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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.

Comment
 
 

Comments:

larry howell      12:25 PM Tue 12/3/2013

Hi Charly,
I agree with your psychiatrist friend. My wife IS my best friend and she and I hang out together; doesn't leave a lot of time for others and that is fine with us. We share time with our two college age daughters but that ,too, is getting more and more fleeting (they have a life too). We are not asocial but this is just what works for us. We do socialize occasionally with people that are similar to us who also enjoy each other's company. I'm thankful I have a wife that loves me and willing to share her time with me.
Merry Christmas, Charly and GO HEELS
 

Richard Wilson      6:00 PM Sat 10/12/2013

I am very interested in your article. I am doing research on best friends over 40. If you get some responses from people who describe close relationships in this category I would love to contact them.
 

Bill A      3:37 PM Fri 10/11/2013

Charly,
May have shared in the past something of my ongoing friendship with over a hundred men with whom I experienced Army Infantry OCS in the late 60s. We were brought back together a bit over a decade ago by a classmate possessing access to military records. Since then, we have gathered with our wives/SOs to reunite at differing locations where pretty much everything but partisan politics and religion is conversational fair game. This year's reunion was in the Black Hills and proved to be a great gathering as anticipated! There's something about relationships forged by people bonded together in challenging circumstances - both the rigors of OCS where half of the beginning class did not complete the course and all-but-certain knowledge we were headed to Vietnam - that enhances the relationships. Many veterans will vouch for this. For me, significantly more enduring than friendships of one degree or another from college years in Chapel Hill.
 

Frances Spransy Harper      7:38 AM Fri 10/11/2013

Your article and observations are very interesting. I spent all my school years in Chapel Hill Schools, but once I went off to college, I "forgot about" most of my friends through the years. I really never forgot about them, just made no effort to retain contact with but one or two. It is only as I have grown older that I have realized the importance of those earlier years.

I moved away from Chapel Hill in the 70's and went on to raise a family and have a career which were the important things at the time. Now that I am older, the important thing is to reconnect and reestablish those relationships that have made me who I am.

In attempting to organize a reunion for the Class of '68, I have been in contact with most of those people that were so important to me. I am delighted that I have been able to do so, and we have spent some wonderful time together!
 

Mike Young      10:03 PM Thu 10/10/2013

Loudon Wainwright told me about your blog several years ago. Is he one of your friends?
 

Carol Sklenicka      7:06 PM Thu 10/10/2013

That's really interesting, Charly. You should look up Alice Adams's story called "New Best Friends" which is basically about this subject with regard to Chapel Hill.

You should be able to find her books in the library or buy a copy of THE STORIES OF ALICE ADAMS via used books on Amazon. Or as a kindle download.

Here is what you wrote that caught my attention:

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.


Later you seem to have concluded that Chapel Hill is not unusual in this regard? I wasn't sure if that was your conclusion, but the whole topic is fascinating. I do think as people age they are much more selective in how they spend their time with others.
 

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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

 



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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