" + $site_name + " logo

1950s Chapel Hill Values, Lessons, and Observations

by Charly Mann

There was no better to place to learn the John Dunne lesson that “no man is an island” than Chapel Hill in the 1950s. No one in town felt isolated because there was so much family and community interaction, and everyone growing up at that time had the opportunity to learn and be influenced by a wide array of unique and highly intelligent individuals. In the 1950s, Chapel Hill had a myriad of great role models for young people. The majority of adults were in their mid to late thirties and had endured the hardships of the Great Depression, and most of the men had experienced the hell of World War II. Almost all of the men, whether they were professors or merchants, had come from small southern farming communities and were the first members of their families to have had a college education. I was fortunate to know many of these people, and they were collectively a great influence on me. From them I learned courage and discipline, and that anything was possible if one was determined and worked hard. One common denominator of these people was that each had experienced huge hardships in their lives, but rather than becoming cynical or hopeless, they grew stronger and more optimistic. Each of them also taught me to think creatively to solve my problems.


Full content including photographs now available on a subscription basis.

See Subscribe button in upper right corner.



Sarah Gray      3:04 PM Mon 6/6/2011

I don&#39;t know how I stumbled onto this site, but such fun. I grew up on Franklin St, I suppose in the historic district, in the Greenlaw House. To give you a different perspective on our neighborhood, such as it was, the incredible thing about living near &quot;Downtown&quot; was the freedom we had. I walked or biked to movies, the drug store, etc, as well as activities like Scouts, which met at Chapel of The Cross. I walked the block to the public library, where I could also catch a bus and go anywhere in town. I did love visiting friends in real neighborhoods for rollerskating and Halloween, but I wouldn&#39;t trade living on Franklin St for anything. I have never felt or heard that anyone who grew up around us had a hard life, and I think my siblings would agree! I have never considered the idea that one could differentiate people by neighborhood, except that younger families tended to live in the smaller, newer homes, so Franklin, with it&#39;s big, old houses, didn&#39;t have as many children around. I do think that Chapel Hill was an idyllic place to be raised, but I can&#39;t imagine many would agree that one&#39;s neighborhood contributed to one&#39;s future happiness and/or success. <br \><br \>As for the liquor, we were a decade after you, and in the 60&#39;s, pre-dinner drinks were part of a civilized dinner. :) My father was disappointed late in his career when the drinking age was raised to 21 and he couldn&#39;t serve a glass of wine to his students when they came over. <br \><br \>Last comment, I&#39;m sad to hear that the original St Thomas More Church building is gone! Lots of memories from that place.<br \>

student at kellogg      11:17 AM Wed 4/13/2011

this is a good source for my homework tyvm for such a beutiful and informative recount of what the 50&#39;s are like

Vi Rancer      10:10 AM Wed 3/23/2011

Enjoyed so very much. Thanks to you for the pleasure in reading and remembering many pleasant memories.

Charly Mann      9:03 PM Mon 9/13/2010

Hello George, <br \> <br \>I just finished watching the movie FREAKANOMICS (I read the book several years ago). It made me think about your comments. Perhaps people with unhappy or tragic lives in the older neighborhoods are just more likely to share those experiences than those with a happy ones. Interestingly the neighborhood I have heard the most about unhappy and tragic lives from is Country Club - Laurel Hills. Most of the people I have heard from are in my approximate age group (between 55 and 63), and the majority of those I did not know well growing up. I have always loved your neighborhood and visited many of the homes often with my parents as a child, as well as twice a week delivered the Chapel Hill Weekly there, as well as Gimghoul and Greenwood, on my bike from 1959 to 1963. <br \> <br \>I hope there are a lot more people from your neighborhood writing in to me or leaving comments to counterbalance what I have so far heard. <br \> <br \>Charly Mann <br \> <br \> <br \>

George Coxhead Jr      8:17 PM Mon 9/13/2010

So sad to hear that most of Mr Mann&#39;s acquaintances had negative memories of growing up in the older neighborhoods of Chapel Hill. My family moved to then 309 Country Club Rd in 1957,(right across from the Country Club,2 houses down from the Crockford&#39;s, in front of the Boyds&#39;), later changed to 321. I had a truly idyllic childhood there from age 5 to 16,(1957-1968). What fun to roam the golf course, or swim at the club pool, walk to Unc football and basketball games, etc etc.We had about 17 kids in the immediate neighborhood, and when many of us had Friday night company, the games of kick the can in our yard were legendary. One of Bill Aycock&#39;s daughters,(in the Chancellor&#39;s house across the street), would sometimes babysit for us in the late 50&#39;s, early 60&#39;s,(I was the oldest of 3 then).Thanks for the pictures and stories,(we had friends on Laurel Hill all the way to the bottom of the hill to the bypass). Back then, kids could ride their bikes all over town in safety. Agreat time and place to grow up!<br \> George Coxhead Jr

Charly Mann      2:04 PM Mon 8/23/2010

Donna - the title of the article includes the word &quot;Observations&quot;, and I said that I believed the neighborhood one grew up in was a &quot;contributing factor&quot; to their development. This is based on my observations, as well as many e-mails, phone calls, and long term friendships with many former and current Chapel Hill residents. <br \> <br \>I would love to talk to you in detail about this, but you left neither your last name or e-mail address, which I guess was your &quot;intention&quot;. <br \> <br \>Finally this site is called Chapel Hill Memories and I welcome you or anyone else to contribute articles about Chapel Hill from any perspective. <br \> <br \>

Donna      12:53 PM Mon 8/23/2010

I&#39;m surprised by some of the statements here. In particular the one that made broad-sweeping generalizations about people&#39;s lives based solely on what neighborhood they lived in as a child; coupled with the author&#39;s perceptions of what may/may not have transpired in their adult lives. <br \><br \>Most of these stories would be better off starting with; &quot;In my opinion...&quot; or &quot;The way I remember it is...&quot;. They are shockingly misleading - but perhaps that is the intention.

Charly Mann      6:44 PM Sun 8/22/2010

Hello Again Jake, <br \> <br \>For those to young to know Durham was much further from Chapel Hill than than it is today, and the road to Durham was a single lane that was 12 miles just from the the city limits of Chapel Hill to Durham which took you through what can only be described as many blocks of slums where poor black families lived. I was told that the closest ABC in the 1950s was 6 miles beyond this, and the drive from Chapel Hill to there would have taken about 40 minutes in one direction. <br \> <br \>As a young boy in the 1950s I often went with my parents, or with my friends and their parents, to shop in downtown Durham, and never recall ever going to an ABC store with any of them. I certainly saw a lots of students drinking beer in those days in their dorms, at fraternities, and especially at Hogan&#39;s Lake. I also have talked to many students about hard liquor at student parties and smuggled into football games in the 1950s. <br \> <br \>As I said in my last note I would love it if you would e-mail me. I would also be interested to know what professors you knew in the 1950s that served hard liquor to students. I am not doubting your word, but of the dozens of families I knew growing up in the 1950s none ever served hard liquor at dinner parties during that period. As I said things were much different in subsequent decades. What years were you at UNC and what was your major.

jake mills      5:02 PM Sun 8/22/2010

Liquor was available legally a few miles away in Durham during the period in question, and illegally from some taxi drivers in Chapel Hill (for $3.50 per pint, no choice of brand names). At faculty houses to which I was invited as a student, liquor was often offered, with no inquiries about age. &quot;Brown bagging&quot; was permitted, usually with a cork fee, at area restaurants, though not at intown establishments that I remember. Then, as now, beer was king and flowed freely among those both over and under the then-legal drinking age of eighteen. I don&#39;t know of any evil consequences from any of this.

Charly Mann      12:12 PM Sat 8/21/2010

Hello Jake, <br \> <br \>My observation about mixed drinks not being served at Chapel Hill dinner parties comes from observing those functions at the home of my parents and several of my friends in the mid to late fifties. I have verified this with several of my former neighbors who are now in their late 80s and early 90s and now live in Carol Woods and Carolina Meadows. I suspect the main reason for this was that alcohol sales (except beer and some wine) was not allowed in Orange County until the early 1960s. The election that allowed ABC stores to operate in Chapel Hill was in January 1959, and I think it was at least a year later that the first ABC store opened. Chapel Hill was even more resistant in allowing mixed drinks to be sold in restaurants, and I do not recall this was allowed until the early 1970s. <br \> <br \> <br \>I would love to hear your observation in this matter and I would love it if you would e-mail me so I could call you. I do not recognize your name. Where did you live in Chapel Hill and what year were you born? <br \> <br \>By 1962 I do recall liquor being served at dinner parties, and the playwright Paul Green taught me at age 13 how to make an Old Fashion for him and his friends. <br \>

jake mills      4:23 PM Fri 8/20/2010

Wow! This is certainly a sanitized vision--nothing like what I knew in Chapel Hill in the late fifties (and for thirty years after that), especially the business about non-alcoholic dinners. Are you sure you aren&#39;t confusing it with the set of Leave It to Beaver&quot;?

Edward Quinn      4:20 PM Wed 8/18/2010

The world you describe and the way families interacted seems like science fiction to me. I am 31 years old and have lived in Chapel Hill since December. I rarely see evidence of people having parties where I live (Coker Hills), and the only time I see children outside is when they are part of some organized activity. I would love to find out from others of your generation how similar or different their life was in those years.

Peter Knight      1:29 PM Mon 8/16/2010

From what you say the 50s was really more an era of non-conformity and individual thought than the 60s. Certainly in the photos I have seen of kids in the late 60s everyone looked the same. I read a lot and have always thought the writers of the 50s were far more original than those in the subsequent decade.

Buddy Harmon      7:33 PM Sun 8/15/2010

Brilliant piece Charly! You do not know me but we have at least two friends in common, and it amused me to contrast from your description how people use to communicate their ideas by actually expressing them themselves to the way people do it now by simply attaching a link to something someone else has written in an e-mail.

Stephen J. Valadez      6:07 PM Sun 8/15/2010

Great article Charly. Kinda makes me wish I was a kid during that time, instead of the 80 and early 90s. (Not that they were THAT bad; there are many nice memories I have. But obviously radically different.)<br \><br \>Why did the children who grew up in the downtown subdivisions like Gimghoul etc. have bad experiences? They were wonderful places as I recall from my time at UNC in the early 00s.<br \><br \><br \>Stephen

To comment using your account, simply login or sign up above

Bite Sized Facts Link for Useful facts, financial success, universal truths, and great health info

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


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.



All rights reserved on Chapel Hill Memories photography and content

Contact us