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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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Comments:

Greg Diltz      10:30 PM Sun 1/15/2012

Hello, Bob. I was in CH the same four years you were an officer. One year in Morrison, one at Granville Towers and then lived on Homestead Road...Pines ? Trailer park. From 71-73, I worked for Larry Trollinger at Ken's, on the back side of Univ Square. I visited CH last spring and stopped to see Larry with his wife at the store...wow! For awhile around 72-73, I was hired to watch over Univ Square parking, etc. Think I was a bit of a wanna-be, as I had a uniform shirt and radios, lights on my 63 brown Chevrolet impala wagon! One Sunday night, I was returning from taking a weekend date home to Charlotte. I was driving down 86 ? From the north, and see a car driving slowly along the shoulder. A woman is running in front of it and waves me down, as I go around the car. She opens the door, jumps in, and say, "go,goo...he'll kill BOTH of us! Drove into town at 70, with the guy behind us...blew the two lights and finally pulled into the back of the station atRosemary. Ran inside yelling for help. Officers went outside and cruisers arrived to find the guy in his car in a parking lot across the street..with a gun. Haven't picked up a hitchhiker since!! I also knew a guy who was the first ? Dog catcher...ex-military...Gus? He dated a girl from the bank at univ square..a friend of Joan Casey..another teller I knew from taking deposits in for businesses in the square. Working at Ken's, the only guy I ever had troublevwith was a "Farrington". Great memories of my years at CH....
 

Bob Jurgensen      10:34 AM Sun 10/30/2011

Hi Javier,

It would seem some things never change - politics is one of those things in CH that basically follows a true line of dealing with very wealthy and influential parents, former students and sometimes larger than life people in high places vs the more typical balanced community. CH is a lot of things but balanced community it is not.

I lived there for most of the first 25 years of my life, walked the streets, went to the local schools and worked several jobs, including the PD, knew the powerful and the not so powerful "influential" people (my mother was the society editor at the CH News paper for some 30+ years and wrote a local column) - all in all, it was probably a more progressive and enlightening community than most NC towns, that is for certain. BUT the downside was CH is a bit of an paradise island in an ocean of desert (outside the major metropolitan areas, at least). Almost all Tarheels have one thing in common - we love NC (and BBQ!) - I live in VA now (for 38 years now) and long for any opportunity to move back to someplace quiet and simple - a Mayberry like area, similar to CH but without all the influence peddling and ups and downs of a transient community.

I enjoyed reading your comments and can appreciate your similarities from the 70's to the late 90's. Doesn't surprise me one bit. Where are you an attorney? NC?

Bob
 

Javier Soto      11:13 PM Sat 10/29/2011

Hi Bob, I was a Chapel Hill Police Officer from January 1999 to April of 2002. Its a bit funny how your stories almost match my own and where in completely different time frames. I joined the CHPD when I ETSed out of the Army from Ft. Bragg. Went to the academy at Chapel HIll and graduated in April 1999. Hit the streets with my FTO and was assigned to be uptown in district 1. Had the same run ins in Big Frat Court, Up and down franklin and rosemary and the west end that was full of drug users. Had to deal with the politics and a public that didnt seem to appreciate us. But we had some good officers and very professional. I was trained by Donny Rhodes and rode some bikes uptown. Had the pleasure of patroling with the new Chief Chris Blue. Saw the change of the guard when we got there seeing Sgt. Riddle and other Lts and CPts retire and new guys come up. Will never forget my time at CHPD. I left to go to school and became a lawyer.... never went back and sometimes i wish i did.
 

Bob Jurgensen      3:27 PM Thu 8/25/2011

Rick,

I don't recall you or Andy Jeter, but I do know all those other names... and I have in fact reconnected with Steve Sparrow recently... honestly I did not mean in any way to demean Lt King - it was indeed a very difficult job doing all those things relegated to the dispatch desk and that was why I was initially assigned to work with Lt King, to assist him and learn his job. I ultimately earned his respect and thus was given more responsibility. Being 16 or 17 at the time, he seemed to me to be "well past retirement" as I recall him being in his 60's at that time, but perhaps I was wrong. I didn't know or recall he had broken his neck 20 years prior either, so that explains a lot. I very much enjoyed working with Lt King in fact and meant no disrespect to his roll at CHPD.

If any of my other recollections are puzzling, I apologize, but those are my memories and/or perceptions of that time, some 45 years later. There was a great deal of politics back then, especially when I came back as a patrol officer are 4 years in the Coast Guard... and I just did care for how things were handled (for example "unarresting Board of Alderman DUI's" and a rich college kid who's dad was the CEO of a major NC Bank, let off of a drug charge without so much as a trial - those kinds of things drove me to leave.)

Remind me of any of our interactions, so perhaps I can recall you and/or Andy.

Bob
 

Rick Smith      1:43 PM Thu 8/25/2011

I was one of those Police Cadets of which Bob Jurgensen wrote. They were Kemp Nye Jr., Steve "Heavy" Sparrow, Gerald Ambrosio, Andy Jeter and Tommy Yeager. I knew Bob and being there at the same time, I'm puzzled as to his descriptions and recollection of the Department at that time. The Cadet Program was the brain child of W.D. Blake, Coy Durham, Amos Horne, Jimmy Farrell and George Penny. I worked many hours with Lt. Ed King and never experienced any problems. Ed was not passed retirement/usefulness, he was assigned the desk/radio because he broke his neck 20 years before in a patrol car. Due to the injury he was unable to be 100% in the field.
Working the desk was not a simple matter of dispatching radio calls. Desk officer answered 4 telephone lines,took reports from walk-in traffic and over the phone. He managed 4 radio frequencies, also intercity radio,statewide, and NC Highway Patrol. The desk officer controlled the jail, monitored the prisoners and was responsible for feeding them 3 times a day. Meals were take-out boxes from Leo's Restaurant on W. Franklin St. This was before there was a magistrate, so the desk officer wrote and issued warrants, set and received cash bonds for prisoner release. All monies were kept in a small metal box under the desk typewriter. Of course all reports were typed on a key Smith-Corona 1940's typewriter. Will continue this writing at a another time.
One person was responsible for all this activity inside the police station, 100 W. Rosemary st. for an 8 hour shift, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
 

Daughter of CHPD officer      10:19 AM Tue 3/22/2011

My father was a police officer in Chapel in the 1950s and 60s and often recounted shameful examples of how the town’s elite escaped justice. Families of academic, professional, and most central downtown merchants enjoyed legal advantages that working class families did not have. While Chapel Hill has made great strides in combating racism and homophobia in my lifetime, I am continually astounded by the town’s elite’s prejudice against the white working class in town.  While I rarely hear racial slurs anymore, I constantly hear disparaging remarks about those in town that are not politically correct and dare to hold conservative views.

My Dad told me the Rinaldi murder case in the 1960s was an example of both the classism and racism in Chapel Hill. Apparently the evidence in the case was overwhelming, but the academic elites could not accept that one of their own, Rinaldi (I believe he was a graduate student instructor in English), had killed his wife. As I was told his wife was from a working class background and her father was a policeman.  Rinaldi had money, the best lawyers in North Carolina, and leading UNC professors and administrators on his side. Because of racism and classism several of the most compelling witnesses against Rinaldi were either not believed or refused to testify fearing for their livelihoods. 
 

Bob Jurgensen      8:03 PM Mon 3/21/2011

No, I would say that sounds a lot like Chief Blake - he was very big on being seen and talking to the public - hence the street beat he implemented in the early '70's - most officers hated walking Franklin St for 4-6 hours, or longer - interacting with, more often than not, the drug culture, those that supported it and sometimes hostile youth who would push every button you had. Most of the officers I knew were honest and diligent, loyal to the letter of the law - it was the political favors, those things that were not so tangible or easily traced, that the department often wallowed in - which, to be fair, is and likely always will be a problem in most departments, everywhere, to this day.
 

Chris Norwood      6:47 PM Mon 3/21/2011

I seem to recall that a former Chapel Hill police chief told his officers; “I don’t care how many tickets you write. I don't care how many arrests you make. I don't even care how many traffic stops you make, just get out there and talk to people and make yourself seen. That is what people want and that is what makes those who consider doing misdeeds consider otherwise.” Does that sound Bill Blake or was that someone else? I have had a lot of experience with the Chapel Hill police department, and it seems to me that most of them follow this advice.
 

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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

 



We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 



We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.

 

 

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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