Past Times

Franklin Street championship celebrations are a true-blue tradition since 1982

Scott Sharpe

For many of us, Franklin Street celebrations really got their start in 1982 with the Tar Heel victory over Georgetown. N&O reporter Curtis Austin caught the flavor of the party.

There was less than 30 seconds left and Georgetown was leading UNC-Chapel Hill 62-61 in the NCAA championship game Monday night. A waitress in the Four Corners Restaurant and Bar worked her way to one of her tables.

“Can I get you anything?” she asked the student shaking on the edge of his seat.

“Two points,” he replied. “How much does that cost? I’ll give anything.”

Tar Heel guard Michael Jordan brought an answer to the student’s plea, and mass pandemonium to Chapel Hill Monday night. A crowd estimated by police at more than 30,000 crowded Franklin Street and spread into all of downtown, shaking taverns, tossing beer cans, hurling toilet paper and literally painting the town, and each other, blue – Carolina Blue – as Tar Heels won their first national basketball championship in 25 years.

Men and women, young and old, many in outfits splattered with the ubiquitous blue paint, waved sparklers and hurled firecrackers, backdropped against an incessant chant of “We’re No. 1.”

“This is the most important day on campus,” screamed Kathy Kilgo, brushing aside her blond-and-blue streaked hair. “I’m a senior. I can’t believe we’re going out in style,” she said.

One man stripped to the waist, climbed a light pole and waved at two companions across the street who were see-sawing in a tree they’d climbed. Others gathered around a bonfire in the middle of the street.

One student, limping with a cane, stopped and yelled across to a friend, “We’re No. 1,” as he jumped up and down on his good leg, striking his cane on the sidewalk.

A young woman, who at the beginning of the game was wearing stylish earrings and had her hair completely braided, by the final buzzer had lost her earrings on the floor and, after running her fingers frantically over her head, had unbraided her hair completely.

An hour before game time at the Four Corners, a waitress glanced down the hall to the bathroom. “They tore off the door to the men’s bathroom during the semifinals Saturday,” she said. “God knows what will happen if they win tonight.”

The restaurant had taken all of the flowers out of the restaurant, all the pictures off the wall and put the bar sofas safely away in hiding.

A half an hour before the game, some people in the crowd were so inebriated that they cheered the television commercials.

Throughout the see-saw contest, each UNC basket brought cheers and shouts while Georgetown points were booed or greeted with silence.

Short lapses of silence also weaved through the crowd when the Heels had the ball toward the close of the first half. But as UNC came within a point, deafening roars were loosed and feet pounded to the rafters.

As the final seconds ticked away and UNC had the first basketball championship in a quarter century within its grasp, the televisions drew an explosion of cheers and shouts.

Couples hugged and kissed. Beer cans flew through the air. And the floor itself reverberated as people jumped and stomped. The N&O March 30, 1982

Carolina Fever raged into the following days, as staff writer Jim Buie reported.

The Shrunken Head clothing and novelty shop had been gearing up for Carolina’s victory for days, said owner Shelton Henderson. The shop had the most plentiful supply of NCAA championship T-shirts. … The shop also had more copies of the song, “Here We Come, New Orleans,” by The Fabulous Fryers. …

When Record Bar sold out of “Here We Come New Orleans” early Tuesday morning … lots of people were snatching up “Carolina Fever,” an album by the Stillman-Davis Band promoting Carolina’s football team.

The Intimate Bookshop had a banner in its display window proclaiming “We Love Our Heels,” and a display of about a dozen books on UNC basketball. The N&O March 31, 1982

Read more stories from local and state history and send us your own stories on the blog Past Times, newsobserver.com/past-times.

Leonard: 919-829-4866 or tleonard@newsobserver.com

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