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Chapel Hill at the End of Innocence

In 1940 Chapel Hill was filled with love, hope, romance, and innocence. The Great Depression was finally showing signs of ending and the United States had a President who promised to keep us out of the war raging in Europe. The Jitterbug dance craze was engulfing the local high school and UNC student population. Even though some outside of Chapel Hill wanted this new dance banned because they considered it vulgar, there were five or six dances a week in town where everyone was jitterbugging. Most of these dances were sponsored by the University or one of  Carolina's fraternities. The overwhelming male-dominated UNC student population usually invited local town girls to these dances. Men wore rented tuxedos while women wore formal dresses that they, or their mother, made. After the dances couples typically went to a local downtown restaurant like Harry's, or a drugstore like Sutton's, for a milkshake or coffee and a piece of pie. Another popular combination was a Coca-Cola and a package of crackers which daters often shared and cost 11 cents. They next would usually attend a movie at one of Chapel Hill's two theaters – the Carolina or the Pickwick.  After the movie let out Franklin Street was filled with strolling couples holding hands or sitting on one of many benches along the street.


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GeorgeCoxhead      6:34 PM Wed 12/4/2013

My father was also a student at UNC during this time,(1938-1942). Even though he died in 1988, I still remember his stories of how fun his time was there,( the dances, the fraternity, the sports teams et al).He even spoke with fondness about his professors and courses.. <br \> He loved it so much, that when he had an opportunity to start a business with New York Life in 1955, he chose to move to Chapel Hill to do that. He, my mother and the 4 of us had the privilege and pleasure of growing up there, during those 33 years. <br \> Sincerely, George Coxhead Jr

Art D.      11:55 AM Tue 12/3/2013

My Dad graduated from UNC in 1940 and often told me how different the spirit of Chapel Hill was during his four years in school. Your article helps me better understand what he meant. <br \> <br \>By the way my Dad married a Chapel Hill girl who he dated during his college days who became my mom.

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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


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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