Bagelwiches by the bundle

 

If you ever feel overwhelmed with options off the extensive menu at Bagel Street Deli, you can always create your own sandwich.

Or you could go a step further and claim a spot on the menu for your bagelwich masterpiece. All it takes is just a few pickles.

On the second Friday in March, BSD host its annual Pickle Fest, centered around a pickle eating contest.

balls-deep
The ’08 Pickle Fest Champion, Balls Deep: meatballs, salami, banana peppers, mushrooms, provolone, lettuce, and Italian dressing. Photo by Eben George

Participants compete in heats of 10 eaters. Each heat last 10 minuets. When its all said and done, whoever eats and swallows the most pickles at the end of the competition wins the right to create and name their own BSD creation with an eternal spot on the chalkboard.

 

A Field of Dreams: Peden Stadium

When I first came to Ohio University in 2008, I was just taking a weekend trip with my family to visit my parent’s alma mater for the first time. The brick roads, the smell of the Burrito Buggy, the exhausting hills, the trees. Everything in Athens to me was picture perfect.

But then I stepped foot inside a football stadium, but this was not just a football field with some bleachers. This football stadium had a spirit like I have never seen at any sporting venue. There was a hill that stretched behind one of the endzones, there was a view of the rolling hills just over the Hocking River, but there also was history written since 1929 stored inside every brick.

My first trip to OU in 2008 included my first trip to Peden Stadium.
My first trip to OU in 2008 included my first trip to Peden Stadium.

This was Peden Stadium.

I stepped foot on the field (though I was not supposed to), and felt a chill down my spine. If that chill was the spirit of Athens hitting me like a ton of bricks or just a cool breeze I will never know. But I realized at that moment that I too will become a Bobcat, just like my parents were 20 years earlier.

This may be considered the moment when I realized that I would become a Bobcat,
This may be considered the moment when I realized that I would become a Bobcat.

Fast forward five years, and it was my first week on campus as a student at Ohio University. I was overwhelmed by all the activity on campus, and I had a hard time becoming friends with my roommate. I decided to go to a football game with my learning community to celebrate my first week surviving college. Was it awkward? At first, yes, but as the night went on I bonded with my new friends about football, art, Billy Joel, Stephen Colbert and Big Mamma’s. By the end of the night, we all decided to go to games on a weekly basis and maybe hang out a time or two at James Hall.

 

This was during my first OU football game, where I met most of my best friends that I've kept at OU.
This was during my first OU football game, where I met most of my best friends that I’ve kept at OU.

Today, two of those guys are my roommates in our apartment on Court Street, and a few others from that night are still some of my best friends.

I still go to games on a weekly basis, even if it means sitting in freezing temperatures just to get a two-second cameo on ESPN. I have sang the national anthem with the Singing Men of Ohio on homecoming, and watched my friends play with the Marching 110. Every week in the fall is a new chance to make another memory at Peden Stadium.

I don’t love Peden because our football team plays well enough to go to a bowl game or because the Marching 110 is the most exciting band in the land when they play halftime (which is true). I love Peden because I felt that chill almost eight years ago to join OU, and because I met some people that would change my life all inside the brick walls of Peden Stadium.

Once I graduate from OU, I hope I can go back on the field and feel that chill one more time.

Bricks on Bricks: An Athens Tradition

Brick, brick, brick, brick.  -The mantra of one walking through Ohio University’s campus

Ohio University, with its brick-laden pathways and buildings, has a rich brick history. Athens is just one of hundreds of brick-faced college towns in the U.S., reflecting a bygone industry. Ohio University’s bricks have preserved this tradition.

According to Athens Ohio, The Village Years, a book written by Robert L. Daniel and found in the Athens Historical Society library, brick-building didn’t become a major industry in southeastern Ohio until the mid-1800s.

Before that time, brick-building served as a local business resource, where bricks were produced on site; it wasn’t considered a commercially viable product until the later part of the century.

That all changed when Robert Arscott built his own brickyard in the 1870s. Roughly 700,000 bricks were manufactured locally in 1850, but by 1893 that number had skyrocketed to 292 million bricks a year. These bricks were being shipped all around the world, according to a 1998 report issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) called The Paving Brick Industry in Ohio by Steven D. Blankenbeker.

“We don’t have seashells here in Ohio,” James Robinson, owner of Athens Block, was quoted as saying in a June 3, 2010, article from The Post. “This is almost like southeast Ohio’s version of a seashell because each brick is different.”

Southeastern Ohio became a prime location for the brick industry, based on the clay particles found underneath the hill-topped soils. In fact, the same earthen materials utilized by the coal industry – another significant trade found in Appalachia – were quite beneficial for brick production.  

Thousands of bricks were used to construct Cutler Hall, once known as College Edifice, while an estimated 8 million bricks were used to build the Ridges, home to the historic Athens Lunatic Asylum, during the 1860s-1870s.

Athens Brick Company once resided where the Athens post office sits today, on Stimson Avenue. The company churned out over 50,000 bricks a day at the height of the brick-building industry, and become a major economic force in Athens.

The first paving bricks in the state were actually produced in Malvern, Ohio, at the Canton & Malvern Fire Clay Paving Brick Company in Carroll County in 1855. These original “blocks” (short-hand for paving brick) measured only 2.5-by-4-by-8.5 inches; standard paving bricks were 9-by-4-by-4 inches, and weighed close to 10 pounds.

Unlike the 19th-century boom for bricks, brick-building isn’t considered a profitable industry in the modern era. It typically costs five-to-10 times more to pave a brick road than one with tar, according to an article published Sept. 11, 2012, in The Post.  Faced with a financial depression and the advent of asphalt roads in the late 1890s, regional brick-building facilities collapsed in the early 1900s.

Nonetheless, the brick industry remains a prominent part of southeastern Ohio history, especially in Athens County.

Ralph Bolls, known in neighboring Nelsonville as “the brick man,” takes his brick history seriously. In addition to buying, selling and trading locally manufactured bricks, Bolls is also the proprietor of the annual Nelsonville Brick Festival.

“The brick festival is largely about trading bricks and getting together with people who are interested in bricks and seeing them as not only history but a collective item,” Boll was quoted as saying in an article from AntiqueWeek.com, available at the Athens Historical Society.

The Nelsonville Brick Festival typically runs the last weekend of July, and this year was hosted on July 24 and July 25 in Nelsonville, Ohio.

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

 ***

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