Dana Gilkey grew up in Athens, OH. He has never left the small, yet diverse, Midwest town. He graduated from Athens High School and then went to college at Ohio University. He graduated from college and then bought a house in Athens. He is what the student population would call a “townie”.
Understandably, “Court Street” stirs up different memories than what most college students will reminisce about. He remembers getting ice cream at Cold Stone with his mom when he was little (Yes, Court Street used to have a Cold Stone). His favorite places were the ones he and his high school friends had frequented though. The places where both teenage boys and college co-eds could both enjoy (Wonder why teenage boys frequented these places so much…).
I was interested what a “townie” experience would be like, so I asked him to walk me through what a Court Street adventure in his high school days would consist of and he gave me the exclusive tour!
Cheap beer, live music, and no ID requirements at the door. It’s basically what broke college student dreams are made of. While it may not be a gem to many the Smiling Skull Saloon is definitely a remarkable part of Athens.
Athens has a large music scene and The Skull is one of the many locations used as a venue to book shows for local and other up-and-coming musicians. Shows at the Skull tend to be more punk rock oriented with the occasional bluegrass band. This is only my second year at Ohio University but I’ve been able to see numerous bands at this small dive bar alone.
The crowds at shows tend to get very rowdy, especially after a night filled with drinking. Last year New York punk band, Bbig Pigg, was wrapping up the show for the night as last call approached. I was hoping to stay until the very end of show but during one of their songs a member of the audience stole the microphone from the vocalist. The microphone thief then smashed his beer bottle onto the ground. Shards of glass flew all over the place and I was so excited I didn’t realize some of the pieces cut my legs and were stuck to my clothing.
The vintage posters and photos hung around the walls surrounded by graffiti are what make the Skull some kind of time machine for me. Even though the bar is only 16 years old the graffiti is a sobering reminder that I’m only going to be here for four years. I should enjoy it just like everyone else who left their mark somewhere in the bar.
The decorations are not the only thing that make the bar remarkable for me. It’s also the people I’ve met and stories I’ve learned. There’s always an interesting mix of patrons which make up of bikers, ‘townies’, and college students.
The most interesting to talk to have always been the older crowd of bikers and ‘townies’ because they always have a story to tell about “back in the day” and you can see how people’s eyes light up when reminiscing.
One of the most notable characters I’ve met has been Santa. A tall, older man with a beard that reaches his belly who sits by the door greeting people. There hasn’t been a night in which he isn’t filled with jokes and compliments.
Everyone in Athens has a bar that they prefer, and the Skull is definitely it for me. Many people I’ve met are usually not too excited about the idea of going to a dive bar at first but it’s an experience they end up enjoying. The Skull stands out and is unique, just like its patrons.
Here is something that may surprise you: Athens has a lot to do! But not every student makes the effort to check out some unique spots in-and-around Athens. So we decided to take you to a few places beyond Court Street that students may not think about when they explore Athens.
Athens Farmers Market
Make sure to check out this market on Saturdays from 9am-12pm on Saturdays, 9am-12pm Wednesdays (April-December) and 4pm-7pm Thursdays (May-September). Athens favorites such as Jackie O’s and Casa Nueva have booths where they sell some of their best foods (such as bread and salsa). Check it out though to see all the vendors, you can even grab a slice of pizza or a vegetable taco for lunch!
The Athens Farmers Market is located on 1000 East State Street, inside the parking lot of the Athens Mall. Here is the map if you want to find it. Starting in the fall of 2016, there will be a bus that will take you to the farmers market if you do not have a car.
Strouds Run State Park
About 15 minutes outside of Ohio University is a state park that stretches over 2,606 acres and includes hiking trails and a beach for anyone to enjoy. On a perfect day, this is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the weather. At Strouds, there are almost 80 campsites and 35 miles of trails that you can hike on (25 of those miles can be open to bikes).
The park is located on 11661 State Park Road in Athens, here is a map for directions.
In an age where video stores close in favor of websites like Netflix and Amazon, Premiere Video serves as the exception that video stores cannot compete against the Internet. This store has hundreds of movie titles (both DVDs and VHS tapes) and offer great deals on a regular basis. So if you have a DVD player and/or a VCR, look no further than Premier Video for your movie needs.
Premiere Video is located on 284 East State Street.
ReUse Thrift Store
ReUse is located on 100 Columbus Rd. On a nice day, enjoy a 40 minute walk from Campus taking W Carpenter St. all of the way until you hit Columbus Rd. There is also a bus that you can take for that costs a dollar per trip. Honestly, this thrift store has character. They have everything from clothes for 25 cents to cheap silverware and the occasional Hula girl. If you want to pull together a complete look for under five dollars while simultaneously getting a taste of real Athens county, ReUse is a must-go.
The Antique Mall
Make a day of thrifting on the West side of Athens. Just down the road from ReUse at 180 Columbus Rd. rests an AMAZING antique mall. The Athens Antique Mall is two floors of Appalachian gold. They have vintage clothing, mirrors, old books, records, trinkets and boxes galore. Even if you don’t have the money, making a trip to look around and see artifacts and history is well worth it. Plus you never know what you will find …