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Thursday, September 29, 1983fi"he Daily Tar Heel7
McKnight recalls first basketball team
By KATHY HOPPER
He's a cross between Sir Laurence Olivier and
Grandpa Walton reminiscing about the old days
with fun-loving gentility.
Dr. Roy B. McKnight lives by a code of ethics
circa 1910 that exemplifies the ideals of an honest
hard-working life. He has the mischievous grin of a
fraternity man and the matter-of-fact manner of the
old family doctor who can get to the heart of an ail
ment and administer aid.
He has lived a good life; 90 years of continuous
work has given him a limitless supply of tales. He can
tell you about the first UNC basketball team and what
University life was like in 1911.
As the only surviving member of the 1910 team, he
remembers a day when Carolina basketball was far
"There were eight members on the team. We put up
a pole behind Bynum (at that time the gym) and prac
ticed there for about a week." When University of
ficials wouldn't let them play in the gym, McKnight
suggested a visit with then President Frances Venable.
Venable ordered that the team be let in. Then goals
and hoops were set up inside.
The team played six to eight games a year and won
about half of them.
"The coach was Nat Cardinal. Ever hear of him?''
McKnight asked, laughing softly. "No one else ever
did. He didn't know a basketball from a ping-pong
ball. He was an Olympic track man. We coached
McKnight remembered the closeness and spirit be
tween the team and its opponents. Visiting teams had
no Hiltons or Holiday Inns to lodge them so they
stayed with members of the home team. McKnight
smiled when he recollected the nights spent talking
with players from Wake Forest, Washington and Lee,
and Woodbury Forest.
Close bonds between competitors are not the only
thing the University has grown out of. McKnight said
the student-faculty bond has also weakened.
"In my day faculty-student relationships were much
closer than they are now. We'd drop in on them
(faculty) in their homes and talk things over with them
in their office. I don't think you do that kind of thing
now. Classes were smaller. It was a different at
mosphere on campus than it is today."
One difference is the absence of once mandatory
daily chapel meetings, he said. Monitors would check
attendance at these meetings conducted by President
Venable in Gerrard Hall.
After classes McKnight said some men would hang
out at the YMCA or downtown drug stores.
Weekends were more special. "We'd hire a horse
and buggy to go to Durham to see a show. It'd cost
two of us $2.50. We saw some good shows over
there," he said, smiling.
The daily routines of college students have also
changed. In 1910, students ate meals at boarding
houses that charged about $12 a month. There were
no laundromats in town so students mailed their dirty
clothes home in packages.
Students bathed in Bynum Gym. "People'd go
around in their birthday clothes," McKnight said,
then quickly added, "Of course there were no women
on campus then."
The town has also changed.
"When I came here there wasn't a car in Orange
County." His robust laughter filled the room. "Now I
think every student must have at least 10.
"I remember when the streets were not paved.
When it rained a little they were all mud. You had to
put boards on the street to get to the other side."
McKnight was active on campus during his years at
UNC. Every Saturay night he attended Di-Phi literary
society meetings. "There was nowhere else to go," he
He was also one of the first members of the Sigma
Chi fraternity on campus. He told about some aspects
of fraternity life during the early 20th century. "Haz
ing was popular back then. They'd make you sing and
dance a little, that was all no harm done."
The fraternity remained an important part of
McKnight's life. As an alumnus, he acted as head of
this province and was inducted into two honorary
orders of the fraternity.
The Sigma Chis dedicated their house to him, and
brothers often drop by bis home to visit or to help per
form chores. And McKnight occasionally goes to the
house for dinners and chapter meetings.
He is quick to add that both of his sons were Sigma
McKnight sat back in his easy chair and gazed at the
pictures on the wall pictures of friends, fellow
faculty members, respected professors and family.
"I've tried to be a decent person all my life," he said.
"I've had my regrets. By and large, I hope when the
pros and cons are weighed, the pros outweigh the
cons. If you live your life with that aim in mind, I
think you're liable to achieve it."
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By KATHY NORCROSS
"One burst suddenly, at the hill-top, on the end of
the straggling village street, flanked by faculty houses,
and winding a mile in to the town centre and the
university. The central campus sloped back and up
over a broad area of rich turf, graved with magnifi
cient ancient trees. A quadrangle of post
Revolutionary buildings of weathered brick bounded
the upper end: other newer buildings, in the modem
bad manner (the Pedagogic Neo-Greeky), were scat
tered around beyond the central design: beyond, there
was a thickly forested wilderness. There was still a
good flavor of the wilderness about the place one
felt its remoteness, its isolated charm. "
Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward Angel, 1929
Frances Gardiner, a lady full of warmth and vitality,
was born in Chapel Hill in 1903, lived here until 1929,
moved with her husband to New Jersey, and returned
30 years later after her husband's death. She saw the
town in its youth, and over the years she has watched it
change and mature.
'It's hard to believe you can be close
to one century and coming near to
"It's hard to believe you can be close to one century
and coming near to another," Gardiner said.
Gardiner's father, Frances Preston Venable, lived in
the Widow Puckett house across the street from where
UNC President William C. Friday now lives. A
bachelor, Venable came to Chapel Hill in 1881 and
was the University's first professor of chemistry. Next
door lived John Manning, head of the law school. His
daughter became Venable's wife. All of the Venables'
five children were born in the Widow Puckett house.
Venable became president of the University in 1900.
The family moved across Franklin Street into the
house in which the Fridays now live.
Gardiner remembers the moving day. The heavy
furniture was carried across the street in wagons pulled
"Franklin Street was just an old dirt road with high
banks on either side," she said. "I remember holding
onto my nurse's hand, and she had a portrait under
In 1914 Venable resigned because of ill health and
returned to his true love: teaching. He became head of
UNC's chemistry department.
"He was president because he thought it was his du
ty," Gardiner said. "He was frustrated because he
. wanted to be teaching young men to be chemists."
When she was about 15, Gardiner entered St.
Mary's preparatory school, which she attended for
The dating regulations there were strict, she said.
Girls had to get permission from their parents so the
boy's name could be put on a list. At 7 p.m. on Satur
day the boys would line up and check in, then the girls
went to Sneed Hall,-a study hall filled with desks and
"We could date for an hour with a chaperone there
the whole time," Gardiner said. "Then the guys would
leave and date all the girls in Raleigh. There were a lot
,of matches made just the same."
After St. Mary's, Gardiner returned to Chapel Hill
this time for school. "When I was in school, they
didn't have any dorms for women," she said. "They
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McKnight, 90, is the oldest living member of a UNC basketball team,
recalls his college days when Carolina basketball was far from revered.
Battle House a part
of University history
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DTHLon L Thomas
. Frances Gardiner, a Chapel Hill native, sits next to a picture of her father, Frances Preston
Venable. Gardiner has watched Chapel Hill change and mature for most of her life.
had a couple of private homes where the Ackland
Museum is. Ladies would come to educate their
children and run a boarding house."
In contrast to a higher percentage of females than
males in the student body today, when Gardiner at
tended UNC there were only about 75 women. In one
of her history classes there were about 100 men and
The men didn't always appreciate the women's
'We could date for an hour with a
chaperone there the whole time. Then
the guys would leave and date all the
girls in Raleigh. '
"The women that came here first were very studious
and older. Many were teachers who wanted to come
back and get a higher degree," Gardiner said. "I think
the, boys are scared of all you smart girls. I think
you're doing the right thing though." In spite of the
difficulties, the women did establish careers, and one
of Gardiner's close friends is a chemist.
' It would be hard to imagine any decade as obsessed
with sports as today's, but we follow a tradition of
"We were just as excited about it (sports)," Gardi
ner said. "The first stadium was just a wooden set of
bleachers. Then they built concrete ones that was
supposed to be very elegant. Virginia was the big
game. If we beat Virginia that was the best. Duke crept
In 1929 Gardiner married and moved with her hus
band to Moorestown, N.J., where he was a family
doctor. But Chapel Hill stayed in her blood, and she
"I came back once or twice a year," she said. "It's
just something you can't get away from."
When her husband died in 1961, she. moved back
and lived in the old Venable house which her father
had built shortly after resigning and where he later
retired. But it was not exactly like coming home
because someone had converted the home into apart
ments. "The first thing of all that changed Chapel Hill and
made it grow so was the building of the hospital,"
Gardiner said. "When I first came back, I worked as a
pink lady (similar to a candy-striper). Then they built
so much, I couldn't find my way around much less
show anyone. It's grown in leaps and bounds."
The dental school has grown too. Gardiner recalls
that in her childhood, all the children had to go to
Hillsborough to get their teeth fixed. They took a hack
to Carrboro where at University Station they met a
train. In Hillsborough they had to take another hack.
A trip to the dentist lasted all day.
As any university town usually does, Chapel Hill is
bound to mature and grow as the country does.
Change is inevitable. Gardiner never quite lost touch
with Chapel Hill, and she still recognizes the gradual
changes, and believes they are for the better.
"When I think back to my father's day, there were
so few people here. It was hard to keep up with all the
changes," she said. "There's bound to be a lot of dif
ferent people because of how it's expanded. I read all
the different names: Chinese, Japanese. I think it's in
teresting. Things are going on all over.
"It's growing, but I'm interested in all the different
people. A lot of people fuss and fret they cry when
a tree's cut down. But actually, things have to change.
We have to adapt to it and not be so critical. If you're
rigid, you're pretty hopeless."
By TOM CONLON
It has been a grammar school, a law of
fice and the home of a University presi
dent. And its rooms have held everything
from law classes to chickens. Today, it is
the home of the Baptist Student Union.
Located on Battle Lane across from
Kenan dormitory, the Battle House has
been a part of UNC history since 1843.
William Horn Battle (1802-1879) bought
Senlac, the property on which Battle
House now stands, in 1843. A primitive
grammar school stood there in the early
1800s, according to the Chapel Hill
Historical Society's Historic Buildings and
Landmarks of Chapel Hill, North
William Battle was a supreme court
judge and a professor of law during his
years at Senlac. He built eight rooms on
the front of the house and later built two
cottages, known as offices, on each side of
the front gate. UNC's first law school
classes were held here, according to
William S. Powell's The First State.
William Horn Battle lived at Senlac un
til 1868 when the reconstruction govern
ment caused him to move to Raleigh.
From 1868 to 1876, Senlac was rented and
suffered much deterioration. Stories were
told of tenants felling great oaks and keep
ing chickens in the former dining room.
William Battle sold the house to his son,
Kemp Plummer Battle, when the younger
Battle became president of the University
in 1876. He served in that office until 1891,
from 1891 until his death in 1919, he
served as a professor of history. Kemp
Plummer Battle had also been active with
a small group of alumni who took the lead
in re-opening the University after the Civil
War, Powell wrote.
While there, President Battle repaired
the house and added a one-story wing on
each side and various outbuildings, in
cluding a wellhouse, two servants' houses,
a woodhouse, a cowhouse, a chicken
house, a smokehouse, three or four
privies, a bathhouse and a barn. These
buildings still existed when he died.
Upon the death of President Battle's
aunt, in the fall of 1919, the household
was broken up and Senlac was again rent
ed. In 1922 John Manning Booker, UNC
professor of English and husband of Nell
Lewis Battle, President Battle's grand
daughter, bought the house. Up to this
time, the property included six country
acres. During the Bookers' residency,
roads were cut, lots sold, and the house
save the front altered from its former
appearance. Heirs of the Bookers main
tained the house until the mid-1960s.
The UNC Baptist Student Union was
looking for a place to relocate in 1956,
James O. Cansler, then BSU campus
minister, said. Today, Cansler is associate
vice chancellor and associate dean of stu
"We looked at three possible sites for
the Baptist Student Union," Cansler said.
"The Battle House was one of those
places. We had heard talk that the
(Booker) family wanted to sell the house
and property, and we felt we had a good
shot at it and spoke with the heirs.
"Mrs. Booker was also visited by
William D. Carmichael, then president of
the University," Cansler said. "He told
her the University felt the need to have the
property and that it would offer her more
than anyone else who wanted the proper
ty. We felt we couldn't compete with the
University and purchased property on
Rosemary Street where Chapel Hill Realty
"The BSU did well on Rosemary Street,
but campus ministers always hoped for
property that would be closer to campus
and the dormitories," Cansler said.
"In late 1964, the same realtor we
worked with in 1956 called me up one day
and said that the Battle House might again
be available and asked if we were still in
terested," he said. "He told us that the
University was not able to purchase the
house at a schedule convenient to the
heirs. The heir that we spoke with in 1956
had died, and the new heir was willing to
sell to us.
"I went to my superiors at the Baptist
State Convention and urged them to move
quickly," Cansler said. "They approved,
and that same year we acquired the pro
perty and began an extensive renovation.
The house was very dilapidated and was
covered with so much bush that you
couldn't see the house from the road. A
small two-bedroom dwelling stood on the
southwest corner of the property, which
we tore down after we were unable to give
it away. An old garage in the back was also
torn down as it was rotting and had no his
Cansler said that approximately
$100,000 was spent on renovations and
that nearly all of the exterior had been pre
served. "We removed partitions in the
back and took out a small porch where the
dining room is today," he said. "We add
ed the new kitchen and back porch, but
everything else was kept in its original ap
pearance. We got a lot of expressed appre
ciation from the Chapel Hill Historical
Society for our success. We also tried to
save as many pf the front magnolia and
walnut trees as possible."
The Rev. Joe Clontz, Baptist campus
minister today, came to UNC in 1971 and
took over the BSU program at Battle
House. "Most of the work had been done
when I got here, but we did have the house
insulated and added new aluminum sid
ings," he said. "We also put in storm win
dows and other energy-efficient equipment
to make the house more comfortable with
in the standards of the Chapel Hill His
Clontz said that the upper floor re
mained in bedroom format since they once
considered renting rooms out to interna
tional students, but that the program never
got underway. "We use the upstairs rooms
,for"offices and study areas, which has fit
our needs well," he said. "The main floor
has been decorated and carpeted to meet
the needs of the campus ministry. We hold
our Thursday night fellowship and wor
ship services there, and have rooms avail
able for Bible studies and small groups.
We also provide rooms for students to
come over and study or just to gather with
The Battle House continues to be a part
of University history, as students and
friends can use the house for BSU and
other religious functions. Clontz1 added
that a Chapel Hill food co-operative began
at the Battle House and that the house was
used by various groups in the community
in the' early 1970s.
The house today is available for retreats
and special meetings by other groups on
occasion, although most of the space is
taken up by Baptist Student Union activities.