All you ever wanted to know about Football in a Forest—The Life and Times of Kenan Memorial Stadium:
* Where did the title come from? The great sports columnist Furman Bisher (UNC ’38) came to Chapel Hill in November of 1980 to write a piece on the Carolina-Duke game for his newspaper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and waxed poetic about the venue for several paragraphs. He wrote, “This is football in a forest, a setting in which knights of old would have met for a joust.” The line captured my fancy then and I stuck it away and, voila, it came in handy thirty-five years later.
* Why this book, now? I had thought of doing a similar book twice before, during the 1996-97 apex of the Mack Brown era and the 2009 ascension of Butch Davis’s program, but neither concept stuck. I resolved to figure out a way to make it happen during the spring of 2015 when my weariness over the five-year drumbeat of overblown and sensationalized media coverage of The Troubles escalated. Let’s do something fun, I thought.
* Details on the book? It’s 240 pages, eleven inches by nine, landscape format, color throughout, approximately 250 photos/illustrations. Cost: $39.95.
* How are the contents structured? The main text of the book flows chronologically and tells of why a new stadium was needed in the 1920s; why William R. Kenan Jr. stepped up to fund it; how it was built and why in its particular location; how the campus has evolved around it; and how the stadium has grown over nearly nine decades while still maintaining that singular ambiance. A set of ten “Magic Moments” sidebars tell the stories of memorable games or plays in the major eras of the program since the Justice Era of the post-war forties, and the voices of ten established writers and/or well-known Carolina alumni are heard with their individual perspectives on the Kenan Stadium experience.
* Where can I find it? At the moment the key distribution channel is through Johnny T-Shirt, the long-time purveyor of everything Tar Heels. The books are in their main retail shop on Franklin Street and you can order one by phone or on-line at johnnyshirt.com or call 800/554-6862.
You can also find the book at UNC Student Stores, UNC Campus; Flyleaf Books, 752 Martin Luther King Blvd., Chapel Hill; and Quail Ridge Books, North Hills Shopping Center, Raleigh.
And soon we expect it to be available at Chapel Hill Sportswear, 119 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill; McIntyre’s Books, Fearrington Village just south of Chapel Hill; Old Sport & Gallery, Village of Pinehurst; and Country Bookstore, Southern Pines.
We are endeavoring to get books into Barnes & Noble stores in the region and across the state. Unfortunately, individual stores don’t have the ability to order books; the decision has to be made on a corporate level in New York. That process is in the works.
What are some of the intriguing miscellaneous details you found in your research? That the plan from day one was to never have one massive parking lot, that fans would enter and leave via a myriad of paths through the woods. That citizens complained loudly over all the dynamiting of the rock on the north side during the spring and summer of 1927. That Dr. William C. Coker, the University’s first professor of botany and the namesake of the Arboretum that sits today on campus, coordinated the landscaping around the stadium. That it was, in fact, a myth that no part of the structure could rise above the trees circling the venue. That the stadium’s architects later designed similar structures at the universities of Georgia and Alabama. I could go on and on. You’ll have to get the book and learn more.