Fun Folklore


By Laurie Paolicelli

Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery.

In a mere three weeks, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will resume its academic year. With some 30,000 students descending upon us almost overnight, the Chapel Hill and Carrboro community will suddenly double in traffic and size.

Locals may complain a bit — longer lines, more traffic, an army of freshman who appear to be powered up by staring at their phones — this community wouldn’t have it any other way; after all, the university is why many of us are here.

For newcomers and locals alike, here are a few fun facts – call it folklore – you might not be acquainted with.

While you’re probably familiar with the Carolina Inn, only a few are aware of its storied history. For example: singer, actor, and writer Andy Griffith gave his first public performance in one of the Inn’s ballrooms, the iconic “What it Was Was Football.” Shortly after the performance Griffith’s career took off. Broadway, movies and television fame followed.

Andy Griffith.

Chapel Hill’s main drag, Franklin Street, takes its name from that Benjamin Franklin, but some of the lesser-known bits of street-sign trivia also tell a story. For instance, Rosemary Street is named after two young girls, Rose and Mary, who once lived there. Raleigh Road follows the original path that travelers would take from Chapel Hill to the state capitol. And Hillsborough Street? Take a guess. Many streets in town are named for early residents, including UNC’s first president, Joseph Caldwell (Caldwell Street), UNC’s first steward, Major Pleasant Henderson (Henderson Street), and University president Edward Kidder Graham (Graham Street).

In 1916, the total commute time between Chapel Hill and Durham was just over two hours.

Streakers who wanted a quick getaway opted for motorized transportation. At UNC, that meant hitching a ride on a friend’s bumper.

The blessedly short-lived 1970s fad of streaking began at UNC. According to The Ultimate North Carolina Quiz Book, “On March 5, 1974, more than two hundred male students stripped bare and raced across the campus and through the undergraduate library. Twenty women from Joyner Dormitory joined in. Two days later, to accompaniment by the university’s pep band, more than nine hundred naked students ran single file through an appreciative crowd before posing for a group photo near South Building. Streaking quickly spread to campuses across the nation before the fad abruptly expired.

Gargoyles, Person Hall, UNC Campus.

The two gargoyles crouching outside the doorway on the south side of Person Hall were purchased in London by Mrs. Katherine Pendleton Arrington in 1933. Originally featured on Big Ben, the statues were being replaced, having deteriorated in the London weather. The gargoyles appear to prefer a balmier climate.

Even though it was incorporated in 1911, the town of Carrboro did not have street names or numbered residential addresses until 1920. Upon the completion of this civic task, The Daily Tar Heel proclaimed in mock celebration:

“…should we not render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and thanks and gratitude where thanks and gratitude are due? We who pride ourselves on our own knowledge and wisdom should be really and truly thankful that we no longer have to accost some patriarch whom we see on the highways and bi-ways of Carrboro, and say in a voice trembling with apprehension and emotion: “Say, mister, can you tell me where a young lady named Miss Susie Snodgrass lives?”

That’s all for now, but there’s so much more. History is fascinating, and Chapel Hill and Carrboro are dynamic and intellectually stimulating places to call home. If you’re looking to expand your social circle, you’ll find no shortage of interesting people to connect with around campus. And now you know more about the area than you did a mere five minutes ago. Store these fun facts away for trivia contests and ice breakers on first dates. You’ll become popular instantly.

See you at the Old Well.

A robust performance schedule at Memorial Hall.

A sampling of campus events in fall/winter 2023 for community and visitors to consider:

Memorial Hall: The Philadelphia Orchestra with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Music and Artistic Director, September 20 & 21, 2023

Current Art Space: Toshi Reagon: Meet You at the Crossroads IV, November 3 & 4, 202

Memorial Hall: Big Band Holidays, December 9, 2023. Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, featuring Ashley Pezzotti.

Why Brexit Matters: British Illusions and the Future of the Transatlantic Community. On Sept. 6, UNC Global Affairs will host Ambassador (Ret.) Charles Ries, one of the State Department’s most noted experts on the formation of the EU and beyond, for a Diplomatic Discussion on why Brexit matters and the future of transatlantic issues.

Ackland Art Museum: The Outwin 2022: American Portraiture Today, November 3, 2023-January 21, 2024. The sixth edition of the National Portrait Gallery’s celebrated triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait competition.

Morehead Planetarium, UNC Science Expo Saturday April 6, 2024 | 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

Kenan Stadium: Minnesota Golden Gophers at North Carolina Tar Heels Football, Kenan Stadium, Sat, Sep 16 at 3:30 pm.

Dean Smith Center: The UNC Men’s Basketball team opens open the 2023-24 season at home against Radford on Nov. 6. This will be the third meeting between the two teams. UNC won both matchups in 2008-09 and 2016-17. The Tar Heels won the national championship in both of those seasons.

NC Botanical Garden: The 2023 Annual Sculpture in the Garden, Sunday, September 17 – Sunday, December , 2023

Sculpture in the Garden, NC Botanical Garden File Photo 2021.

Toshi Reagon at Current on UNC Campus, 2023.

Laurie Paolicelli is executive director for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, a position she has held since 2005. Laurie has worked in tourism and marketing for twenty-five years, having served in leadership roles in Houston and California convention and visitor bureaus. She is a native of the Twin Ports of Duluth, MN/Superior Wisconsin. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Communications from the University Wisconsin-Superior and graduate certification in Technology In Marketing from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

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