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My Favorite Chapel Hill Christmas Morning

by Charly Mann

There is nothing like the excitement and anticipation of Christmas morning when you are kid. On Christmas morning in 1957 I was 8 years old and living with my family on Old Mill Road in Chapel Hill. The night before I had hardly slept anticipating what presents Santa might have left for me under our tree. I have always been an early riser, and that morning I got up at 5:00 AM and began creeping down the long hallway from my bedroom past the rooms of my siblings and my parents before I reached our large living room where our tree was located. Bleary-eyed, I entered the darkened room from the opposite side of where the tree and presents were located, and was amazed that there was something covering the floor directly in front of me. As I looked down my eyes began to focus on a large miniature castle filled with an assortment of knights. It was one of the most indelible and incredible sights I have ever beheld. I could never have imagined such a marvelous thing, and somehow Santa had not only brought me the best present ever, but he had set it up with great care. I stood motionless for several minutes absorbing every detail of the large castle and the dozens of knights, some even on horseback, converging near the drawbridge.


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verna linney      9:02 AM Tue 1/3/2012

I see in Susan Orlean's "Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend" that Fort Apache is the setting of the 50's TV show "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin." It was so pleasant to remember your bestChristmas morning story about the Fort Apache play set.

Kaylea      10:29 AM Sat 7/9/2011

This is the perfect way to break down this inorfmation.

verna linney      2:50 PM Thu 12/30/2010

The New York Times online had a piece soliciting readers' worst Christmas presents ever. One woman reported having a lifelong devastation from receiving coal at the bottom of her stocking. She was jealous of a new baby brother. I laughed when I saw you got the Fort Apache set! A Times reader yearned for it but instead received a cheap knock-off, Fort Cheyenne. My but you had ambitious parents to have set up both the fort and castle for Christmas morning.

Charly Mann      3:53 PM Tue 12/14/2010

Thanks Anne for correcting Richard's name.Somewhere in the last 50 plus years I must have forgotten his last name was Greene, but you reminder certainly rang true.

Ric Carter      12:20 PM Tue 12/14/2010

Love the Robin Hood costume. Heard a recent piece (on WUNC-FM I think) about the old TV series and its use of blacklisted writers to do the show. It really does color those old plot lines. No wonder we all turned out to be commies;^)<br \><br \>The episodes are available at archive.org.<br \><br \>PS: I had the Fort Apache set (without that fancy carrying case). My best buddy, Lee, had the castle, too. The battles between the indians and knights were epic!

Annie      5:20 PM Mon 12/13/2010

Your (and my) Robin Hood of the 50s starred Richard Greene, not Richard Gere. Greene was such a heartthrob. Richard Gere was Lancelot in First Knight in 1995. What a nice Santa to set everything up for you! You were indeed a lucky boy.

Mary Rush      10:34 AM Fri 12/10/2010

You really capture the best of Christmas morning for a child. I hope you had many more glorious moments in you life.

John Yates      9:01 PM Wed 12/8/2010

Are those recent pictures of your two forts from 1957? How in the world did you not only keep them that long, but in such great condition?

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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.



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