The bricked trees of Athens

 

Who never stopped to see the colors of Athens?

Athens, this amazing city located along the Hocking River in the southeastern part of Ohio, is probable most known for its buildings, streets and old-styled places where the bobcats (the students) usually go to study or stay for a while between classes. Maybe, one can say that the best symbol of this place is its nature, surrounded by hills and oak trees; I would say that are all of them.

Who knows Athens once will never forget its bucolic scenario: buildings with red brick-walled walls, streets paved by blocks made in the factories of Hocking Valley, and a wonderful nature of trees, hills, river, squirrels, crows and bobcats (not the students, but the animal, the “Lynx rufus”. Fortunately, I never see one…).

Many people don’t know that the historical bricks which are part of the buildings in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa are made in the bricks’ ovens of Nelsonville and others bricks’ factories located around the Hocking Valley region. In Athens, it is not different.

 

 

 

These genuine antique bricks fascinate everyone who cross the streets and, at least once, stops to see its characteristic colors and textures, that becomes more than orange, maybe red, when the light of the sun set hits them.

Who never did that? I guess, no one. But, who never once stopped to see the colorful trees having their leaves falling during the fall season? I would say again: I guess, no one.

In about three weeks in November, the city’s oak trees change the color of their leaves from green to red, yellow and even white, for then, fall and color the blocks of the streets. And then comes the winter of December…

Isn’t it part of a special environmental movie’s script? I would say no, because the scenario is wider. We can’t forget the beauty of the rugged hills covered with hardwood and pine, the rock shelters, springs, and animals living in the forests all around the county, or in the Wayne National Park.

And so, after the description above, answer the question: are Athens’ red brick-walled walls buildings and its block paved streets inserted in the natural covered hills, or is the beauty of the nature part of the city scenario? Don’t ask me. Stop by a while and see by your own. You will be impressed by this bucolic paint and after all will have the answer. I promise, You will never forget!


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.

The Lady Bartender Shuffle

FullSizeRenderOn a Sunday in late September, the women bartenders of Uptown Athens stormed Court Street for the second annual Lady Bartender Shuffle. Approximately 25 women participated in the shuffle so the rookie and veteran women bartenders could get acquainted.

“The shuffle allows the new and old bartenders to get acquainted with one another, said Pigskin bartender Tori Simokov. “We all said, ‘Meet at Jackie O’s and let’s see what happens.’”

Simokov organized the shuffle weeks in advance and made a sign-up sheet for her fellow bartender friends’ tank-top orders. She worked with a local t-shirt vendor to create the design of the tank tops. The tank tops say, “You can’t drink with us” on the front and “La Court Street Familia” on the back.

For the first annual shuffle, the ladies raised approximately $400 for a local battered women’s shelter, however not many women jumped on board for raising money this year.

“We intended to raise money this year, but unfortunately no one really donated.” Simokov said. Yet, her hopes are high for next year.

One girl’s guide to Court Street

The bricks of Court Street go a long way toward defining it: dirty, burnt red. It’s both beautiful and ugly, much like my time on Court Street. I’ve had my fiery red nights of happiness, making new friends and falling in love. But I’ve also had my fair share of dingy, depressing poop-brown nights where I’ve lost my best friend or just been a mess.

Through it all though, I’ve become someone quite different than when I arrived here a little over two years ago — just as time has changed those iconic bricks.

Court Street is about more than wild nights. It’s about all the times spent trying to discover who you are as a person, and not just a college student. I’ve had my heart broken on Court Street. I’ve made some of my dearest friends at the bars. I’ve eaten my weight in burritos and wings and then attempted to fit into the tiny dresses at Figleaf. But most of all I have learned what it means to be alive — all on this one little stretch of road in a small town in Ohio.

As I near the middle of my junior year, I’ve realized that now it’s time for me to share my story with new Bobcats so that they make the most of their time on Court Street.

Before I even arrived for my first night as a freshman in Scott Quadrangle, Court Street played a major role in my life. I remember walking down to get chocolate ice cream at Whit’s as a 7-year-0ld with my parents and Brian Wiebe, my older brother, who also attended Ohio University. I was amazed at all Court Street had to offer, and I always wanted to go back whenever we would visit my brother. Court Street was a magical place as a kid, but it eventually would come to disappoint me at times.

However, when it came time to decide where I would go to school, the obvious choice was Ohio University because it was a second home and felt familiar. I still have my very first photo that my mom took of me outside of the gates to the entrance of College Green during freshmen orientation. The gate reads, “So enter that daily thou mayest grow in knowledge, wisdom, and love.” I look happy, confident, and scared.

Freshman Orientation. Photo taken by Lola Wiebe
Freshman Orientation. Photo by Lola Wiebe

I had little to no idea what all would happen during my time at OU, but I knew that it was going to be the biggest adventure of my life so far. I learned so much from my time on Court Street — lessons that could not have been taught in a classroom in Bentley or Morton Hall.

My first, most memorable memory was my first HallOUween. I was head-over-heels for this guy I had awkwardly met in my dorm, and I thought he felt the same way. We kept going back and forth on whether or not to date, and eventually decided we were somewhat exclusive but still not dating.

What’s that supposed to mean?

My freshman head did not know. Spoiler alert: We did not work out. Long story short (prepare for a run-on sentence): I kissed another guy, he got mad, he takes me on a date to Pita Pit, I think we’re back on, I invite him to a HallOUween party, he shows up with another girl, I freak and wind up running down Court Street with my best girl friend trying to make out with every boy in sight.

Classy, right?

To this day, I still do not know how many boys I actually kissed that night. It is not a pretty story, and quite frankly makes me sound incredibly stupid. But I realized that I didn’t need him to determine my happiness, and I certainly didn’t need uncertainty in a “relationship.” It was my friend who was there for me when I needed someone, and not the random dude from Scott Quad.

LESSON LEARNED: Don’t settle for anything less than being and feeling fabulous. Value the people who are there for you, who make sure you make it back to your dorm/apartment/house.

That wasn’t the only time I had my heart broken on Court Street. The second time was a lot harder to deal with because we had been going out for nearly two years.

When you go from love to being told “Let’s just be friends,” life sucks. There’s nothing you can do about it and you just sit around thinking about how things should have gone differently. At least that’s what I did for a little while.

“The Break-up” was unexpected, confusing, and told me that perhaps I should invest in Kleenex and Dove chocolate. This taught me much more than just “don’t make out with everyone.”

Living above Subway on Court Street my junior year has been one of the best and worst parts of my time at OU. A number of my friends from Scott Quad also live in the apartments above Subway, including the boy who broke my heart the second time. There have been several awkward times since “The Break-up” where I’ve run into “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” but far more happy times with some of the best people I’ve ever met.

In my prime. Photo taken by Katherine Webster
In my prime. Photo by Katherine Webster

An uncomfortable run-in in the hallway is not what I’m going to remember about my time above Subway. Rather, I’m going to remember the nights my roommates and I took too many shots and danced on our surprisingly solid coffee table to Taylor Swift. I’m going to remember the summer night when I came down to check out the new apartment and wound up laying in the middle of Court Street at 4 a.m. Don’t ask.

Court Street can’t always be a fairytale. There are a ton of disappointments in life, but I’d much rather remember the times I felt like a whole person and not a sad shell. The thing about breaking up is that you get over it. One day I just woke up and DIDN’T think about it. I stepped out of my apartment on Court Street and it was a damn beautiful day to be 20-something and fearless.

LESSON LEARNED: It’s not easy being alone, but it’s better than wasting your time with someone who doesn’t make you truly happy. Bad things will happen, but they make the good moments all the more sweet.

My final and favorite memory of Court Street was very recent. Anytime I have been upset, I’ve turned to retail therapy. Or alcoholism (kidding). At nearly the same time “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” and I broke up, my roommate and her ex-boyfriend also broke up.

We consider ourselves much like Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins from Parks and Recreation, and we decided it was time to take some advice from two other characters from the series. Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, two bureaucrats from the show, always talk about how you should “Treat Yo’ Self!” So naturally, my roommate and I did just that. A day that perhaps should have been spent doing homework was spent heading out to the bars at 3 p.m. It’s five o’clock somewhere, right? We ordered our favorite beverages and toasted to treating ourselves.

Sometimes the responsibilities can be put on hold for a couple hours. I am a strong believer in being kind to yourself when you’re feeling down or in serious need of a break from working hard. At the same time, though, be kind to your friends. Make them go eat with you if you know they aren’t feeling the greatest about life. Buy them a stupid card and some nail polish to cheer them up about a failed test. Or, just go drink for a bit at Pawpurr’s or the CI.

LESSON LEARNED: Treat yo’ self. Treat yo’ friends. Drink a little and shop a little, but don’t go overboard. Time heals everything, but not your bank account or liver.

Brian, the first person who introduced me to Court Street, said, “There’s a saying I’ve heard that is something to the effect of, ‘There is a time and a place for everything, and it’s college.’ OU gave me an opportunity to experiment and try new things, both academically and socially. So I would tell new Bobcats to experiment and have fun, but also to do so in a way that maintains both self-respect and respect for others.”

Brian Wiebe and sister Diana Wiebe. Photo taken by Lola Wiebe
OU siblings Brian Wiebe and Diana Wiebe. Photo by Lola Wiebe

Take it from him and me, two Bobcats, to cherish the time you have here because there’s no place like OU. Once your time here is over, it’s really the REAL world. Be appreciative of the precious time you have here and don’t waste it crying over someone or something that isn’t what is right for you.

Life is far from simple, and it only seems to get more complicated the more time goes by. However, the time spent at OU teaches people more about life than they realize. I am still learning as a junior, and I’ll be sad to leave in a little over a year. Court Street has been the epicenter of my learning experience and taught me a lot about the difference between being an adult and a kid, though I still act like a kid from time to time.

I’m not the same person I was in that picture right before I came to OU, but I’m definitely still happy, confident, and somewhat scared. Just like those bricks on Court that I’ve lain on, I may not be wild and fiery red on the outside, but I’m more solid and secure in who I am than I used to be.

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Diana Canada Jean Wiebe is a junior studying journalism and political science at Ohio University. She is the Editor-in-Chief of FANGLE Magazine, a member of Phi Alpha Delta Pre-law Fraternity, and an account associate for ImPRessions. Her dream job is to become a litigator on the West Coast.