When I arrived for college in the fall of 1988, Athens was a very different place, but it was also pretty much the same place as it is today.
As I carried my typewriter, chair bed (which was awesome) and a few other items up to my new home on the third floor of James Hall, I had no idea what I was getting into with college. I also had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, but I was pretty sure that Athens was just going to be a small scene in the Nick Claussen movie (most likely to star Val Kilmer, who was quite famous at the time).
Thirty years later, it seems like a nice time to reflect on the differences and similarities between life as a newcomer to Athens back then and today.
• First of all, back in 1988, we did many of the same things that the college students of today do. For example, we watched movies and hung out in Baker Center just like today, except what was Baker Center then is now the Schoonover Center.
• What the students today call Baker University Center, we called a grassy hill that we could cut down to get to Bird Arena,
• We didn’t have any fancy escalators in our student center, but we somehow had a small bowling alley in there.
• We played basketball and worked out at the gym just like the students today, except that the gym was Grover Center, which today is a classroom building.
• We played a lot of cards. I don’t know if the students play as much cards today or if they somehow do this over their phones, but it seemed like we played cards every day.
• We ate too much pizza, and enjoyed food uptown at places like Lucky’s (which was across the street back then I believe) and at Woolworth’s (which was great).
• We even watched movies uptown, except the theater when I arrived is now a Chipotle and the big theater out on East State Street today was a grocery store (with Athens’ first walk-in beer cooler).
• Athens was located in the same place, but it was much further away from everything than it is today. The drive from Columbus took about 2 hours with the highway going right through Lancaster and Nelsonville, and even the drive to Parkersburg took a lot longer.
• It was also much more difficult to communicate with friends in other cities, as it entailed calling or writing letters, instead of just texting or whatever the students do today, and calling or writing letters often required too much work.
• Instead of students walking around campus trying to find buildings by burying their heads in their phones as they do today, students walked around campus trying to find buildings by burying their head in old maps that were tough to read. Which way was north?
• Football games were still fun, but the Bobcat football team had not discovered winning yet, so that part wasn’t as much fun. The Marching 110 was as great then as it is today, however, so staying at the stadium till after halftime was mandatory.
• The library was a great place to do research and study just like it is today, and it was also the perfect place to read free magazines and out-of-town newspapers. It was kind of like an early paper internet.
• Superhero movies were big just like today, but it was DC Comic movies that were cool. Marvel Comics movies were terrible back then.
• Back in 1988, students played video games all the time and walked around listening to music just like today, but back then we listened to music with our Walkmans or Discmans, which were awesome. Also, the students today are still playing many of the same video games that we played back then.
• The Athens NEWS was a great newspaper to read while you were waiting for class, eating lunch or just relaxing at home, just like it is today. Terry Smith was even editorializing about all kinds of things back in those days, too.
• Cafeteria food was pretty good, but we didn’t have as many choices as the students today. We did have large fried cheese triangles in the cafeterias, though, and I don’t know if they still have them today. They were great to eat, but must have been awful for me. Even so, I sometimes miss those giant fried-cheese triangles and big bowls of ranch dressing (for dipping) that I had 30 years ago. I also miss how I could eat foods like that back then and not feel sick like I do today.
• Speaking of food, the Burrito Buggy and other buggies were just as great back then as they are today.
• The streets in Athens were somewhat confusing, just as they still are today.
• One rather surprising similarity is that today, just like 30 years ago, Val Kilmer is somehow filming another big movie (a “Top Gun” sequel).
• Even though I was pretty nervous about going to college, Athens was an easy place to make friends like it is today. I still talk to some of my college friends, often about Bobcat sports, euchre or giant cheese triangles.
• I came to Athens not knowing anyone and not planning to stay long, but somehow I am still here, and I now have four family members who are students, three family members who are employees, and friends all over the campus and the community.
• I still have no clue what I want to do with my life.
Nick Claussen is a freelance writer with too much time on his hands. To read more of his work, please visit nickclaussen.com.