in which someone will mention a business, person, or event that was important to them and usually suggest that I should write an article about it. Interestingly a lot of those suggestions even encourage me to write about their parent or a business that was owned or managed by them or their family.

Kathy: From some things you said in your Chapel Hill Memories articles I surmise you are not too keen on technology and the Internet.

Charly: On the contrary. I am a technology junkie. My house and office are full of computers and I have a huge collection of music, movies, and photographs digitized to access through my many iPads and iPods. I also have a degree in computer programming and have taught programming for several years on the college level as well as owned and operated one computer hardware and two software companies.

What I am not excited about is socializing on the web. I do not believe Facebook, Twitter, or texting is a substitute for a physical life. Socialization to me means face-to-face contact and all of the body language and implicit information that come with it.

Kathy: Do you think Chapel Hill has changed much because of the Internet?

Charly: From my own experience, I think quite a lot. For example I joined Facebook to keep up with a lot of people in Chapel Hill. What I loved and remember most warmly about the place when I was living there was a community of passionate, creative, innovative, non-conformists. Today I think the Internet culture, most personified by Facebook, has turned that around. Whether one is 15 or 65 most Facebook members are always being confronted with the content of other friends and we quickly become aware what content gets the most Facebook “like”s. Social success on Facebook means having hundreds of friends, and many of our friends “liking” what we have posted. This in turn rewards conformity and mediocrity and penalizes those with iconoclastic interests or opinions. When you are looking at someone else's content—whether a video or a news story—you are able to see first how many people liked it and which of the friends you share liked it. This encourages us not to form our own opinion but to look to others for cues on how to feel.

Kathy: I wonder if you are just a bit jealous because it was almost impossible to have so many friends when you were growing up.

Charly: First I am quite skeptical that one can have more than half a dozen real friends. I confess that is all that I keep up with on a regular basis. By this I mean people who I at least weekly see for a meal or other activity, exchange a lengthy letter with, or have at least a half hour phone conversation with.

What worries me is that young people who should be developing themselves based on who they are on the inside are instead trying to conform from the like “stats” they can achieve. The result I think will be a steep decline in self-esteem, and an even heavier reliance than today on anti-depressants, alcohol, and other drugs.

Kathy: Does this bother you about the culture in general or are you speaking specifically about Chapel Hill?

Charly: I am sure this is pervasive in the modern world, but my concern is most for a town that for decades was well-known for being an incubator of great writers, songwriters, business innovators, and scientists simply because of the great diversity of people and ideas they were constantly exposed to. Today the people I come in contact with from Chapel Hill are much more monolithic and homogenous. This kind of culture squelches pioneers and rebels. The people I learned the most from were people who often rocked the community’s boat, eloquently spoke their own mind, and were not afraid to take risks. For example Chapel Hill always had a liberal tradition which I am proud to have been part of, but it was often in the minority or at least tempered by a sizeable conservative intelligentsia. Now, as far as I can see, that balance is gone.

Kathy: What other major changes have you seen in Chapel Hill in your lifetime?

Charly: The first one that comes to mind is the obsession with having the best college basketball team in the country every year. Carolina had the most amazing basketball season in its history in 1957 when I was a young boy going 32-0 and winning the NCAA championship against a basketball team far better than them, yet except for a few weeks of celebration, basketball passion did not overwhelm the community. I do not recall then a single store in town even selling a UNC basketball t-shirt of any kind

Today UNC basketball permeates the community and the only good season is one in which UNC beats Duke in all of its games as well as winning the NCAA championship. When I was growing up one was elated over any UNC victory in basketball, football, or baseball, and often there were more defeats than victories in a season. Today I have had several current Chapel Hill friends tell me it is not fun seeing, listening to, or going to a UNC game unless they win since that is always what is expected. In my day it was not national championship or bust it was simply did we play as good as we could. I often felt a great deal of joy when UNC held its own, but was eventually defeated by a better manned or coached team.

Kathy: Thanks for your time Charly.

Charly: I enjoyed talking to you.

Interview by Kathy Brown

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Chapel Hill Cowboys of the 1950s

by Charly Mann

Chapel Hill was once inhabited by a large number of cowboys. They were all very young men and women who had been mentored by Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Wild Bill Hickok, and Annie Oakley on Saturday mornings. They learned from their heroes to always be polite, and that it was their duty to protect the weak, as well as rid Chapel Hill of any outlaws and villains. As old fashioned as it may sound today, Chapel Hill's cowboys and cowgirls believed that families always stayed together, and that courteous and well-groomed people were almost always good.

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Chapel Hill Turkeys and a Saint

by Charly Mann

When I was a young boy in the 1950s I often spent delightful afternoons at the farm of the Reverend Clarence Parker located off Mt. Carmel Church Road not far from where it intersects with 15-501. Father Parker, as most people called him, was a retired Episcopal priest who was in his early 80s. He was the kindest and most gentle human being I have ever known. Surrounding his rustic house was a field that contained a number of large hickory and maple trees. Running free through this expanse was a large number of farm animals including chickens, goats, ducks, cows, and turkeys.

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Almost Everybody in Chapel Hill is a Star

by Charly Mann

In my mind, almost everyone I knew in Chapel Hill was a star. I have recently compiled brief bios on 223 people I knew in town who I not only admired but who also inspired me. I was fortunate to keep a fairly detailed diary from an early age, and used it as my primary source for these profiles. Over the decades most of these characters also made numerous appearances in the journals I wrote, which have helped me describe the personality and remarkable attributes of these individuals. I also had dozens of personal letters from many of these people that were often a better source than my diaries for capturing their spirit.

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A Chapel Hill Solution to the United States Debt Crisis

by Charly Mann

An amazing collection of political minds have lived in Chapel Hill including U.S. Presidents James K. Polk and Gerald Ford, as well as Robert Welch the founder of America’s most conservative organization, The John Birch Society, who was a gradate of the University of North Carolina and former U.S. senator John Edwards a leading advocate for liberals until his recent troubles. Now our country is in the midst of an acrimonious political debate on how to reduce our onerous national deficit and lift our debt ceiling. Since I resided in Chapel Hill longer than any of these men I figured my political genes must be as acute as theirs, and I figured I could come up with a solution to this crisis.

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Chapel Hill's Greatest Fathers

by Charly Mann

Chapel Hill was blessed with an abundance of great fathers in the 1950s. Somehow these men who had grown up in the Great Depression and most of whom were veterans of World War II were all kind, honest, decent, and selfless individuals. They all enjoyed their work, but loved their families even more. These guys were authority figures who did not often have to give instructions. Through their own actions you knew what was expected. They really did inspire by example. Besides my own wonderful Dad, I saw these characteristics in the fathers of many of my closest friends including, Henry Brandis, who was Dean of the Law School, Bob Cox, who was a downtown merchant, David McGowan, who was a pharmaceutical salesman and reminded me of Fred McMurray on My Three Sons, George Prillaman, who ran UNC Food Services such as Lenoir Hall and was the personification of cool, and Sandy McClamroch who was the Mayor of Chapel Hill for most of the 1960s and owned WCHL yet was as laid back as Ozzie Nelson in the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett. These men were great to be around and each left an indelible impression on me about how to be a responsible adult and father.

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UNC Chancellor Robert House - One of a Kind

By Bill Anthony UNC Class of 1965 (all photos provided by Charly Mann)

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Jenny McClamroch - Chapel Hill will miss you

Jenny McClamroch Crittenden, 62, died peacefully Monday, April 4, 2011 with her family by her side at home on Bald Eagle Lane, Wilmington, NC after an extended battle with Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

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Memories of a Chapel Hill Policeman

by Bob Jurgensen

In 1964, Chief Bill Blake, a rather robust man of probably no less than probably 450+ lbs, implemented a "cadet" program for teenagers interested in law enforcement careers. This program served as well to help youths struggling to find their identity in a very vibrant and eclectic Chapel Hill in those days. I don't recall the names of all the participants, but it included myself, Kemp Nye, Jr., Steve Sparrow and a few other high school kids.

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Chapel Hill Hitchhiking and the Meaning of Life

by Charly Mann

From 1962 to 1971 hitchhiking was my prime mode of getting to school and work. Ordinary people would stop and pick me up without a second thought for their personal safety. I usually began my journey about 7:00 AM near the intersection of 15-501 (Fordham Boulevard) and Morgan Creek Road, and my destination was usually somewhere in downtown Durham where I attended part of junior high and high school and subsequently managed a record store. My daily roundtrip was 60 miles and it usually required three rides in each direction to complete.

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Chapel Hill Reunions and Lost Friends

by Charly Mann

Almost everyone I know has gone to at least one of their high school reunions. If you are my age and have recently attended one of these events the first thing you noticed is how old everyone has become. You will also see that most of the men are balding and fat, and surprisingly most of the women are in good shape and still fairly attractive. Many of the men I have run into seem uncomfortable and have insipid conversations about sports, investments, and their careers, while the women for the most part are outgoing and talk about their families and current interests and usually ask me about mine.

While I always love to see or hear from old friends from my childhood and high school days, I wish there were a way we could have reunions with friends from each year of our adult lives. As we change careers, work our way up the corporate ladder, or move, we lose touch with so many wonderful people. I think that while the friends we had in high school and college were nice, the friends we make in the real world are usually more similar to us and therefore more interesting to reconnect with.

Harry Clements and Charly Mann
Me with "lost"  Chapel Hill friends. From left to right: Harry Clements, Charly Mann, and Lizanne Fisher from 1979. At the time Harry was the owner of the Paradise Records chain. Before that he had been CFO of the Record Bar. Today he is a partner in the Childress Kline commercial real estate development and management company. 

I often wonder why I have lost track of so many of the friends I made in the last 40 years. Was it that they all stopped liking me, or did I lose interest in them? It turns out that most of our "lost" friendships have nothing to do with this. Instead, they are the fallout of a natural limit uncovered by recent anthropologist research which found that human beings can only handle a maximum of 150 relationships at a time. Beyond that number, the critical neocortex part of our brain begins to malfunction. As a , we naturally drop some old friends as new ones come into our lives.

I would like to pay tribute to a handful of my former Chapel Hill friends who were purged from my friendship database.

Lizanne Fisher real estate agent
A smiling Lizanne Fisher making her dinner at my house in the summer of 1979

Lizanne Fisher was a real estate agent for J.P. Goforth in Chapel Hill in 1979. I had a large house off Whitfield Road at that time and a mutual friend, Harry Clements, told me what a fascinating person Lizanne was and that she needed a place to stay. I let her have a room which I believe was rent free. In return I had the pleasure of befriending one of the most ebullient and delightful people I have ever known. She later left Chapel Hill and became a highly successful real estate agent in Washington, D.C.

Betsy Moore Woodberry Forest
Betsy Moore and her always present smile in my den in Chapel Hill in 1985

Betsy Moore and I were good buddies for more than five years in the 1980s. She would often come over to my house where we would play tennis, and I would regularly watch her favorite show, Cheers, with her at her apartment on Thursday evening. We also had lunch together on a regular basis and sometimes went on day-long driving trips to places like Southern Pines and Pinehurst. Betsy was the sweetest person I ever knew and also the cutest. The last I heard she had become a pastry chef and moved to Virginia.

Christi Owens
Christi Owens of Chapel Hill in 1983 at 18 years old

After working more than a decade in the music and video business I decided to try teaching and got a programming degree and was hired as a Professor of Computer Programming at Durham Technical College in 1982. I loved being a teacher, and many of my favorite students were also from Chapel Hill including Christi Owens. Christi came from an illustrious Chapel Hill family. Her father developed Estes Hills and other neighborhoods in town, and her mother, Patsy, and her friend Anna Darden ran an avant-garde upscale women's clothing store between Chapel Hill and Durham. They lived in a large house on Rosemary Street near where it intersects with Boundary.

Dorothy's Red Slippers
Christi loved The Wizard of Oz, and I had a friend of mine make a chocolate red slipper birthday cake for her in 1984

Christi was the first student to give me an apple, and we soon became good friends. She often came over to my house after school where at 3 p.m. she would religiously watch her favorite show, General Hospital, then featuring the wedding of Luke and Laura as well as staring a young and beautiful Demi Moore. Christi was passionate about The Police and Every Breath You Take seemed to often be playing when we were together.

Charly Mann and Lori Stephens
Lori Stephens and Charly Mann at Temptatons Bakery in Durham in 1982. They were located across from Brightleaf Square and had the best chocolate truffles in America. 

Lori Stephens was an enormous ball of energy with a fondness for the outrageous. Her father was a gynecologist in Durham, and she grew up in Hope Valley. In 1978 and 79 I was dating her best friend, Laura Kreps (who grew up on Oakwood Drive in Chapel Hill and whose mother was then Secretary of Commerce in the Carter administration). Lori and I became good friends and she stayed in one of the rooms in my house for awhile. She and I had several wonderful trips together; one to Southern California, and another to New York City. On our return flight from our New York trip Lori may have had a little too much to drink. In those days rolling stairs were brought up to an airplane when it landed at Raleigh-Durham Airport. My tipsy friend fell from the top of the stairs all the way to the ground, but was so relaxed at the time that she got up laughing and without a bruise.

Angela Cason
Angela Cason in Chapel Hill shortly after graduating from Yale

Angela Cason moved to Chapel Hill in 1984 after graduating from Yale with a degree in English to work for her sister Lee White's advertising and design company. Angela was an extremely brilliant and curious person, and after just a few hours of conversation could penetrate into the soul of another person. She gave me a copy of her favorite book, The Phantom Tollbooth, that I still occasionally read sections from. A few of my favorite passages from it are: "So many things are possible just as long as you don't know they're impossible," and "What you can do is often simply a matter of what you will do."

Angela is today the CEO and President of Cason Nightingale, an advertising and marketing company located in New York City.

I am fortunate to have a marvelously eclectic collection of former Chapel Hill friends – some were artists, some business people, several were lawyers and doctors, many were musicians, two were philosophers, and quite a few were bohemians, yet each was an individual with a warm heart and a gentle spirit.

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Jim Heavner inducted into Chapel Hill Hall Of Fame

by Charly Mann 

Jim Heavner more than any other person created the character and spirit of modern Chapel Hill through his relentless drive of promoting the town and elevating UNC football and basketball to national prominence through his conglomeration of media companies including WCHL, The Tar Heel Sports Network, and The Village Advocate.

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Living Happily Ever After in Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

When I was eleven I read the fairytale Hansel and Gretel to my 5 year old sister Monika, and became enchanted by how the story ended with the two youngsters living happily ever. For some reason this impacted me enough to write down in a notebook that I wanted to have a life like Hansel and Gretel's. Over the course of the next several weeks I began asking several friends of my parents how one could live happily ever after, and added their words of wisdom to my notebook. My father noted what I was doing, and said if I kept this up I might become another Thomas Wolfe. I had never heard of this person, but was sure my Dad meant it as a compliment.

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Sid Rancer - Chapel Hill's Iron Man

by Charly Mann 

Sid Rancer was Chapel Hill's steel man. He was also once a member of the Chapel Hill's city council. Sid's first love outside of his family was acting and he was in countless theatrical productions in town, and even played supporting roles in several cult films. I only recall meeting Sid once, and that was when I was eight years old in 1958. I rode my bike across town to visit his home on Bradley Street off Barkley Road to look at a used bicycle basket he had for sale. I am not sure if I bought the basket, but I do remember being impressed with his sales enthusiasm.

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Betty Smith's House and Life in Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

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Ric Carter - Chapel Hill's Music Photographer

Ric Carter was Chapel Hill's best counterculture photographer in the 1970s. He came to Chapel Hill from Gates County in 1967 as a 17 year old freshman, and got his first serious camera in 1969, a Yaschica Mat twin-lens reflex. As a student at UNC he learned to develop his own film, and was soon combining his love for music with his passion for photography to document the bands and concerts in the area.

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A Chapel Hill Tribute to Art Linkletter

by Charly Mann

Today, May 26 2010, Art Linkletter, one of the kindest and most gracious individuals I ever met died at 97. In 1957, at the age of seven, I was fortunate enough to be one of the children he talked to on his very popular CBS television show, Art Linkletter's House Party.

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Chapel Hill Memories Really Needs Your Help

by Charly Mann 

I would like some help with Chapel Hill Memories. From what I understand the population of the United States is 307 million. Of that number 118 million are over 60 and I doubt if they have the energy to write articles about Chapel Hill. That leaves 193 million Americans who can help, however 120 million of those are under the age of 20 and thus do not have the time or experience for this endeavor. That still gives me a pool of 69 million to choose from. Unfortunately 59 million Americans are employed by the government – local, state, or federal, and we all know people who work for the government feel they are already doing their community service with their jobs. So my pool of potential contributors is down to 10 million, but there are also 7 million U.S. citizens serving in the armed forces and these men and women are just too busy protecting our country to help. That leaves only 3 million of you to help. Unfortunately there are one million Americans who are patients in hospitals or committed to mental institutions and they are of no use to me. Finally, there are 1,999,998 Americans serving time in prison, so that leaves just you and me, and I really could use your help writing about the people, places, and events of Chapel Hill's past.

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Billy Arthur - Chapel Hill's Hall of Fame first inductee

by Charly Mann 

Chapel Hill Memories is establishing the Chapel Hill Hall of Fame to memorialize citizens who have made a significant impact to our community. The first inductee is Billy Arthur who did more than any other person in our town's history to make us laugh, help us play, and appreciate our heritage.

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Kay Kyser Inducted Into the Chapel Hill Hall of Fame

by Charly Mann

It is impossible to find a single adjective to describe the extraordinary contribution Kay Kyser bestowed on Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina, and the state of North Carolina. He was an exceptional human being who excelled as an entertainer and a humanitarian. He was one of the biggest stars of all time, yet walked away from fame and fortune at his peak in 1951 to live in a dilapidated house in Chapel Hill. The rest of his life he dedicated to making the town and the world a better place. Among his work was the establishment of two of Chapel Hill's most important institutions, UNC Memorial Hospital and UNC Public Television.

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Maynard Adams - The Philosopher Of Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

While Chapel Hill is proud of the athletic glory of past UNC sporting teams, famed musicians who once called the town home, and its magnificent setting and beauty, it is the large number of great minds that have inhabited the town that make it so extraordinary. While these individuals have not received the wide spread adulation and celebrity status of other residents, Chapel Hill Memories will try to rectify this oversight by occasionally profiling some of these people.

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The Great Mothers of Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

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Horace Williams The Gadfly Of Chapel Hill

 by Charly Mann

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Erwin Danziger brings UNC into the Computer Age

 by Charly Mann

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The Strowd Family

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Dr. Isaac "Ike" Taylor - UNC Medical School Dean 1964 - 1971

by Charly Mann

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Bruce Strowd and the Strowds of Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

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Where Are They Now? Kat McKay

by Charly Mann

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Roland Giduz - The Oracle Of Chapel Hill

by Stanley Peele

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Harold McCurdy - The Polymath of Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

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Charly Mann in the Greatest Show On Earth

Old or young we all enjoy the circus. One hundred years ago circus wagons drawn by teams of horses were a yearly sight on Franklin Street, signaling that the circus was coming to Chapel Hill. Fifty years later, William Meade Prince and Carl Boettcher created the Circus Parade carvings that were originally placed in the Circus Room snack bar on the UNC campus to commemorate this event. These exquisite carvings now adorn a hallway in the alumni center on the north side of Kenan Stadium.

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Judge Luther James Phipps

by Stanley Peele

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Ora Kluttz and Life at the Kluttz's Boarding House

by Charly Mann

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Papa Danziger and the Man who saved the Rathskeller

by Dan "Arthur" Gifford

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The Rise and Fall of Chapel Hill's J.P. Goforth

by Charly Mann

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Chapel Hill has the Most Beautiful Women in the World

by Charly Mann

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William Robert Mann - UNC Math Professor (1920 - 2006)

by Dr Harold Kushner

I first met Professor Mann in the fall of 1958 when he walked into my math 15A classroom in Phillips Hall. He was dressed in a tan gabardine double breasted suit fashionable in the 1930's, a white shirt with the collar buttoned and no tie. His hair was reddish brown, abundant and unruly, and he was thin, but full cheeked with ruddy complexion. He looked like a young English vicar but he could have been a student, for in those days there were lots of older students implementing their GI bills. He was 38 and the youngest full Professor on the faculty.


Painting of former UNC Mathematics Professor Robert Mann by his grandaughter Kathryn Mann

But, he assumed his position in the front of the class and began teaching immediately with great authority. He spoke in fluent and eloquent paragraphs with exquisitely precise language, but pronounced in soft southern syllables. About five minutes into his presentation, a young male student asked no one in particular who he was. He stopped, and said, "I'm sorry, my name is Bob Mann." And wrote "Robert Mann" on the blackboard.

That began my 48-year relationship with Professor Robert Mann. I took six courses from Professor Mann and when it was time to apply for medical school, I went by his office and asked him if he would write me a letter of recommendation. He was standing in the office smoking a cigar and blowing the smoke into a cigar box which had holes cut into it, and the holes were covered with Saran wrap. He explained that he was investigating the mathematical description of exhaust gases from rockets in the then very nascent space program. When I asked him if he would write a letter for me, he responded with great alacrity: "of course." And he stopped what he was doing, picked up a lead pencil and a yellow legal pad and proceded to write the most beautiful and persuasive letter a prospective med school applicant could ever have. He tore the page from the pad, and handed it to me and said to use it as I saw fit.

His knowledge was encyclopedic; his brilliance was luminous. He formulated the Mann Iteration for fixed point analysis, wrote an advanced calculus textbook which was the standard college text for many years, and he taught with such passion and inspiration that it was a wonderful gift to be in his presence. I used to sit with him at Emerson Field and watch baseball games just for more exposure to his wisdom and judgment.


"Bob" Mann in his office on the third floor of Phillips Hall at UNC Chapel Hill where he enjoyed nothing more than helping his students

Once after a particularly trying and rigorous exam period, I showed up at his office, unkempt, bleary eyed and unshaven, dressed in raggedy Bermuda shorts and a tee shirt (and this was in the days when boys dressed in khakis and oxford blue shirts from Milton's) to see what my grade was. He gave me the news, and then asked if I would like to accompany him to Danziger's Tea Room to have lunch with Mrs. Mann and him. I demurred because of my appearance; but he was completely oblivious to my inappropriate dress. It was unimportant to him. He saw through the superficial.... straight to the heart of a person or a problem.

I recall that we had an earnest student in the class named Mendenhall. He asked Dr Mann a question one day, and Professor responded with great patience; "As usual, Mr. Mendenhall, your problem lies with the ambiguity to the antecedent of the relative pronoun." And he advised me on several occasions, even into the 90's, to attempt to avoid pronouns in my discourse if possible. He was a very strict prescriptive grammarian. Once a student asked for his help on a problem, and Dr Mann asked him where he was going with a step. The student said, I really don't know where I'm going. "In that case," Dr Mann said, "you should read Alice in Wonderland." When the student looked perplexed, Dr Mann reminded him of the Cheshire Cat's admonition to Alice: "if you don't care where you are going, it doesn't matter which direction you take", and he reminded us that Lewis Carroll taught Math at Cambridge.

Once, he asked me to baby-sit for him when he lived in the house on Old Mill Road in Greenwood, before he moved to Whitehead Circle. I agreed, and we went out in the parking lot to drive over to his home in his car. We must have spent 30 minutes looking for his car, before he remembered that he didn't bring his car that day, and had been dropped off.

I left Chapel Hill in 1961 and wrote him erratically. Then in 1980, my daughter came to Chapel Hill and took one of his classes. He was already family folklore. So when I went up to visit her, she arranged for us to have lunch together, and we resumed our friendship. He came to see me each year for 8 or ten years, and I would come to visit him in the house on Whitehead Circle, and met his friends. He loved to dance, and play tennis with much guile and wickedness, and read philosophy and study theology, and fight against what he thought were the destructive currents of academia. When he came to see me, he enjoyed walking on the beach, the conviviality of a good meal and wine with friends, and he even went to surgery and watched me operate. He never lost his sense of wonder or his love of learning. I have long since forgotten the math that he taught me. But he taught all of his students to think clearly, objectively, and logically, and to communicate with precision and exactitude. I often recall his lessons when I have a difficult problem to solve, and think how he would approach it. In a man's life, perhaps one has two or three teachers who have been profound influences on his direction and maturation. I can say one person stands head and shoulders above the rest, as the prime mentor of my life, save my own father. My relationship with Professor Mann shaped and enhanced my life as it did to countless others, and we have been made so very much richer by the association. I am deeply grateful to him for all that he gave me. 
 

William Robert Mann congratulates the first black undergraduate students admitted to the University of North Carolina 9-15-1955
Professor William Robert Mann congratulates the first three black undergraduate students to be admitted to the University of North Carolina on September 15, 1955. He is shaking hands with Leroy Frasier. His brother Ralph Frasier is on the right and on the left is John T. Brandon.

At this time there was strong resistance in Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina to admit black students. Robert Mann was the only professor to formally greet the students. A few years later, in 1957, a leading member of the UNC medical faculty, Dr. W. C. George, wrote a four piece article entitled The Negro Race is Biologically Inferior for the Daily Tar Heel that argued against ever integrating the races. Even then, few on the campus or the community took issue with this belief.

The W. Robert Mann Award is given each year for excellence in actuarial science. Plaques bearing the names of winners are located in the undergraduate study room in Hanes Hall.

In 1967 Professor Mann received the Tanner Outstanding Teacher Award from the University of North Carolina.


W. Robert Mann Fund

This is a fund of the Curriculum in Mathematical Sciences that honors the outstanding undergraduate teacher who retired in 1986 after a 37-year career at UNC-CH. The fund enriches the educational experience for students in the curriculum by providing career information, support for technology, and possibilities for interaction for students in that program.

Contributions to this fund can be sent to:
     Ms. Rhonda Inman
     Department of Mathematics, CB #3250
     Phillips Hall
     University of North Carolina
     Chapel Hill, NC 27599

You can also contribute through the UNC Development Office by mailing a check made out to:
     UNC-Chapel Hill to Office of University Development
     Post Office Box 309
     Chapel Hill, NC 27514-0309
and designating that it go to the Department of Mathematics. You can contribute online through the web site carolinafirst.unc.edu
 

Final words from Amanda (a college professor and artificial intelligence researcher)

While it's not as exciting as my friend who managed to buy a many-hundred-dollar-valued autographed book for a couple of bucks recently, I had what I think was a very cool used book experience yesterday. I spotted a copy of Penrose's The Emperor's New Mind on the $1 rack outside the local used book store, which I've been curious to skim. Well, it was on the cheap rack because there are notes scattered through the margins of the book, but they're tidy notes, so I decided to buy it anyway. However, on closer examination, the book was labelled as having belonged to a "W. Robert Mann", which any math major will immediately identify as the name of one of the authors of Advanced Calculus the classic . Granted, it's plausible that multiple people would share this name, but the previous owner was also kind enough to note that the book was purchased at McIntyre's Book Shop, which is in Pittsboro, NC, not far from UNC, where Dr. Mann is listed as a professor emeriti. And the comments clearly come from someone fluent in mathematics. So, I am going to chose to believe that I'll be reading the criticisms of the man whose textbook introduced me to advanced mathematics. His very first note reads:

One of the seductive fascinations of mathematics is that every subject turns out, in the long run, to be merely a small part of something else.
William Robert Mann

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Andy Griffith, Chapel Hill, UNC, and Football

by Charly Mann

Chapel Hill was the launching pad for the man responsible for the most beloved television show of all time, The Andy Griffith Show. Andy Griffith learned acting, singing, and acting here, and it was his attendance at UNC football games at Kenan Stadium that inspired the vehicle that made him a star.

Andy Griffith, What it Was Was Football 45, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Cover of the extended play (EP) 45 of What it Was, Was Football 1953

Andy Griffith graduated from UNC in 1949 with bachelor’s degree in music. He was president of the UNC Glee Club, a member of the Carolina Playmakers and belonged to Phi Mu Alpha, the music fraternity. In 1952  while he was driving from Chapel Hill to Raleigh he created the hilarious spoof of college football he entitled What it Was, Was Football. In the monologue Griffith takes on the persona of a country bumpkin named Deacon Andy Griffith who is swept up by a crowd ascending the wooded hills surrounding Kenan Stadium and finds himself attending an event he will never forget. He recalls seeing opposing crowds on two sides of a cow pasture watching men hit each other and throwing others to the ground as they try to get control of something that resembles a pumpkin. He was appalled to see convicts in striped shirts following the men up and down the pasture, and police standing all around the stadium doing nothing to stop the mayhem.

Andy Griffith at Kenan Stadium Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Andy Griffith in Chapel Hill at Kenan Stadium performing  What it Was, Was Football, Fall of 1954

The routine was recorded at a Jefferson-Pilot insurance convention in Greensboro in 1952. Orville Campbell the incredible owner of the Chapel Hill Weekly released the record on his new label Colonial Records, which would go on to rival Sun Records as an incubator for great artists including George Hamilton IV, Billy “CrashCraddock, and John D. Loudermilk. The record was soon so popular that the rights were sold to Capital Records where it went on to sell more than one million copies. The attention Griffith received from this record vaulted him into the national spotlight and gave him opportunities to show his acting talents in movies like A Face In the Crowd and No Time For Sergeants, and eventually The Andy Griffith Show.

Andy Griffith, What It Was Was Football, Mad Magazine, Chapel Hill, NC
MAD MAGAZINE's illustrated version of Andy Griffith's What It Was, Was Football

Griffith has stayed close to Chapel Hill and his alma mater throughout his career. He recently gave UNC’s Wilson Library his papers, letters, and memorabilia including his own penciled and marked-up scripts of every Andy Griffith Show episode, as well as those from Matlock. I think his best gift to Chapel Hill though was a time on the Andy Griffith Show in which he told his “son” Opie that if he wanted to go to the University of North Carolina he would have to study hard.

Charlie
1949 Game that may well have inspired What it Was, Was Football. That is 69, Bob Cox, leading the blockers for the great Charle "Choo-Choo" Justice ,22, against William and Mary in Kenan Stadium. 

Aeriel View Kenan Stadium, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
This is the forest surrounding Kenan Stadium Andy Griffith would have seen in his UNC years 

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Thomas Wolfe - UNC's Certified Genius

by Charly Mann

Thomas Wolfe, one of the greatest writers of all time, entered the University of North Carolina at the age of 15 in September of 1916. When he was a senior he was editor of the Daily Tar Heel. During his college years he was also an editor of the Yackety Yack and a member of the Playmakers. Like many other UNC students, at the time, he often paid for the services of prostitutes in Durham brothels.

Thomas Wolfe 1918 Debater and Orator for UNC Dialectic Society

Thomas Wolfe College Student at University of North Carolina

Thomas Wolfe (center) on the porch of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity 1919

Wolfe loved Chapel Hill more than any place on earth, and shortly before graduating in June of 1920 wrote his girlfriend in Asheville the following: I hate to leave this place. It’s mighty hard. It’s the oldest of the state universities and there’s an atmosphere here that’s fine and good. Other universities have larger student bodies and bigger and finer buildings, but in Spring there are none, I know, so wonderful by half. I saw Carolina graduates when I was home for Christmas who were doing graduate work at Yale, Harvard, and Columbia. It would seem that they would forget the old brown buildings in more splendid surroundings, but it was always the same reply: “There’s no place on earth that can equal Carolina.” That’s why I hate to leave this big fine place. (May 17, 1920)

UNC campus 1919 when Thomas Wolfe was a senior

UNC Campus, Old Well, South Building, Chapel Hill 1916

UNC campus 1916 when Thomas Wolfe was a freshman

Thomas Wolfe’s honors and activities at UNC, listed here from the 1920 Yackety Yack, far exceeded those of everyone else in his graduating class. Note it is said, “He can do more between 8:25 and 8:30 than the rest of us can do all day, and it is no wonder that he is classified as a genius.”

 

Thomas Wolfe's  UNC senior yearbook photo and accomplishment list. (Note the reference to Gooch's where Wolfe would often eat his meals late in the evening - see previous article.)

Thomas Wolfe, University of North Carolina Diploma

Thomas Wolfe's dipolma from UNC, June 1920 

Wolfe is most famous for four lyrically eloquent autobiographical novels. The first, Look Homeward, Angel was published in 1929. The second, Of Time and River was published in 1935. His last two great novels, The Web and the Rock and, You Can't Go Home Again, were published after his death. Wolfe came down with a highly unusual case of pneumonia in September of 1938. He was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore where it was finally determined he had tuberculosis in his brain. The best brain surgeon in the country operated on him, but found the entire right side of Wolfe's brain was covered with tubercles. Nothing could be done, and he died at age 37 on September 15, 1938. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery, Asheville.
 

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The Harry Macklin Family of Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

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Cat Baby - The Heart and Soul Of Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

In the 1950s and 1960s Chapel Hill High School was located on West Franklin Street, but played its home football games in Carrboro in Lion’s Park located on Fidelity Street. I cannot recall that the team was ever known for its offensive dominance or overpowering defense, but it had something no other team in the country had that made all the difference, George Cannada, better known as Cat Baby, who always enthusiasticly led the Wildcats onto the field.

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The Man Who Made the Southern Part of Heaven

by Charly Mann

There are many reasons I love Chapel Hill, but the primary reason is its beauty. Much of what we consider beautiful about Chapel Hill is because of one man, William Chambers Coker. He came to UNC in 1902 to teach biology, but his love for natural beauty, and his wise decision to marry the then President of the University's daughter, Louise Venable, gave him the eye and the power to transform a rather bland campus into the southern part of heaven. At the beginning of the 20th century there were few trees, shrubs, or paths on the campus, and more than five acres of it were nothing but swamp.

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Joe Hakan - The Man Who Built Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

Dean Smith Center

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Bite Sized Facts Link



Chapel Hill is located on a hill whose only distinguishing feature in the 18th century was a small chapel on top called New Hope Chapel. This church was built in 1752 and is currently the location of The Carolina Inn. The town was founded in 1819, and chartered in 1851.

 

 

What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. or the crisp October nights. No, our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.

-- Charles Kuralt

 

 

Dark Side of the Hill -- Pink Floyd, the creators of the most popular album in history, Dark Side of the Moon, took the second half of their name from Floyd Council, a Chapel Hill native, and great blues singer and guitarist. He once belonged to a group called "The Chapel Hillbillies".

 

 

Check out Charly Mann's other website:
Oklahoma Birds and Butterflies

http://oklahomabirdsandbutterflies.com

 



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There would probably be no Chapel Hill if the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees in 1793 had not chosen land across from New Hope Chapel for the location of the university. By 1800 there were about 100 people living in thirty houses surrounding the campus.

 

 

The University North Carolina's first student was Hinton James, who enrolled in February, 1795. There is now a dormitory on the campus named in his honor.

 

 

 

 

The University of North Carolina was closed from 1870 to 1875 because of lack of state funding.

 

 

 

 

William Ackland left his art collection and $1.25 million to Duke University in 1940 on the condition that he would be buried in the art museum that the University was to build with his bequest. Duke rejected this condition even though members of the Duke Family are buried in Duke Chapel. What followed was a long and acrimonious legal battle between Ackland relatives who now wanted the inheritance, Rollins College, and the University of North Carolina, each attempting to receive the funds. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and in 1949 UNC was awarded the money for the museum. Ackland is buried near the museum's entrance. When the museum first opened, in the early sixties, there were rumors that his remains were leaking out of the mausoleum.

 

 

The official name of the Arboretum on the University of North Carolina campus is the Coker Arboretum. It is named after Dr. William Cocker, the University's first botany professor. It occupies a little more than five acres. It was founded in 1903.

 

 

Chapel Hill's main street has always been called Franklin Street. It was named after Benjamin Franklin in the early 1790s.

 

 



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Chapel Hill High School and Chapel Hill Junior High were on Franklin Street in the same location as University Square until the mid 1960s.

 

 

The Colonial Drug Store at 450 West Franklin Street was owned and operated by John Carswell. It was famous for a fresh-squeezed carbonated orange beverage called a "Big O". In the early 1970s, I managed the Record and Tape Center next door, and must have had over 100 of those drinks. The Colonial Drug Store closed in 1996.

 

 

Sutton's Drugstore, which opened in 1923, has one of the last soda fountains in the South. It is one of the few businesses remaining on Franklin Street that was in operation when I was growing up in the 1950s.

 

 

Future President Gerald Ford lived in Chapel Hill twice. First when he was 24, in 1938, he took a law couse in summer school at UNC. He lived in the Carr Building, which was a law school dormitory. At the same time, Richard Nixon, the man he served under as Vice President, was attending law school at Duke. In 1942, Ford returned to Chapel Hill to attend the U.S. Navy's Pre-Flight School training program. He lived in a rental house on Hidden Hills Drive.

 

 

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