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Chapel Hill's First Movie Theaters

by Charly Mann

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Comments:

T. Neubert      3:52 AM Fri 2/5/2010

The Drive-In theater was out past the “Patio” (behind the Holiday Inn) The parents would put the back seat down in the 57 Chevy station wagon, us kids in our pj’s, with home popped corn in tiny brown paper bags. All kids asleep on the drive home.

The Carolina Theater had two extra wide seats, one on either side of the large center section, close to the back. As kids, we would try to sit two or sometimes three kids in those special seats. I never saw the wide fellow who required it, but my dad knew him.

Some weekends, our parents would drop off all the kids and we would stay in the theater all Saturday afternoon, seeing the feature film several times...most times viewed had to be "The Great Escape" probably a half dozen times! I remember 2001, A Space Odyssey.

And my first kiss was in The Varsity – Lance Van de Castle.

 

Expatriate      8:38 PM Sun 8/23/2009

In the photo of the line waiting to get into the Varsity theater, the young man in the light-colored trousers with his left leg thrust forward is the noted Southern novelist Walker Percy, then an undergraduate at UNC. His first novel was titled "The Movie Goer."
 

Steve      11:52 AM Thu 5/28/2009

Actually, the original Pickwick didn't burn in 1922; the third (and last or post-1915 location) location did in 1924, but it was remodeled. The first and second locations of the Pickwick are still standing, at 103 and 105 East Franklin Street. The Carolina Theater opened in 1927.

Cool post, thanks!
 

Sam Tatum      4:46 PM Mon 4/13/2009

I think Carrington Smith stayed the manager of the Carolina Theater for more than fifty years. He was also the #1 fan of Carolina football, rarely even missing going to a practice.
 

John021459      2:20 PM Mon 4/13/2009

Do you know when the Varsity Theater opened? I lived in CH a long time ago, and it had already been around for awhile then.
 

Guy Harrison      11:12 AM Mon 4/13/2009

This is fascinating. I'm a movie buff, and lived in Chapel Hill in the 1970s.
 

Jenna Hampton      5:42 PM Sun 4/12/2009

It is funny seeing that almost everyone at the movies in those days were college men. The vibe in town would have been so different then.
 

Mark Fitzgerald      1:34 PM Sun 4/12/2009

I recall a drive-in in Chapel Hill in the 1950s. Do you know when that opened and closed?
 

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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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