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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Bill Hull, June 21, 2001. Interview K-0844. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Importance of a gay bar in Chapel Hill

Hull describes the location, secretive nature, and patronage of the Ponderosa, a gay dance bar in Chapel Hill. He argues that some of the male clientele assumed a macho role by beating up queers who "acted gay." Hull contrasts the more welcoming atmosphere in Chapel Hill with the more closeted gay culture in Durham.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Bill Hull, June 21, 2001. Interview K-0844. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Where was the Ponderosa at?
BILL HULL:
It was on Old Chapel Hill Road going just before you get to the main entrance to Hope Valley, there is a nice little colonial, I mean I could go to the house and knock on the door and ask, "Do you hear screams in the night?" Because I know the house. [Laughter] That was a very wooded, undeveloped area, there was a development on the left with one of these little entryways—
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
So was it between Chapel Hill and Durham?
BILL HULL:
It was between Chapel Hill and Durham, but it was over the Durham County Line, which was very rare. It was actually in Durham County, the Tempo was the gay bar, and because it was in Chapel Hill, it was fine. For something to open in Durham, was quite rare. My lover and I used to go there at the end of 1963, most of 64. It didn't last very long. There was a little like kind of drive in grill, that is what it was, not a hot dog stand, but like a diner and in the back of that was a big, concrete, rectangle building like a VFW Hut and it turned into a gay bar. It was the only bar that you could dance in south of Washington and north of Atlanta in the 60s. A lot of lesbians went there, a lot of gay people went there. A few straight people went there because they used to have trouble with Marines showing up and trying to be Marine like?
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Marine like, what do you think, that they might have been closet cases, or were they just being assholes?
BILL HULL:
Closet cases who were in this macho role of beating up queers—Bashing, if push came to shove. You could have them all, but if you acted like you were gay, you know. People were being chased to their cars and things like that. I never felt scared; I have never been scared in my life. I have never been intimidated by anything.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Did you work at the Ponderosa?
BILL HULL:
No, I worked at the Pegasus.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Oh, you worked at the Pegasus.
BILL HULL:
The dance floor at the Ponderosa was a linoleum floor. I don't think that it lasted a year and half. Again, by this time, the fellow that basically brought me out physically was still with the newspaper in Durham and told me about it. We went there and I told my lover at the time and he was very aware of the Durham authorities knowing that it was going on. At that time, it was kind of scary for two men to dance in public, but their whole attitude that he reported to me was that as long as there was no trouble there, as long as people are discreet and don't break traffic laws and don't do it in the street and scare the horses, there would be no problem. It was very open, I was very proud to be a Durhamite, and that this could go out of Chapel Hill, Atlanta, Washington and that sort of thing. But, it didn't last very long and I don't know why. Being in a relationship, we didn't go that much to the bar.