“You would all meet in the middle of the floor and you would do a trade,” Meg Bennett said. “’Who's got this, I need that, what time?’”
Although this process may sound antiquated and arduous, Tom Bennett, 1987 graduate, said at the end of the day, it functioned like a major social event.
“I can remember having over a hundred hours worth of classes in my hand,” Tom Bennett said. “And you would go out there and basically barter ... It was a great way to meet people, you know, today it’s all online.”
The era of Michael Jordan
Arguably the most significant event for many students during the 1980s was the rise of Michael Jordan and the 1982 NCAA National Championship victory.
Before the Tar Heels officially sealed the 1982 National Championship victory, Gina Decker, class of 1982, and her friends were already halfway out the door for the age-old tradition of rushing Franklin Street. Decker said she remembers arriving early with a group of people, but soon, what felt like the entirety of Chapel Hill converged into a huge crowd. Even amidst the mob-like scene, Decker said she still felt safe because everyone there shared the same emotions and experienced the same joy — sweet, sweet victory.
Mary Margaret Bechtold was also part of the fray on that joyous 1982 night. In Bechtold’s experience rushing Franklin Street, something unique sticks out in her mind — paint.
“Back then we had cans of paint, and we literally painted Franklin Street,” Bechtold said. “That’s why your generation can’t have much fun.”
Big hair, bad hair, bad fashion, music you’d like to forget
Blythe said the major trends of the '80s ranged from preppy to Madonna-esque. For a time, the popular look was defined by Lacoste shirts and pink and green color combinations. Later, people wore cutoff sweatshirts and cropped clothing. Meg Bennett said her class attire consisted of tie-dye shirts, flip flops and gym shorts, a wardrobe decision that appalled her parents.
The culture of music was also especially present at UNC because of the major concerts that occurred on campus. From U2 in 1983 at Kenan Stadium to Kenny Rogers in the Dean Dome in 1986, UNC students took advantage of their exposure to the musical culture of the '80s.
“Franklin Street: Bashed and crashed.” – The Daily Tar Heel, Sep. 2, 1986.
In 1984, Congress passed a law requiring states to raise the age permitting the consumption of alcohol to 21and in 1986, this law finally touched UNC’s campus, affecting many undergraduate students.
“I was one of those people who came to Carolina to legally drink, and then lost the privilege while there, and then gained it back during my senior year,” Tom Bennett said.
When the law finally came into place in North Carolina, students headed to Franklin Street for a final send-off to the right to drink. Tom Bennett said this gathering quickly turned to a boisterous party.
“The night that we lost our privileges, it was kinda similar to when Carolina is in the Final Four,” Tom Bennett said. “There were bonfires in the street, and it got kind of rowdy. There were a lot of people that weren’t happy about the change in drinking age.”
An issue on UNC’s political conscience was apartheid in South Africa. Students constructed shanties in front of South Building to represent the conditions in South Africa and to advance their calls for divestment in South Africa. Blythe said students at UNC wanted to ensure that the school did not invest in companies that upheld an oppressive government.
Blythe said student activism in the 1980s focused on politics outside of Chapel Hill and he said he is glad that students are now taking stands on issues directly within Chapel Hill, such as Silent Sam.
“We were politically conscious for various topics,” Blythe said. “But we weren’t thinking about a monument that’d been sitting on campus since 1913.”