Oldest UNC Sports Artifact
Since I began my retirement 10 years ago I have developed a keen interest in the history of UNC sports. I have tried to collect items associated with UNC's storied sports history but, believe me, they are not easy to come by.
I have written in another article about acquiring several old UNC football programs, the oldest of which is 1923. That easily qualifies as the oldest item I own even though I did acquire several days ago a photograph of the football playing field used by UNC from 1888 to 1916 when they moved to Emerson Field, where the Davis Library stands.
But easily the oldest piece of UNC memorabilia I have ever seen is a poster that advertised a special train trip from Chapel Hill to Norfolk on Thanksgiving Day of 1905. In fact, the poster announces the running of two special trains to that game, one departing from Chapel Hill and the other one from Durham. I find it interesting that the two trains take routes to Norfolk that are roughly the same as I-85 and I-95 and before that Highways #1 and #301. These two routes actually date back to Indian times when they were used as Indian trails.
The poster is about 2 ' by 4 ' and is done in red on a white background. Across the top, the cost of the trip is clearly printed in large letters which was $3.00 for a round trip. Reference is made to the "great football game between the Universities of North Carolina and the Virginia". A drawing of a football player is on the poster about half way down but there is nothing on him to identify him as a UNC player and the red and white coloring does nothing to help in that regard.
The Chapel Hill train departed from Chapel Hill at 5:00 a.m. and shows a stop at the University and subsequent departure at 5:45 a.m. This train then stops at Durham, East Durham, Morrisville, Cary, Raleigh, Garner, Auburn, Clayton, and Wilson's Mills. This is the train that follows the I-95 route.
The Durham trains departs Durham at 5:30, 30 minutes later than the Chapel Hill train and makes stops at East Durham, Lyons, Stem, Oxford, Stovall, Bullock, Soudan, Va. Clarksville Va., and Jeffries, Va. The $3.00 cost for the round trip applies to both trains and to all stops. It is interesting to note that the University train departs Norfolk at 12:30 while the Durham train leaves at 11:45. Gave the students a little longer to enjoy the pleasures of Norfolk, a seaport town with many amusements not readily available in Chapel Hill at the time.
Several months ago, I attempted to retrace the route of the Durham trip in Virginia and found that Soudan disappeared in the 50's when Kerr Lake was created. Jeffries has only a church and 2 houses and I really have to wonder why the train stopped there when the departure time is only 8 minutes after it departed from Clarksville. Maybe some influential UNC alumnus lived in Jeffries.
Where did I see this poster and do I now own it? I saw it when my mail man, at the time, told me he had it and that his grandmother had left it to him when she died. Even though he didn't attend UNC, he is a huge UNC fan and knowing the background of the poster, I knew better than to try and separate it from him. I did contact the people in charge of the memorabilia in the Football Center to see if they would be interested in having a scale photo made of the poster but we never did work it out. My friend had agreed to let it be photographed provided the poster did not leave his sight which I think was a reasonable request. I was willing to pay for the photograph to be made but I think the people in charge of memorabilia were concerned that it might represent a cost to them. It was just after the Center had been completed and their comment to me was "you wouldn't believe the cost overruns" experienced with the Football Center.
Maybe I'll talk with them again because I think the poster would be a tremendous addition to the items already on display and predates anything I have seen there. I plan to run a photograph of the poster on the web site as soon as we can attend to some technical problems we are currently experiencing.
Oh, I almost forgot. Who won the game? The Heels, 17-0