Share Your Chapel Hill Story

BrianR's picture

Over on the Open thread for Lot 5 entry, Gerry shared a really cool story about one of Chapel Hill's unique citizens. I found it really educational and very funny. So do you have one that could top it? Come on help a guy out and impress us with your stories of days gone by.

In case you missed it here is Gerry's story:

This is WWWAAAYY off the point of RAM, but it is about lot 5 and vicinity. but I remember doing a Daily Tar Heel expose piece on Norwood's ESSO around 1970, he had one of the earliest self-service gas pumps, but this was b4 credit card activation and there was a machine you fed dollar bills into. The story 'round town was that you didn;t actually get any gas, it stole your money, when you complained, you'd just get the stare down from Norwood or one of his thug attendants. I went with five ones, put them in the machine, took out the pump handle, the machine did nothing, no gas, no nothing. I went to the attendant, who came over and verified that I did not get any gas, and brazenly told me that if it did not pump any gas, it meant that I had NOT out any money in. I got out my reporter looking notepad and asked the attendant for his name. He asked me why, I told him “for the name on the warrant”. He unlocked the machine, it was JAMMED to the gills with an enormous amount of cash. He asked me how much I lost, I told him $5, he reached in and got out five ones, handed them to me and stormed off after locking the machine. I remember writing either an news story or column about it. Norwood has expanded the station at some point when his lease was cancelled, he got up on the roof and began to saw off the roof at the point of the old building line saying he was removing the expansion. The lessor got a court order to get him off the property. For the longest time you could see the power saw marks on the roof. This was today in Lot 5 history.

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Dan Coleman's picture

I was listening to Melva

I was listening to Melva Okun's jazz show on WCOM recently and reflecting on all the great jazz venues we used to have back in the 80s: Brother Yusuf Salim on the piano at Stephen's After All, Thursday nights (or was it Wednesday?) at Pyewacket, Scott Sawyer and others at Hardback.

Moved here in '63 as a

Moved here in '63 as a fifth-grader. Lived in Glen Lennox at first. Played rec flag football on the Rainbow fields. Not only was there no Rainbow, soccer was as unknown as cricket or jai alai.

Downtown CH was great; all the wonderful eating establishments: The Porthole (those rolls!), Carolina Cafe, the Rat, The Zoom, etc. The Record Bar on Henderson. All the schoolkids smoking cigs against the drug store (now Spanky's) wall in the late afternoon.

And the Town and Gown was a functional relationship. Almost every afternoon went up to the original Tin Can to shoot hoops. Didn't have to present an ID; there was a symbiosis then, before the liability issue dominated everything.

The high school sat where University Square sits, imagine that, a school in the middle of it all. Carolina Grill hot dogs, beer at the Bacchae as a 16yo, from there to counting the used syringes while taking a leak in the bathroom at Bullwinkle's.

I could go on and on.

I can't tell my stories . .

I can't tell my stories . . . they would implicate too many fine, upstanding citizens. But suffice it to say, the best ones involved late-night happenings at the old Cat's Cradle on Rosemary Street (where the Skylight Exchange eventually moved to). And for some reason, the band doing the soundtrack for the stories was usually Arrogance.

Beyond that . . . ummm . . . I can't remember.

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Gerry, I always thought the

Gerry, I always thought the "rhythm alley" location of the Cradle (now Skylight Exchange) was the original! That's the one I *barely* remember going to to see my dad ("Joey Earth") play in The Blazers (also featuring Shakin' Sherman, of course!).

The bar I most miss from my childhood (that sounds bad, doesn't it?) is The Station, which was in the old train station in downtown Carrboro where the oriental rug place is now. There was a very large deck and a jukebox I remember. I also remember playing the song Chain Gang on the jukebox at Crook's Corner. Is that still there? It's hard to picture a juke box in today's upscale Crook's.

Anyone remember the original Aurora on West Franklin or Andromeda (the Earth Shoe store) on East Franklin? Those were my parent's businesses!

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Gerry, you should note it

Gerry, you should note it became the _original_ Breadmen's right? Now I finally understand the awful architecture. 10 burgers for $0.95!

Most of my friends don't know that the _current_ Breadmen's used to be a nice little stand of trees (hence the Joni Mitchell quote engraved into their driveway, "pave paradise...")

Ruby, I remember going to

Ruby, I remember going to the original Cradle behind Breadmens in 1971. As to Andromeda, I bought a pair of Earth Shoes in Chapel Hill in 1975 to a local event where a tux was required but the invite said nothing about shoes. I figured I was making some sort of statement about tuxes. I wore the Earth Shoes for at least a decade after that.

when the Western Sizsler

when the Western Sizsler proposed to cut down all the trees for their parking lot, Bob Epting and I appealed the building permit to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The developer said he had to cut down all the trees as the property was so expensive. I tried to explain to him that one of the reasons the property o West Rosemary was so valuable was because of the trees. I got nowhere.

My father, when he was in

My father, when he was in grad school (1964-ish), used to sit at the bar in The Rathskeller and, with his fellow grad students, throw popcorn at the television whenever that idiot yokel got on to do his "commentaries" on WRAL. He remembers one of the group would usually say something to the effect of, "Does anyone really take that guy seriously?" He and his fellow grad students (science, specifically infectious disease) weren't terribly political, as he remembers, and might have even been thought of as "square," but even they were flabergasted by the yokel who would become senator.

Dad used to go hunting and trapping (for research) on land Mr. Merritt (Merritt's Store) owned outside town. Does anyone remember where that was? I think it was near the Chatham County line, but I'm not sure.

There was a house run by a nice lady where my mother would stay when she came to visit her fiancee, my dad. This woman ran the boarding house specifically for this purpose -- to provide proper lodging for out-of-town girlfriends and fiancees -- and I'd love to know if anyone remembers her name, or where the house was.

One of the great periods of

One of the great periods of Chapel Hill history was when the Town Hall was going strong (inadvertent pun there as I simultaneously remember that Michael Strong was the owner) and Bonnie Raitt, Butch Trucks, Delbert McClinton, Tracy Nelson as well as great local bands South Wing, Arrogance, that band with Carter Minor & Ed Ibarguan?, many others, plus Sunday jazz nights. Very vibrant downtown. Of course it was the type of vibrancy that was bound to annoy the CoC types for whom a little anarchy was a big threat. I remember going in to grab a sandwich one lunch time and there was Butch Trucks playing chess before his gig that night. I was somehow surprised; it seemed so mundane. I thought those rock and rollers were always in motion and getting wild. Anyway, that version of downtown was my favorite. Now it's Johnny's T-shirts & Cosmic Cantina (the last traces of a cosmic past I guess), both places I've patronized, but what a change.

Ahh, Town Hall. It was the

Ahh, Town Hall. It was the converted basement of a dress shop. I had too many beers there far too often. I also remember dragging people from Town Hall to register to vote (circa 1972) when the only place to register was at the New Municipal Bldg on North Columbia Street. I actually got 10 or 20 bar patrons to go register and walk the three blocks downhill.

I'm writing from the old

I'm writing from the old Breadmen's, which is at 337 W. Rosemary. It's currently the home of Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate and the planning team for Carrboro High School. Every day I'm happy that it doesn't smell like a deep fryer anymore.

Anyhow, this building with so much history will be gone within 2 years. The Breadmens' owners (Roy and Bill Piscatello) have plans to tear it down (and the adjacent blue brick building adjacent). They'll be putting up yet another high rise condo. I'm sure we'll see that project discussed here on OP...

Wow, Gerry. I didn't know

Wow, Gerry. I didn't know there was another CC before the Skylight location. Though I used to like Breadman's better in the old location on the south side of the street.

Ah, the Station. That place used to rock, especially because you could hang outside on the deck and still dance and be 'one' with the band. I'd forgotten all about it . . . though the rug shop is a pretty cool store now. My son was one of the kids running around the Station with Ruby, I'll bet. He's 30 now.

(In between, the Station became K-Line where you could buy all sorts of model train stuff. That was cool, too.)

Forgot to add: My first job

Forgot to add: My first job after grad school was with UNC-TV. Our offices were on the second floor of University Square - and my office was right over T'boli. That was a cool store with a bazillion postcards - one for every occasion. I used to live on Clark Court off Church Street, so I could just about crawl to work! Which was a good thing since my 64 Dart totally sucked in the engine department.

One of my favorite of Chapel

One of my favorite of Chapel Hill's unique citizens was Tommy, who washed dishes at the Carolina Coffee Shop and who died in 1989.
Tommy handed out index cards on UNC Campus with four messages he received from God. They said:

1)Your problem is sort of psychological.
2)You get money when you need it.
3)Your life is like watching a movie.
4)I have created a fool.

I still have mine and I still think - as I did at the time - that these pretty wise words for most UNC undergrads.

T'boli--forever missed as

T'boli--forever missed as one of the best shopping experiences in town. It started out over on Henderson St in a little 20'x10' basement before moving to University Square. Southern Seasons was in a slightly larger space in the strip mall on 15-501 by Mariakakis.

My favorite thing about the Station was the way the floor rebounded under the dancing. Kind of like a trampoline. But what was really best for partiers without cars was that you could go back and forth between dancing at Station, shooting pool at Bullwinkles or throwing darts at the bar where Armadillos is now--just by walking across the street. And the Cradle and the Cave weren't too far from the Carrboro triangle.

The little place below what

The little place below what is now Lucy's that was once T'boli was a wonderfully odd record and import shop -- a head shop of its time in the mid-60s. I came to Chapel Hill from Charlotte when I was in high school just to go to two or three stores. That was one. Kemp had all of the Folkways records ever recorded.

The other store was the Intimate pre-Karault ownership. The Smiths who had purchased the Intimate from the Abernathys had the best alternative press publications, the best poetry selection, and downstairs in the back rare books including one early edition Alice in Wonderland.

We would visit that one book every trip.

For music that could not be had anywhere else in the state, the Record Bar then on Henderson Street, was the place.

Chapel Hill has a vibrant street life in that period. Everyone pan-handled, sold stuff on blankets, and had feathers in their hair.

Except the Frat boys. One memory that sticks with me counter to the ones above is the first home football game day that I was in Chapel Hill in the late 70s.

Two very well dressed high school aged girls were hugging each other as they stood crying with their makeup streaming down. Sitting below them on the curb were their dates. New freshman frat boys in jackets and ties. Their arms around each other as they threw up in the street. Their silver flasks sitting beside them. At least one flask must not have been quite empty as one boy kept picking it up and trying to wash his mouth out with whatever might still be there. The girls were still there crying and hugging when I came back by perhaps 30 minutes later. The boys were nowhere to be seen.

Before the Cat's Cradle

Before the Cat's Cradle moved to the site that is now Skylight, it was a folk (mostly) club up underneath one of the buildings that front Franklin. There was a lively bluegrass, folk and roots scene then.

The Station was the site of the first out of Georgia gig by a band called REM. I went down to see them on the recommendation of a School Kids clerk named Jefferson Holt who later moved to Athens and became the bands manager.

REM and locals like the Sex Police brought in big crowds but Rolly Gray and Sunfire, a reggae band, filled the whole place up to violation of the fire code.

Aurora. It first opened as a

Aurora. It first opened as a late night at the Wildflower Kitchen called Aurora Be Mine. Great and often odd jazz and wonderful desserts some brought down from NYC.

Later they moved up toward what is now Elaine's or Fusion. The Tabor brothers took all the wait staff to the PTA and had them buy clothes of the 40s and 50s. The Aurora of that period had a sort of speakeasy/Copacabana period feel to it. Amongst the exotic, to the South, drinks was the Lime Ricky. Where can you get one now?

The Skylight Exchange began

The Skylight Exchange began where Bandido's is in Carrboro and it was called the Fair Exchange. Dennis Gavin had relocated here from Cortland, NY. He knew people here who were part of the apple -picking circuit that moved seasonally from upstate New York to Washington state to Chapel Hill and Key West. His friends in Cortland told him to just to go to He's Not Here and start asking around. It took him about ten minutes to make a connection. He had a place to stay immediately (at an old house in the country where artist Rik Hermanson lived) and gradually got the wherewithal to open his store. The night before opening day he taped newspaper over all the big glass windows and had a party. He was pretty pumped to be able to take over the historic Cat's Cradle/Rythm Alley spot where so many great musicians had played - I remember seeing Bill Monroe, David Grisman, Vassar Clements (who actually let me hold his old gypsy fiddle), and many great local players including "South Wing"'s acoustic version of their group playing as "Wooden Circus".

I will always miss the

I will always miss the flower ladies. They were a big part of the village-appeal of Chapel Hill. They were our public art. Several of them lived on Jones Ferry Road just past what is now the PTA thrift store. I used to ride my bike out there just too gaze at their fields of flowers and dream about having such a beautiful backyard.

Late '70's through the '80s

Late '70's through the '80s I'd ride to Chapel Hill on the bus. There's an excitement one gets finishing any bus ride, but stepping off Spring time at the old Bus Station was special.

Coming or going I enjoyed sitting on the wall out front - waiting on my friends to show - watching folks scurry about... Now both the place and the experience are dead and gone....

Nostalgia can be fun - looking back at the good and bad things left behind instructive. Evolution, devolution - change happens - and maybe it takes years to ferret out the difference. Then again, maybe not.

Say the original Hectors. Great grilled cheese - and mouth burning eggrolls. I capped many a pleasant late night off there.... Today's Hectors carries the label but not the content....

Yesteryear's Chapel Hill was known as progressive, intellectually free wheeling, open to alternatives. I wonder if 20 years hence - heck, maybe 2 years hence - we'll have the label but have lost all the contents.

Not to be mordantly nostalgic but maybe it's too late already...

An excerpt from an old

An excerpt from an old column I wrote for the News ... it gets at my take on Will's comment:

Pillars and espresso

Reputations are peculiar things. Unbounded by reality, they often persist as shadows of old truths. For a university, reputation can paint a shimmering picture of times gone by. But what about a university town?

I first visited Chapel Hill in the spring of 1977. As a disillusioned young officer at Camp Lejeune, my mission was simple: get away from military madness without sacrificing in-state tuition. Six months later I joined the civilian world at UNC. Back then, Chapel Hill was an intellectual hot spot where progressive thought burned bright. Our town had a reputation for making noise, making news and making a difference – a reputation that survives today, according to Frommer's online guide.

The university has consistently been a leader in American education and a center of liberal intellectualism in a generally conservative state . . . by all means, schedule a visit here, ideally in spring, to see the dogwoods and crepe myrtle burst into bloom. At any time, you can wander past the stately pillared houses of Franklin Street and -- surprise -- find an espresso outlet on virtually every street corner, just as you can in Seattle.

Espresso on every corner? Looks like we've arrived. Or does this breezy travelogue more likely show how far we've fallen?
I don't know many people who count UNC among the centers of liberal intellectualism today. Certainly not on the national stage, where leadership matters most. Nor would many visitors describe our tidy town as a cauldron of progressive action.

So what is Chapel Hill up to these days? Not much if you ask me.

I always wonder if my

I always wonder if my disappointment about the changing nature of this community is merely a reflection of my own desire to hold on to my youth, a false belief that the old days were better than today. Thanks Will and James for confirming that I am not alone in my longing for a wayback machine.

What most surprised me when I moved back was the change in the social culture. During the 70s and 80s, Chapel Hill and Carrboro were full of openly gay individuals. We've regressed quite a bit since that time despite the fact that we now have openly gay elected officials. In Asheville, it's not uncommon to see same-sex partners walking around holding hands or displaying their affection for one another. Rarely seen here. Why?

Does anyone remember the community outrage when George Steinbrenner bought the house on Franklin (Rosemary?) Street for his daughter's sorority? When did we become so materialistic that we lost the ability to decry such public displays of ostentaciousness? So the gays go underground and the rich come public. Upside down from what I ever expected.

I graduated from Chapel Hill

I graduated from Chapel Hill High School (located, as someone has already pointed out, where University Square now stands)in 1952.

I remember, as a child, when the stoplight at Franklin and Columbia stood on a stanchion in the very middle of that intersection. Most of the sidewalks were Chapel Hill gravel. Shield's Grocery did business where Starbuck's stands and Fowler's would deliver.

At the age of 7 or 8, I could walk uptown in the evening, by myself, and pay a dime to go to a movie.

Has my village changed? You betcha. Is it still the best damn place in the world to live? Without a doubt.

Barry

Am out of town 'til Sat.,

Am out of town 'til Sat., but a short one. When I was 10 I played on a little league team called the Mets (which was coached by Barry Winston and Bob Midgette). The team had never won a game in its two year history. Barry told us if we won 6 games he would take us all to Burger Chef for all we could eat. We won 6 and e had to take us. At the time a hamburger was $.15, fries $.15 and a shake-$.15. So I guess it cost Barry about 12 dollars to take us all. Then he said if we won two more games he would take us again. and we did. Our uniforms were wool and we weren't supposed to swim or have sex on game day...........

Hey Cam, When I played

Hey Cam,
When I played Little League baseball (ages 9-12), it was hot
and our uniforms were wool also. Like your coaches, ours told us not to spend the afternoon swimming when the game was at
6pm. However, I don't remember Mr. Cressman telling us not
to have sex. I wanna join your team.

Mais cette histoire

Mais cette histoire continue:
I remember playing outfield in front of the red and yellow
Harper's Buick
sign on the left field fence. Every local merchant in our
little town seemed to have a sign on the fence, and I thought
that this advertising personalized the league -- a good thing,
especially since at that time, there were few national chains.
In about 1992, the CH Parks and Rec people came to
the council for a decision about whether we should sell
advertising on the rec sports fields. I think I was the only
person in favor. Sigh.

I read here for the (orange)

I read here for the (orange) politics, but I live in Durham and never expected to be moved to speak (as the Quakers say)...
In reference to Mark's mention of bands at Town Hall, Eddie Ibarguen actually played in South Wing...the band with Carter Minor was Heartwood and my husband Robert was the drummer...my memory to add to this lovely thread-of-my-youth
is of sitting with Don Dixon and Robert Kirkland upstairs at Town Hall watching the Heartwood half of a joint Arrogance/Heartwood gig, afraid to move because Michael's giant roving german shepherds kept growling at me. I was wearing my brand new Earth Shoes sold to me that very day by Ruby's kind dad at a discount because we were poor musicians. Honest to god, those shoes are still in my closet right now, brown and wearable, and Michael still has german shepherds.

Cam, I was always pretty

Cam,

I was always pretty sure you (and Don Stanford) ignored my advice about sex on game days - you ate 12 dollars worth of burgers all by yourself.

And I thought we ended up winning the pennant that year; at least, that's what I always tell people.

Barry

There is vital creative

There is vital creative stuff going on in Chapel Hill. Like Ruby said a lot of it is on west Franklin. Also I think its just different than the past so it may be easy to miss for some. I'll admit the smoke and late hours have kept me away.

Right now a ton of students are camping out in front of Memorial Hall for Ben Folds tickets. I saw the first person there around 3pm yesterday and this morning there is a good sized tent village with a ton of people in folding chairs!

Vibrancy exists in our City of Chapel Hill its just different than it used to be. I expect in my lifetime it'll change even more.

Thanks Gerry, "buzzzstation"

Thanks Gerry, "buzzzstation" and that unique "buzzzstation" patter - I'd forgotten how I could hear it murmuring in the background sitting under one of the huge trees out front.

To shift off Downtown, does anyone recall all the back pathways through town?

Early '80s there was an extensive network of informal paths. It was common to run into students and local folk traipsing around town. By the late '80s, early '90s I saw a lot fewer students, maybe because the average UNC student could now afford cars ( or fear of the woods began to dominate?).

By the late '90s a lot of these paths were either gone - blocked or built over. Now it's quite rare to run into folks bushwhacking their way through what's left of green Chapel Hill.

BrianR, vibrancy for vibrancy sake can be a hollow victory.

Take Lot #5, why wasn't the suggestion to allocate affordable commercial space for local business or a public arts facility followed up on? What's more "vibrant" - an Internationalist Bookstore or a Sunglasses Hut? Which is more likely to sited there?

Southpoint is "vibrant" by many measures - lot's of "sound and fury" - but , at least by my estimation, a modern "soulless" vibrancy.

Maybe we're going to get more "eyes on the street" (the putative measure of liveliness Lot #5 is bringing) but maybe those eyes are going to be "glazed over"...

I have lived here, with some

I have lived here, with some breaks, since 1969. I remember Bill Geer holding discussions under the Davie Popular. He challenged your notions of reality and could make you laugh out loud.

Remember Nyle Frank, King of the Invisible Universe and University. Nyle stayed with a group of us, from time to time, at 230 McCauley St. He worked for me at Overnight Accommodations at NC Memorial Hospital with a group of rogues. He liked the 12-midnight shift. His forays to distant parts of NC (his Kingdom) were a blast. He still comes back to the Hill on occasion.

Remember 12 o'clock High at the Bell Tower. I never inhaled, only observed.

My first bar experience was the Scoreboard. Had a friend who got his name on the board by drinking XXXX number of beers.

I even remember going to the SHACK. Now that was a place that could not meet muster in our current compliance heavy town..... fire hazard.... collapsing wall..

Back to 230 McCauley Street...lived there for a time and had friends who lived there for years. It had a front porch with a swing that was a window on the world. The in town address made it a magnet for all types to drop by and take rest or enjoy an afternoon in the backyard under massive oak trees.. Many people I have run into over the years remember the place and have a story to share.

Do not share much of the “bashing Chapel Hill” sentiment. The town has gotten gentrified and too large. We do have a distorted view of our self-importance. However we are not as racist a town as the one in the 1970's. Women have more of an equal place at the table. We are a much more environmentally aware town and some green ideas have filtered through. Mistakes are made but there has been some positive movement forward. Our community muddles through and times change.

Ideas are still fresh here but many us do not have as fresh minds as we think we once did. It seems chic to look back at a time that was the “good old days”. The “good old days” were never as good as we remember them. Where is a better place than today's Chapel Hill/Carrboro?

Sherrill, After South Wing &

Sherrill,

After South Wing & Heartwood, Ed & Carter were in a band that played "Slipping into Darkness" and some Stevie Wonder stuff amon other things. I'm thinking 'Midnight" something or other, but maybe I had the other half of that joint - oh... you meant joint gig - sorry...

In no particular

In no particular order....(my memory is less than perfect so bear with me)
The house on Rosemary St. that Gerry referred to was 322 Rosemary. They always said I was too young.......
Tom High's Dad coached us both in flag football in Glen Lennox in 5th or sixth grade. In seventh grade I played for the Packers and we played our games Wed. nights at Lion's Park in Carrboro which was where the farmer's market is now and my coach's name was, I kid you not, Mebane Durham.
When I was 10 (1963)someone ate peyote and jumped out of the window of his apartment over the Record Bar on Henderson street, which was around the corner from Kemp's Record Store on Franklin St.(where McCallister's Deli s now) (which burned down twice in the late 60s, the second time by my friend Decatur RIP).
In an earlier life I built the deck at the Station, the Record Bar on Franklin and the original Crooks.........
When the Town Hall opened in the old Robbins store, it occupied two floors with a giant staircase connecting them. The cover was $.25 and I used duck it if I could. MC Russell was one of the bouncers there and he threw me out several times. He now works in the town's engineering department.....
I have too many Cat's Cradle stories to even contemplate. How 'bout Club Dead? (The after hours club behind the cradle on Franklin St.I had a shuffleboard table that is now in Bub's).
Before the original Aurora was the original Pyewacket was a pool hall called Dick's, run by a one armed guy named Dick who used to ask me for my social security card to be certain I was old enough. There was another pool hall on Graham called the Midway.
Does anyone remember when Barry Winston was the Art Vann of Chapel Hill?
How 'bout the Long Meadow Dairy Bar(s) Glen Lennox, where the Courtyard is now, I think next to Kemp's store on Franklin (with donuts), and where the Q Shack is in Durham.
What about Jubilee? I saw Petula Clark, The Association, the Loving Spoonful and the Supremes in one weekend. Sal Y? and Florence Ballard made quite an impression on this 12 year old.

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