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The History of Chapel Hill's Ram's Head Rathskeller

by Charly Mann

Dianne Fountain, the new owner of The Rathskeller, just sent me the following status report on the progress of the impending reopening:

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Comments:

Bob Morrow      10:04 PM Fri 1/13/2012

This past Monday, I called the folks at Sutton's and asked if they knew of any further developments regarding the reopening. Here is the essence of what I was told:

1) Very little work is taking place, and even then only sporadically
2) The main difficulty, as it has been throughout this entire episode, is the issue of finding investors (and, accordingly, funding)
3) According to the most recent available estimates, another three quarters of one million dollars will be required to complete the reconstruction.

In the words of my informant, "It will be sometime down the road before it happens."

I realize it is probably presumptive that such a sobering message will resonate with all of us, but we simply have no choice at this time but to remain patient and hopeful. I wish I had better news to report.
 

Bob Morrow      9:47 PM Fri 1/13/2012

Mr. Joyner:

Davis Blackwell once told me that the Zoom Zoom and the Rathskeller sold similar items but with different names. One specific pair I remember him telling me about was this one:

Double Gamber (Rathskeller)=Double Strip (Zoom Zoom)


 

Bill Joyner      9:41 AM Sun 1/8/2012

Great news about the renovation/reopening ot the Rat! Now if we could just reopen the the original Record Bar on Henderson Street (where I worked in 69 at the time of JT's first record) I would be a truely happy camper. The Rathskeller was always a special event in later years with all three kids having their own favorites from the Gambler, Stroganoff, Lasagna, Pizza etc.
One question ... wasn't the Gambler originally called a Strip Steak back then?
 

vwlinney      12:04 PM Fri 9/30/2011

I can hear the sound of the pitcher of ice tea pulled across a Rat table. No mention of Hot Apple Pie Louise. Sigh.

Husband worked there in the early '60's. The waiters used to order a well done steak with, "Burn one for a Carrboro hick."
 

Ann Wadsworth Beck      12:08 PM Sat 9/17/2011


Charly,

I've contacted you before and, as I often do, read your site for overlooked or new info. I have one correction in the Restaurant section dealing with the manager of The Rat. You've listed him as Benjamin C. Carroll. His correct name is Benjamin Carroll Hedgpeth, familiarly referred to as B.C. by all friends and acquaintances. He actually managed all of the Danziger's restaurants. He moved here to Wrightsville Beach in the early 60s and had restaurants here for several years but died 12/28/2006.

Hope all is well with you.

After our CHHS 50th reunion last year, I've enjoyed passing the CH Memories site to classmates who've been away from CH since going off to college waaaay back then!! They all love it and are so pleased to find the references to our time of growing up in CH in the '40s and '50s. Thanks.

Go Wildcats! Go Heels!!

Ann

 

Bob Morrow      5:38 PM Mon 8/22/2011

While I was working at the Rat in 2001, B.C. came by one Sunday morning and we all chewed the fat until it was time to open. He told us that Ted Danziger came to him during the middle of a busy lunch rush in 1961 and told him he was fired-after nine years of service. He replied, "G--dammit Ted, I don't have time to get fired right now."

Along with Kenny Mann, B.C. must be credited with the establishment of the full menu, but he never worked another shift at the Rat after that one. He later settled down in Wilmington and acted as a restauranteur at a number of other establishments, including the Neptune Room.

Aside from the visit I mentioned, I never saw him again. He died from an aortic aneurysm on December 28, 2006 at the age of 74. His full name was Benjamin Carroll Hedgpeth.
 

Bob Morrow      5:00 PM Mon 8/22/2011

Charly, this is GREAT news!!! It looks as though it might be time for me to leave the mountains and return to the Rat and go back to work-full time! :)

Did Diane say when the projected completion date was? I need her to get in touch with me, so we can talk about the resumption of my duties.

Thank you!
 

Judy Sapp Stephenson      10:36 PM Fri 8/19/2011

I was a true Chapel Hill native in the 1960's. Born here in Memorial Hospital, I grew up with the RAT. I was shocked to hear it had closed, being a true landmark. I am very happy to see we get to enjoy it again!!! I loved the garlic bread and the house salad with the house dressing with the lasagna and the very Sweet Tea. Please serve everything you are famous for that true Chapel Hillilans love. Thank you and much success!!!

 

Larry Howell      5:03 PM Fri 8/19/2011

Thanks for the update Charly. I was just in Amber Alley yesterday moving my daughter back in for her sophomore year at UNC. I was beginning to wonder if this project was going to fruition. I saw a building permit and they were gutting the inside of the Rat as much as I could see. I, too, can't wait to order another greasy gambler's special, if they have it on the menu. I also hope they have the good pizza and lasagna and blue cheese dressing on the salads like they use to do. I also hope they cater to the college kids as I would like this become one of Chapel Hill's perennial landmarks. Hope you are doing well.
Larry Howell
UNC 1970, 1973
 

Charles Church      2:42 PM Fri 8/19/2011

Robin Hood, Robin Hood
Riding through the glen.
Robin Hood, Robin Hood
With his band of men.
Feared by the bad, loved by the good.
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood.

He called the greatest archers to a tavern on the green.
They vowed to help the people of the king.
They handled all the trouble on the English country scene,
And still found plenty of time to sing.

Robin Hood, Robin Hood
Riding through the glen.
Robin Hood, Robin Hood
With his band of men.
Feared by the bad, loved by the good.
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood.

The best part was when the song finished, everyone would sort of grow quiet, waiting to see if it would play again. Then when it would repeat, about half the crowd would laugh and about half would pretend to be disgusted. The song continued to play after my roommate and I ran out of coins, so others in the Rat had picked up on the idea and had continued to carry on the joke. Sort of an early version of a flash mob.

 

Roger Lewis      8:23 AM Fri 8/19/2011

Great story on the history. Thanks for posting and the update. Looking forward to the Rat resopening!
 

Karen Moore      8:31 PM Thu 8/18/2011

Your memory is incredible. I really look forward to when you do an article on some of the long time waiters and cooks. They were all fascinating characters.
 

Bill A      2:50 PM Thu 8/18/2011

Not sure I knew the manager's name during my tenure as a UNC student in the early 60s, Charly, but certainly do recall B.C. Carroll's face from regular visits to the Rathskeller. The Rat is one of those locales whose aura is enhanced with the telling of tales and passage of time. I can all but smell the aroma of a Gambler with a bit of focus. The tenderized cuts of beef could range from tough to tender; often, tended to be a mixture of the two! Notwithstanding, the flavor was consistently tasty.
 

Kim Scott      2:14 PM Thu 8/18/2011

The articles and pictures bring the Rathskeller back to life for me. I now live in Singapore, so can only dream about eating there again anytime soon. Do you know how similar the menu will be at the new place to the old one?
 

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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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