Past Times

Motorcycles were a sign of the times on UNC campus in 1965

Motor scooters were a popular mode of campus transportation in the 1960s.
Motor scooters were a popular mode of campus transportation in the 1960s. UNC-CHAPEL HILL PHOTOGRAPHIC LABORATORY COLLECTION, NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVES, THE WILSON LIBRARY

In 1965, N&O writer Tom Bolch took a look at the consequences of campus overcrowding at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The population explosion on the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus has brought about a raucous revolution in student transportation which promises to echo for years to come.

The revolution began quietly enough as far back as seven years ago when crowded conditions on the north side of the campus caused expansion to shift to the south side of Raleigh Road.

Construction of Avery, Parker and Teague residence halls near the east end of Kenan Stadium put several hundred students beyond comfortable walking distance of the center of the campus.

The 20-minute walk to classroom buildings became a chore to many weary students, especially those with 8 o’clock classes. Scores of them turned to bicycles. But it was the more affluent – and more daring – who hit upon the idea of using motorcycles.

Now, motorized two-wheel vehicles of every size and description daily ply the roads from the distant dormitories to the vicinity of the Old Well.

There are motor scooters, which softly putt their way along at 200 miles to the gallon, motorbikes, which buzz like motorized log saws and leave large clouds of white smoke billowing in their wake, and elephant-sized motor cycles, which roar like the voice of doom and scare the daylights out of the pedestrian citizenry.

At last count there were 280 such two-wheeled jobs registered with the Office of the Dean of Men and the list grows daily as balmy spring weather and the call of the open road beckon study-weary students.

Counting the students living in the Avery, Parker and Teague residence halls, those in six-story Ehringhaus and Craige residence halls and those assigned to 10-story Morrison residence hall to be open for student occupancy next fall, there will be some 2,500 students living in residence halls located more than a half mile from the hub of the campus.

These denizens of the Last Outpost of Civilization, as they often refer to themselves while trudging to and fro along the half-mile road to higher education, are the primary market for the cycle-makers of Japan. The secondary market comprises their brethren living in the centrally-located upper and lower quadrangles, town students, commuters, and yes, even a few young-hearted but dignified professors.…

There are many factors behind the rising popularity of the motorbike on the campus. The primary consideration is space, or rather the lack thereof. There just aren’t enough parking spaces for all the cars. …

Another factor is university regulations concerning student possession of automobiles in Chapel Hill. Freshmen aren’t allowed to have them. Sophomores with a C average may have them but are only permitted to park them in the Bell Tower and Rams Head parking lots – in the boondocks.…

The call of adventure and excitement also weighs heavily in the popularity. On sunny Saturdays and Sundays the roads and wooded trails are alive with putt-putts, chug chugs and other sounds not unlike those emitted by outboard motorboats. As likely as not, a coed holding a picnic basket will be clinging tightly to her Lancelot on his motorized steed.

The road is not entirely a ribbon of silk for the cyclist, however. Even though the typical bike owner here is collegiate form his button-down collar down to his Goldcup socks, the image of black leather jackets, boots, sideburns and switchblade knives associated for so long with motorcycles is hard to live down.The N&O April 18, 1965

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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