The people and places behind Athens, Ohio's iconic brick road
Author: Ophelia Adjei-Awuah
I am a young Ghanaian who aspires to change people's lives through the stories I write. I am currently in my senior year at Ohio University. Through practical training to landing a permanent job, I have always loved doing TV reporting. I feel it incorporates every aspect of journalism and makes one more creative.
I love making new friends. Laughter keeps me going.
Did you know that the Ohio University mascot, Bobcat, had a wife called Bobkitten? Documents from Ohio University’s archives reveal that, the issue surrounding Bobcat and Bobkitten is one of “the most highly guarded secrets.”
A Howard Hall senior, Fran Femia was the Bobkitten. Unfortunately, their ‘marriage’ was put asunder after two years by university officials, who said that character was not approved. Femia was disappointed and tried to give reasons why she should be allowed to continue alongside Mr. Bobcat because she had been in existence for at least 24 months. Moreover, Dad’s Weekend was approaching, and it was one of occasions she ceased to entertain parents and guests. But that chance was taken away by the powers that be.
Their marriage, appeared to be a fruitful one as she even appeared with her husband, Mr. Bobcat on a New York show called “The World of Cats.” But Bobkitten was not needed in the world of cats by Ohio University authorities. Her end was near. The destruction of the kitten character succeeded when the all female Howard Hall was demolished in 1972. The Chi Omega sisters took on the dress back then but little is known of it now.
International students from the continent of Africa are one of the groups who, with great effort, soak the pressure mounted by academic work due to the difference in the school systems, among others.
For such students, the only way to release the stress is through programs held on campus to allow them some hours to think about something else other than academics.
One of such programs is the annual African Night held at Walter Rotunda on Ohio Universitycampus.
The program brings together all people of non-African and African heritage, including African-Americans, to learn about each others’ culture (mind you, the continent has 54 countries with different ways of life and over a thousand languages), feast and dance to good tunes.
Last Friday was nothing short of these.
A flag show preceded the events for the night to display the many different colors that represent the continent.
This was followed by a poetry recital by a man who calls himself “Poet-Laureate” Keith; from Botswana, (It is one of the countries where poetry is an everyday thing) called “I am the Ethnic Totem.” Written by himself, this poem calls on all Africans to unite to enable them overcome the challenges of this world.
The poem also syncs with the theme for the night, “Celebrating Africa’s Diversity: A Recipe for Unity.”
Variety, they say is the spice of life. A Ghanaian, Eric Kesse, also gave a rendition of Nigeria’s P Square’s “No one like you” and “Onyinye” songs while he carefully plunked the black and white keys on a keyboard.
Away from the performances, attendees were treated to a variety of food from parts of the continent including the famous jollof rice, samosa, kuskus, beans and plantain, among others.
After some energy was pumped into the system, it was boogie time. Students danced, cheered and sang along the songs played. To say it was fun, may be an understatement.
The beginning of the fall season beckons the imminence of the Halloween celebrations. Straightaway, the almost forgotten city of southeast Ohio, Athens, becomes the name on everyone’s lips — both young and old.
All roads lead to the brick city, the undisputed “home of HallOUween,” to have a feel of the wind of fun and craziness blowing through the county.
During this time the hash tag #HallOUween trends on social media, to give everyone an idea of where to be for the celebration. Don’t be surprised to see “OU” in the middle of the word itself. Halloween is Athens. Athens is Halloween. Period.
Saturday night was not different. It was a sight to behold on the brick-lined Court Street of Athens. The famous Athens Halloween Block Party was making progress.
With a charged atmosphere and a massive show of youthful exuberance, students, community members and visitors sang along and cheered performers throughout the night. The excitement was beyond description.
Aside the music, dance and ear-blocking cheers from revelers, I observed one thing. Some eateries and bars had a pocket swell. Long-winding queues stretched from their entrances with a spill onto the streets. Obviously, food could never be left out of the night’s pleasure, which translated into what could be described as a very good business day for some Court Street business owners.
Another thing caught my attention. A human parking meter with the popular campus yellow bag with the inscriptions “no parking” worn on his head. You just questioned won’t he suffocate to death? Huh? Exactly my thoughts when I first saw him.
Thankfully, he had punched holes around the eyes and nose to allow for breathing. He stood still with one arm stretched. You ‘park’ in front of him, he fines you. Just as simple as that. (Hahahaaa!).
Returning to my humble abode, scores of people were having their own mini block parties in front of their apartments. As to whether it was a warm up to go down to Court Street, or their own way of celebrating the night, I can’t tell but all I can say is that, Athens #HallOUween Block Party was a blast with a variety of activities for both young and old.
Every Ohio University student is proud to be associated with the Bobcat brand. With honor, they continually shout “Go Bobcats!” to cheer on OU teams during games. But has anyone wondered how “Bobcat,” an animal’s name, became the nickname of Ohio University? Maybe not, but here it is.
In 1925, members of the Ohio University athletics board saw the need to have a nickname for the schools’ teams which were simply referred to as “OHIO” or “Green and White.” Schools that had nicknames mocked and called OU all sorts of names including “The Nameless Wonders.” Obviously, this did not sit well with the athletics board.
One morning, they announced a contest to allow students bring in their suggestion. Hundreds of names were submitted for a winning prize of ten dollars. After much scrutiny and deliberations, the name “Bobcat” was chosen. Hal H. Rowland, a student at the time, and resident of Athens took home the prize. The name was officially passed and adopted by one of OU’s former president, E.B Bryan on December 7, 1925. This was 29 years after the colors green and white were chosen. So, imagine three decades of no name. Your guess is as good as mine.
The 1925-26 baseball squad, the first team to play with the new name proudly used it in their next game and beat Denison 33-21.
Giving life to the Bobcat
The time was ripe to give life to the Bobcat. Men from Lincoln Hall made this decision to create a life-size costume of the character for the 1963 Homecoming because they wanted to “donate something permanent to the university.”
Plans were underway. A committee was formed to oversee the process. Schantz, a fine arts major and a costumier, created several designs until a final one was chosen. The head of the character was sent to France for creation after failed attempts to get it done in the U.S.; most importantly, labor was cheap. In cities like San Francisco and New York, the technique for the head, “papier-macheing,” was also not present.
The pants and gloves were sent to Van Horn and Sons in Philadelphia for sewing. A different company also in Philadelphia received contract for the hand-knit sweater which was expected to be 62 inches long and 42 inches wide.
The Lincoln Hall men spent a total of $250 on the mascot. The head costs $100, the sweater, $60 and the pants, $28. Padding for the stomach and rear was $35 and gloves, $6. After, the search for the person going to wear these was the next hurdle. They needed someone shorter than 5’ 11’’ in height. A member of the 1963 class and a Lincoln Hall resident, Dan Nicholas became the proud “Mr. Bobcat” as it was called. Then they decided the tradition must go on, and that, all Mr. Bobcats must come from the hall. Mr. Bobcat was then made a permanent member of the cheerleading group at all football and basketball games. His first appearance was during the 1960 Homecoming celebrations.
Mr. Bobcat’s first game
During the Homecoming, OU was scheduled to play their arch rival Miami Redskins (now the Redhawks). The Redskins had always been a thorn the in flesh of the Bobcats, winning all of the games played so far. On October 22 of this same year, they visited the Bobcats hoping to clinch their fourteenth victory. Little did they know Bobcat was now a living character that was going to ensure his kingdom was not defeated.
“The “animal” sprang from the tunnel under the stands, gave the hated Redskins a menacing sneer and signaled victory for Ohio.” The crowd stood and roared with a vengeance.” Ohio eventually won by thrashing Miami 10-0 and crowned the NCAA National College Champion. All credit went to Mr. Bobcat.
Since then, the mascot has undergone several changes in appearance.
Athleticism and academics are two disciplines that require one’s full attention, time and effort. Balancing these two time-consuming, yet important activities will require a determined and well-organized person. If not, one may suffer.
Joost Ligthart is an international student at Ohio University studying finance, and in his senior year. For him, adequate planning has been the secret to success throughout his stay on OU campus while playing with the OU men’s soccer team.
“I plan out my week before Monday and make sure that I prioritize and plan for ‘the big rocks,'” Ligthart said. He doesn’t allow extraneous factors divert his focus.
The Dutch citizen trains two hours a day to stay fit for the task he has taken up. “I have training everyday from 5am to 7am and I consider it a break from doing homework.”
He finds his current commitments as not any bigger challenge. Ligthart said it has boosted his self-confidence.
“For me, being a student-athlete makes me able to focus more in classes and feel better within myself.”
This feeling has never drawn Ligthart to a point of quitting soccer to focus on academic studies. He believes a balance of the three parts of man is salient to human existence.
Aside athletics, he is a co-chairperson for the Ohio University Global Ambassadors Outreach Committee. Ligthart said the extra curricular activities have helped him improve academically as against affecting it negatively.
“If anything, it has affected my schoolwork to be better. I like to compete with myself and playing soccer has made me more proactive.” He said.
Ligthart looks forward to playing soccer to the highest level while he finds his way to do further studies.
When he became president, OU grew tremendously in reputation and size, therefore there was the need for a new student center to accommodate the growing Bobcat population to replace what they had, called the Student Union. It was located at the current site of School of Communications.
A committee headed by a psychology lecturer was set up to start the preliminary preparations for the project. In fall of 1947, student leadership initiated a campaign to facilitate the process. Petitions were circulated and about 4,000 students appended their signatures to pay an extra five dollars toward the new construction. They collected over $160,000.
State Legislature and a host of other groups donated toward the Baker dream. It was to be the school’s largest building at the time, with six floors.
By 1948, plans were advanced to put up the $1,357,795 “unique” OU center. The aim was to “give a well-rounded experience in university life.”
Bellman, Gillette and Richards of Toledo designed the building, which was an example of Georgian architecture. This was because the University wanted to “keep with the architectural scheme of buildings.”
Several buildings around the area, including O’Bleness cottages, Faculty Club, Veteran-housing units were razed to give way to the ultramodern student center, which was to have a frontage stretch of 138 feet along the East Union Street facing College Green.
After demolishing the old Baker Center (Student Union), work commenced on the new edifice. By summer of 1953, the building was ready for the celebration of the university’s sesquicentennial on February 18, 1954. It as a dream come true for both students and faculty as the school lacked a place for entertainment and recreational purposes.
This had the game room for the students. It had eight bowling lanes, 15 billiard tables, 3 table tennis tables, cards and football. It was also the location for campus lost and found.
This area housed a café called The Frontier Room. The café was opened to all university personnel up to midnight and beyond. They served snacks and meals all day and into the night, including beer.
The Frontier Room was for relaxation and a feel of the open fire.
This area was dedicated to the University Information Center, 1804 Lounge, 1954 Lounge, the University Club and a place called A Sculpture for scholarship trophies.
In the University Club, the dress code was dining room coats and ties for men and skirts for women.
This floor had offices of the Director of Baker, Auditor, Duplicating Services and secretary in charge of reservations. It also had meeting rooms, TV lounge, large ballroom and an art gallery.
Third and fourth floors:
These floors had offices for student organizations including student government, dean of student activities, International student lounge, Directors of Sorority and Fraternity Affairs and the center program board.
The New Baker Center:
In 2000, the idea for a high-tech university center was presented by the student senate partly because the old Baker was far north of campus. They wanted a building quite centered on the campus for easier access from all parts of campus.
By February 2004, the Ohio University Board of Trustees approved the 60 million dollar project. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in March of 2004. In January 2007, the current Baker Center was opened. With the same Georgian design, the facility has won awards including two Golden Trowel awards from the International Masonry Institute. In 2008 Baker University Center was awarded the grand prize with honors from Learning by Design and Best Project in Ohio for its terrazzo floor art.
The excitement that accompanies football all over the world is overwhelming, especially during tournaments and leagues.
The fans, cheers, music, dance, and bets set the tone for any football game, be it home or away.
However, a simple Google search, depending on your location, produces different results for this name. In the United States, football involves quarterbacks, tight ends, special teams, offensive guards, only to mention a few.
On the other hand, football for those in Europe and Africa especially, includes a goalkeeper, forwards (strikers), midfielders and defenders.
Confusion and disappointment
Most Europeans and Africans are not privy to American football, though some may have heard there is something called American football. Some get confused and ask questions when they arrive at the stadium (if not told what to expect) to watch football, thinking it is soccer, as it’s known in America.
One of these people is Daniel Osei. He said, soccer came to mind when one of his friends mentioned football in a conversation. When he found out it was actually not what he was thinking, he was disappointed.
“I was so happy and decided to join my friend for one of the games, only for him to tell me he was talking about American football.” Daniel said, he tried to find places on campus to watch his favorite team, Chelsea FC, play in the Premier League but was not successful.
So far, on Ohio University’s campus, Buffalo Wild Wings has been the go-to place to catch a glimpse of soccer games during tournaments. The scene, atmosphere, cheers and applauds during the 2014 FIFA World Cup made it evident there is a love for the game on Ohio University campus. The eatery was a sight to behold as the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) was poised to eliminate the Ghana Black Stars from the tournament.
The USMNT had already suffered two defeats at the hands of the Black Stars, who were seen as underdogs in their previous two meetings. The Americans were hungry for a win. It finally came via a late header by John Brooks. The USMNT beat the Stars 2-1 to cancel out one of the 2-1 losses they have suffered at the hands of the West African team.
Where do we go to watch the game?
If there are so many football (soccer) lovers on OU campus, where do they go to watch a game, particularly in this period when the English Premier League (EPL) and the UEFA Champions League are ongoing?
A visit to several Court Street bars reveled managers aren’t as concerned about football as the American football. They may give it a try, but only when a team of interest is playing, such as the USMNT; there’s nothing to show of the EPL or Champions League.
Some fanatics of the game of football (soccer) go the extra mile and subscribe to channels, mostly online, to watch the game. NBC Sports Live Extra and ESPN are some of the online platforms where people go to watch the game. On a good day, it is shown on TV for other fans across the U.S to enjoy as well.
For most international students, subscription is not the way to go though they couldn’t substitute American football for football (soccer).
“Of course I love football but I won’t go the extra mile to subscribe and watch it. I will look out for highlights on YouTube and elsewhere,” Bismark Adusei said.
Some international students also gather to compete among themselves during summer to substitute for what they have lost and have a feel of the game.
So, be it American football or football (soccer), one thing is sure: The fans will always go hog-wild but the mix-up of the two games will forever remain.