The flower ladies were a group of African-American women, probably as many as a dozen, who used to set up with an umbrella, sometimes, they'd have a little bench and they would arrange flowers and they would have these little buckets around their feet these white plastic buckets with flowers in them. I don't know if they grew them or bought them or whatever, but it was a common sight on East Franklin Street and people liked it. Now, East Franklin at the time had a number of family-owned businesses. This was before University Mall; this was like where people shopped. Everyone was on Franklin Street, particularly East Franklin. So it was seen as a supplement to the downtown, not a competition.

So, the town got concerned about this and the merchants got concerned about this. So they decided to pass a town ordinance to ban sales of items on the sidewalks. The problem is that nobody wanted to get rid of the flower ladies, so there was a specific exception created that said you couldn't sell anything other than flowers on the sidewalks of Chapel Hill.

For students, it was a great thing, 'cause it was cheap. I mean, you could buy, I've did this, you could buy a handful of Daffodils or whatever for a dollar and give them to a girl and impress her. So, it was fun. Here's what happened: We had this tradition of the flower ladies, it gets to be the late 60s/early 70s and the culture is changing. And what people then start selling on Franklin Street, on the sidewalks...there was a guy called the Leather Man, who sold belts and a variety of leather goods... and then others who started selling drug paraphernalia and albums.

So suddenly, you go down East Franklin, and you'd have the stores, but then out on the sidewalk you'd have people who spread out a blanket and would be selling hash pipes, roach clips, jewelry, belts, you know, any kind of thing you could think of, all basically devoted to the whole drug culture, for lack of a better term. You can imagine the merchants of Chapel Hill weren't fond of this, it was suddenly like "Good Lord, Chapel Hill has turned into a big head shop", which, of course, it was.

So, the town got concerned about this and the merchants got concerned about this. So they decided to pass a town ordinance to ban sales of items on the sidewalks. The problem is that nobody wanted to get rid of the flower ladies, so there was a specific exception created that said you couldn't sell anything other than flowers on the sidewalks of Chapel Hill.

So, the entrepreneurial minded folks had a brilliant idea. They continued to set up shop, but now they wouldn't sell you a roach clip or a hash pipe or a belt or some earrings or an album... What they would sell you was a flower. And as a free gift with every flower you bought, you would get a roach clip or a hash pipe or an album or whatever. So then the town had to go back and amend the ordinance again to ban all sales on Franklin, which had the effect of pushing the flower ladies into the alleyways. Later they were allowed to set up shop in the plaza that's now the Bank of America building, it was North Carolina National Bank then.

But over a period of time what that meant was the flower ladies disappeared as well. So the result was that by the mid to late 70s there was no sales of anything on Franklin Street, on the sidewalks, including the flower ladies.