The eve of the UNC-Virginia football game is also a good time to revisit Thomas Wolfe’s classic student essay, “Ye Who Have Been There Only Know,” published in the Tar Heel on December 13, 1919. Wolfe writes of his fond memories of the annual trip by train from Chapel Hill to Richmond, where the two teams often met in the early 20th century. A few inspirational quotes from the piece:
“On to Richmond!” Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving daring would rise that challenge, and the day before the game would see an entire student body migrating. Frantic preparations everywhere, pleading letters to dad, wholesale borrowing from everybody.
When twilight comes, the long train moves slowly out of Carrboro, to University, to Durham and then North the railheads clicking “On to Richmond, On to Richmond, On to Richmond.” Somehow there is an air abroad that catches men’s enthusiasm. From one end of the train to the other, there is feverish delight.
Was the scene for us or against us? Too often against us. And yet while the bitterness of defeat or the flush of victory is vivid. We know that whatever the result the game was worth while. Stength, cleanness, swiftness, all have been dramatized before us.
Read the whole article on microfilm in the North Carolina Collection, or in the recent collection of Wolfe’s student writings, The Magical Campus: University of North Carolina Writings, 1917-1920, edited by Matthew Bruccoli and Aldo Magi, published by the University of South Carolina Press in 2008.