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Huggins Hardware - Chapel Hill's Best Shopping Center

by Charly Mann

Recalling life in Chapel Hill when I was a young boy can be a challenge. Every time I begin to write a about a place, person, or event, an array of images and voices begin floating through my consciousness on that subject that I try to pick up before they go by. I wish I had the eloquence to describe these things better, but how does one capture in words the vibrant smell of Franklin Street in the 1950s, or the taste of the amazing selection of foods served in the downtown restaurants or UNC dining halls in the 1960s? There is a long list of things I thought about trying to describe today, but in an age where an e-mail is rarely longer than a paragraph I do not want to exceed my audience’s attention span. Finally, I encourage readers to submit articles that will hopefully capture a more faithful record of life in Chapel Hill.


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Fran      9:56 PM Wed 4/20/2016

Sorry, my old timers must be setting in! Did not intend to repeat myself! I thought I had previously posted but couldn't find it until adding the comment today's.

Fran      9:53 PM Wed 4/20/2016

My father and a group of friends (Tommy Gardner, Emory Denny and Art Webb) bought Huggins from Vic Huggins on 6/1/1968. Dad was the person who managed and operated the store on a day to day basis. I worked there at Christmas the first couple of years when I came home from college, wrapping packages. I worked on a more regular basis, during breaks and after school when I transferred to Carolina my junior year. <br \> <br \>Huggins was a great place for shopping and dreaming: gifts in front, housewares and then hardware with paint, nuts and bolts and key making in the back. <br \> <br \>I remember working one after noon when a kid came running thru the store. Bob , proprietor of the Hub, (can&#39;t remember last name) was right behind yelling &quot;STOP THIEF.&quot; Dad was in his office and stepped out the door right into the kids path, and blocking him and knocking him a few feet back. Evidently the young men had several pairs of pants and shirts from the Hub under his clothes. The police were able to take him away in short order. <br \> <br \>When Dad died in August, 1976, a manager was brought in to run the store and decisions were made by the partners to expand to other locations. Unfortunately the business did not survive the changes and a long legacy was lost.

Fran      8:34 PM Tue 7/24/2012

Fun to see other peoples memories of a place so special to me!

Phil      6:36 PM Tue 12/6/2011

It has been 30 years since I lived in Chapel Hill, but I still have a can of Lock-Ease<br \>that I bought there many years ago. I got it out today to lubricate a lock, and I<br \>noticed the Huggins Hardware price sticker and wondered whether the store<br \>still exists.<br \><br \>Thanks for helping to preserve these memories. The Lock-Ease still works fine.

Frances Harper      6:28 AM Thu 9/8/2011

Mr. Huggins decided to retire in 1968 and sold the store to several Chapel Hill businessmen. My father, George Spransy, was one of the group and was the manager from 9/1/68, until his death in August, 1976. I worked in the store during various times from 1968 until I left Chapel Hill in 1974.<br \><br \>It was an amazing place. The predecessor to the &quot;all in one&quot; stores like the big boxes. Walk in the back to have a key made, your paint mixed or find a nut or screw, come thru to the front part of the building for a housewares item - pots, pans, corning ware, and all the way to the front for candles or gift items. <br \><br \>There were some wonderful loyal people who worked in that store for many years. It was sad to see the presence in downtown disappear. <br \><br \>

Mollie Wright      7:20 PM Tue 9/6/2011

Do you ever speak in Chapel Hill about the town&#39;s history? I would love to come to one of your talks. I would also be interested in purchasing the contents of your website in book form.

H. Newton      10:04 AM Tue 9/6/2011

I wish I had lived in Chapel Hill when Huggins was located downtown. I moved to town when it had relocated to Highway 86, and friends would often tell what a great place it &quot;use&quot; to be. By my time it was nothing but an ACE hardware store.

Jack Stanley      7:53 PM Mon 9/5/2011

I had forgotten what a wonderful place Huggins was. I wonder what people 60 years from now will recall as their best memories of the town. There seems to me to be so much less that is original or unique about Chapel Hill today. Bringing back the Rat, Hectors, and The Carolina Coffee Shop is nice, but what would really be great is to have new stores and restaurants that catered to the average person that were really good.

Bob Jurgensen      6:38 PM Mon 9/5/2011

I totally understand what you mean about the smells and tastes of Franklin Street in the 50&#39;s and 60&#39;s. As a small child in the 50&#39;s, I would often stay with my grandmother on Rosemary St. She had a PO Box, like most people those days, and we would walk to the post office daily, every evening, to check her mail. I recall walking by the Tarheel Sandwich Shop, the cheeseburgers sizzling away on the grill (love the smell of that grease!), then Sloan&#39;s, with their swirling fan over the entry, sending out streams of random odors such as grilled pimento cheeses or flavors from the ice cream bar, walking past the Varsity and smelling the popcorn, Jeff&#39;s (my grandmother refused to go in there for anything, because of the girlie magazines!), and ultimately the post office, which always had an odd, musky smell. Sometimes we would cross over and walk back up the other side and whiffs of Porthole rolls would come rolling down the alley, then up to the Carolina Theatre for yet one last sniff of popcorn because heading back down to Rosemary St. I vividly recall those odors when I allow myself to drift back in time, to those innocent days, now more than 50 years ago.<br \><br \>Even today, when we visit and walk Franklin St, I often find myself reaching back in those memory banks and reliving a moment on Franklin, which for so many years was a daily part of my life - as I walked from school to my job at the Varsity as a projectionist in the mid-1960&#39;s. <br \><br \>And Huggins - wonderful and chock full of so much neat stuff - I was like a kid in the candy store in Huggins. I recall it being jammed packed with almost one of everything in the world, it seemed to me, as a kid. I would routinely go into Huggins with my grandmother and later, as a teenager, and it was like another world, seeing things you often would only see or know of in a catalog or on TV. &quot;Fancy stuff&quot;, my grandmother used to call it. Where I live now, we still have an old fashioned hardware store, much like Huggins, where when you walk through the door, someone immediately assist you and it seems, no matter what you are in search of, they have at least one in stock. Try doing that with Lowes! <br \><br \>Huggins is one of my best memories of Chapel Hill. Thanks for doing an article on them.

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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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