Story Of Manning Drive
For this home game against Idaho, no arboretum and no water tower tale but something like it. We’re going to spin the story of something I bet a bunch of you make use of Saturday. Some of you may use it on the way in. Some on the way out. Some both ways. You might use it without incident or it could drive you crazy.
You know what? “Drive” may be the wrong word to use if it’s bad. Enough already, here’s the history of Manning Drive. The artery that links so many of you from the 15-501 bypass to Kenan Football Stadium, the Smith Center and UNC Hospitals has an interesting beginning and, if you get all stirred up because you’re not moving, well, you’ll fit right in with a North Carolina governor back in the 50s.
It was some 60 years ago—back in 1953 when University engineer Joe Hakan got a call to meet a DOT state engineer down at the newly completed 15-501 bypass. You see, Governor William Umstead had attended the 29-7 win over NC State on September 26 and he found out that, though he was the governor, it didn’t make one hill of beans when he tried to get out of Chapel Hill.
After the game, he headed back to Raleigh by way of Ridge Road—the road where the present-day Law School is—and, like so often today, it wasn’t a road but a parking lot. When the Governor finally got home, he decided that very weekend he was going to do something about it. That’s why a DOT engineer and our man, Joe Hakan, were there bright and early the following Monday.
Hakan learned that Governor Umstead was going to make sure he never got stuck in another post-football game traffic jam. He wanted another road out of Chapel Hill and wanted it done in 11 weeks. In time for the Duke game. To accomplish this executive directive, there were others coming over from Raleigh—25 stripe-shirted prisoners with heavy equipment. Hakan, uncertain why they needed him, found out.
He was told to walk toward the football stadium. And so he did—without a map and in the general direction of Kenan. He headed into the, then, heavy woods and started up the hill. About 100 yards into his walk, he heard a veritable cacophony of noise behind him and turned to see the 25 prisoners felling trees. To his horror, Joe Hakan realized he was the middle of what was to be the new road. Now, as we all know, it’s not exactly a straight one but we can thank Joe Hakan’s trailblazing and Governor Umstead’s raging for Manning Drive.
And you know what, despite its wide-asphalted presence, you still may get stuck trying to get in and or out. If you do, put this spin on it. You’re following historical precedent. Maybe that’ll make it easier for you—knowing you’re in the midst of reliving the plight of Governor William Umstead. Enjoy the drive and the game