For love of our bricks …

We have raced down them on our way to class. We have tripped on them in the four-inch heals we never should have worn out on a Saturday night. We have stood in line on them waiting for GoodFella’s pizza, and we have gone hunting on them for the best Halloween costume each year. They have seen our reunions, our goodbyes, 21st birthdays, impromptu fests, and lots of ugly Christmas sweaters.

The bricks of Court Street are our home for our four years at Ohio University. We build the foundation of our adult lives on the bricks of our favorite college street.

But what happens after graduation day?

Why do Bobcat alumni spread their Court Street tales like old family stories, near and dear, to their new friends?

People can tell you hundreds of stories and give you thousands of reasons, but the feeling is almost unexplainable. The reason we love Court Street almost goes beyond words.

First memories

“My sister decided to give me a tour of the campus the summer before I started school that year. She showed me every brick and every corner that Athens had to offer.” —Alex Blanchard, education, Class of 2015

Blanchard and his sister stepped into Pigskin, where she told him all about her 21st birthday on Court Street. “The one thing that struck me about her story was the pure excitement about that evening,” he says. “Not the excitement over finally being able to drink (legally), but the details of how complete strangers celebrated with her. This idea of a community within the school is what inspired me to come here.”

Our first memories, while they might not stand out, stick with us.

 The businesses

“If we didn’t meet in someone’s room, it was at one of the businesses. All were close by, all catered to the students and the students respected them for it.” —Jeff Brediger, mechanical engineering, Class of 1981

Brediger was amazed at all the bars and eating places and realized soon after arriving in Athens that Court Street was the central gathering place in town. It was the perfect spot to get together, filled with a variety of establishments that were centered around the students.

“You could go up and down Court Street easily and see so much without really going far,” said Michelle Igelhart, community nutrition and dietetics, Class of 1994

Today, 19 bars sit within a mile radius of Court Street, not to mention a variety of restaurants, thrift shops buried with hidden treasures, local boutiques, and our favorite bookstores for essential Bobcat apparel.

“(Court Street) impacted how I lived, what I bought, and who I saw. It made college a fun place to be,” said Edie Dale, civil engineering, Class of 1995

The Bagel Buggy evolved into Burrito Buggy and now students shop for school supplies at the College Bookstore instead of Woolworth’s. O’Hooleys turned into Jackie O’s and big name franchises like Cold Stone Creamery turned into small-town favorite Fluff Bakery. Even though it has changed over time, the businesses on Court Street have been an essential part of the Uptown experience for every Bobcat and are often the most memorable part.

 The people

“The biggest part of being an alumna is I can come back whenever, but it’s not the same without the people and places you made the memories with. Court Street in general is a place where we have an emotional connection because it’s so special.” —Stephanie Caesar, public relations, Class of 2013

 It was a cold winter’s night and fresh powdery snow blanketed Court Street, Blanchard recalls. Students dressed in holiday apparel and shuffled between the bars on Court Street, celebrating their last night of freedom before finals and the students’ newest fest, Santa Fest. Everyone was in great spirits and the bars were alive with Christmas music.

“A large portion of my friends would go on to graduate that winter so this was the last time we were all together, and it truly was a memory I will never forget” Blanchard says.

The people make Court Street. It’s the feel good, no worry attitude that filled the street on the weekends, and the work hard and dream big ambitions we held ourselves to throughout the week. We worked hard to play hard, and it was the people around us who made all of the hard work worth it.

Weekend rituals

“There was always the Thursday night Lucky’s gang. It was my group of friends that I hung out with all of the time. It was understood that we would get that same booth, in the same bar, with the same people, every Thursday. It was the only thing we ever really needed.” –Danny Sudetic, business, Class of 2014

Liquor pitchers on Wednesday, all night study sessions at Donkey, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” at closing time, a favorite booth in the Pub, or a slice of pizza on Slice Night at Courtside —our week-to-week routines were the same.

Our nights on Court Street were often spent with the same people in the places. Some might argue we found ourselves caught up in the midst of normality, but we’d argue back that these were some of the best times of our lives.

“All we ever needed were good friends, good food, and good times,” Sudetic said.

 Living life on our own terms

“We were somewhere that is not only beautiful but also somewhere we were comfortable and happy to be because you know people who truly mean something to you are there and you are doing things on your own terms and going after your dreams in college. Its the epicenter of campus that holds true the character of Ohio University.” – Stephanie Caesar

 When we came to Athens as a freshman, it was the first time in our lives that we were free from the confines of our parents. No more curfews, rules, or disappointed looks when we came home an hour late. Court Street was freedom. We were free to stay out, go out, and hang out with whomever. We decided whom our families away from our families would be made up of.

 It was the breath of fresh air that we had never had before and following graduation would never truly have again. Our only worries were class and, for some, work. We lived life the way we wanted to live it, not worried about anything else besides having a good time.

What we tell others

“People who wouldn’t have a connection to Court Street haven’t experienced it. It’s always upbeat. Epicenter of amazing.” –Stephanie Caesar

 As many students and alumni already know, trying to explain Court Street to others without breaking out in pure joy is close to impossible. It is also something that can be hard to understand to those we tell about it.

“You don’t hear stories like ours at other colleges and universities,” said Ron Smith,  organizational communication, Class of 1997. “Other schools talk about how proud OU alumni are … as we should be!”

 Our pride in our school goes beyond campus. We not only take pride in being Bobcats, but we are also proud of supporting the community on Court Street and sharing the stories about them wherever we go.

It’s timeless

“This answer (to why Court Street is so special) lies in what we call the ‘Magic of Athens.’ Court Street adds to the small, college-town feel. The bricks, the old history of the buildings and all the locally owned business make Court Street an OU experience.” – Ron Smith

 The buildings look like a replica of Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life. The majestic Athena time warps you back to the 1950s as buildings line streets that were built back to the late 1800s. But not only does Court Street seem physically timeless, the spirit has never changed.

Court Street is our common ground. I know when I come back that is where I’ll find everyone and it feels like it hasn’t changed,” said Sudetic.

We valued traditions and worked to uphold them. Things we might not have understood as freshmen became a part of us by the time we graduated. We might have thought back then that the seniors were strange for being so sad about leaving but now we know the feeling.

“I enjoy every chance I can to walk down the street again and remember a lot of good times,” Brediger said.

It’s home

“When I come back and I am driving across route 50, I always come in the back way so I see the river (which was re-routed) and South Green. It is like someone is waving a magic wand. I am transported!” –Denise Gibbons, fashion merchandising, Class of 1978

Our connection with Court Street is classic and timeless. We can leave for years but the second we step foot on the corner of Union and Court Street it almost feels as if we never left.

 “I love hearing my name called out and turning to see an old friend that just pulled in. It means I’m home,” said Dale.

 While we may have left Athens for years and businesses and establishments have changed, there are moments on Court Street that can take you back 10 years like nothing has changed. That’s Dale’s favorite part of returning as an alumna. Today, she enjoys returning for homecoming and the excitement of returning to the bricks she still considers home for her.

 The Future

“Now that I have a child, (what it means to be an alumnus is) introducing her to the magic of Athens in hopes that it will catch on.” –Ron Smith

 We joke with our friends that our children will have no choice but to attend OU someday, when really we pray that they do. We don’t except them to have the same experiences as we had necessarily. But truly, we wish them all of the joy and happiness in their college lives as we had because we know that there is no better place than the bricks of Court Street.

Trying to grasp our love for Court Street is like trying to catch air in your hands. It’s impossible. The outside world might not understand it, but we do, and we know that there is nothing like it. We valued our college years because we always knew how time would fly and that our days on the bricks would be limited. We were sentimental, knowing that each drink during that last semester as seniors was strong yet bittersweet. It’s a love that is pure and filled with all-intensive good. It’s the best kind of love that is unexplainable, and maybe that’s the way it should just be explained.

Tell us your story

Bobcats love to talk about OU. If you have a story or recollection, post it below in the comments …

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Sarah Kenney is a senior at Ohio University pursuing two undergraduate degrees in journalism and video production. She is a  coffee loving travel enthusiast and adventure seeker who enjoys classic films, skiing, good laughs, football games on Sunday afternoons, and time at home with her two dogs, Marley and Mia. She aspires to someday write for a comedy or drama television series or work in travel media or visual branding.

Basics go brick hunting

Upon entering their senior year, most Bobcats create an Athens bucket list. It’s almost guaranteed that liberating an “Athens Block” brick from Court Street or College Green will be on that list.

Athens Block by Erin Nekervis
Athens Block” by Erin Nekervis is licensed under CC by 2.0.

This has been a tradition for years, and many alumni proudly display bricks in their offices or homes. Brick liberation generally occurs in the dark of night and as quickly as possible.

But what happens when two #basic best friends decide to get their own bricks? Erica Frank and I — the most basic of basics — were determined to find out.

But first, we need to discuss the basics of #basic. Most college students are both familiar with and annoyed with the term due to its recent spike in popularity.

When you think basic, picture a 20-something white girl wearing leggings, Uggs, a puffer vest and a Kate Spade cross-body while clutching a venti Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte with her perfectly manicured hand. But this “basic” image is used for stereotyping and demeaning insults. So I have to ask: What is so wrong with any of that? What is wrong with liking Starbucks or being comfortable in what are basically a giant hug for your feet (yes I’m talking about Uggs).

Quite frankly, I think the basic life is the best life to lead. Joining me in that belief is Erica, a Ohio University senior and my basic best friend.

When we began our journey to get Erica her senior year brick, we really didn’t think things through. From parking mishaps (which thankfully were not caught on video) to not being able to find a true Athens Block brick to forgetting any sort of tool that might have helped us extract the brick, we failed on every level. As a result, no bricks were liberated and we gave up to both escape the foul stench that plagued us all evening (Court Street will never smell like roses) and to meet our friends to play pool — poorly.

Despite the stereotype, basics take their homework and professional work very seriously so it was a few days before Erica and I could regroup to plan our next clandestine outing to search for bricks. But during that time, I had received some intriguing information from James Robinson, CEO of Athens Bricks LLC.

I had begun the interview thinking he would say it’s wrong to steal bricks and that you shouldn’t do it out of principle. Instead, he shared some hard facts that would make anyone (basic or otherwise) rethink carrying out this tradition.

“The only problem with this tradition is when they tear out one brick, it creates damage to the whole area,” Robinson said. “The bricks will shift even after just four days. You can’t just replace one brick with another. Each street is hand fitted together. You pull out one and pull out a string in a ball of yarn. The city has to tear up the entire area to replace even just one stolen brick. The whole area can begin to sag and it’s like a domino affect. The bricks will move to fill in the gap. The city has to spend a lot of money and man hours to fix all the areas it affects.”

His story opened our eyes to the damage even a small action could inflict. We were beginning to realize that maybe stealing a brick wasn’t a very basic thing to do …

Because in the end, basics don’t steal … they go shopping!

Guide To Brick Shopping
Athens Block Official Website
Featured product: Authentic Athens Block Brick – $30.00

Mountain Laurel Gifts
25 S. Court St., Athens
Featured product: Athens Block Brick Vase – $40.00

Ohio University Alumni Online Store
Featured product: Athens Block Key Chain – $15.00

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Sarah Rachul is a junior majoring in strategic communications and minoring in sports management and visual communications at Ohio University. She is a self-described basic who would die without always having a Starbucks within a 2-mile radius. Her other interests include Disney World, playing golf in all black (because it’s slimming) and trying new recipes she finds from hours of surfing through Pinterest. You can check out some of her other work on her website and professionally stalk her on LinkedIn