The Junction: A Eulogy

The Junction, in Athens, Ohio, was maybe the greatest college bar of all time. And now it’s gone. A eulogy.

If you were a guy who was terrible at talking to women, who liked affordable drinks and a jukebox with old-school hits, and didn’t mind urinating next to someone standing on top of the men’s room sink who was doing the same, The Junction (41 North Court Street, Athens, Ohio) was a really great bar.

It’s gone now. The heart-and-soul of my social life at Ohio University has been gutted, sanitized (in every possible way) and replaced. I wish the new owner good luck, and I hope the current students enjoy the J-Bar, as it’s now known, but at the risk of sounding like the alumni who visited campus in the 1990s and told us how Court Street was fun but “it’s not the same,” well, it’s not the same.

The Junction was the perfect dive bar. The men’s toilet had no stall. I’m not entirely sure it had a seat. There was a Foosball table, a dart board and a jukebox that had not been updated since 1989. It did not serve cooked food, although I heard the owner kept a can of soup from the 1970s behind the bar to meet some city zoning law. The interior was ensconced in dark wood, which patrons wrote graffiti on—mainly the names of whatever bar shuffles they were on. (My wife Jen actually snagged a plank with her name on it last summer. We’re going to build our own home bar around it someday.) Stools lined the bar, and there were benches built into the walls and interior, but most people stood. It was a standing bar.

Unlike the other 22 bars in Athens, The Junction had an indoor balcony that ingeniously allowed an extra 50-75 or so people in the room. The space under the balcony, sunken off the main floor, was the perfect place to make out with someone you met 10 minutes ago.

The Junction also had a creepy off-limits-to-patrons basement, which everyone managed to sneak into eventually. I think Buffalo Bill lived down there.

We saw the bartenders there so often we nicknamed them. There was “Jesus,” who looked like Jesus, “Witchy Woman,” who looked like a witch and was a woman and “The Twins.” You can guess how she got her name. This was a common conversation in our house senior year.

“Was Jesus at The Junction tonight?”

“Yes, He returned. Jesus always returns.”

The reason we went to The Junction, in the beginning, was Quad Night. On Thursday nights The Junction sold mixed drinks with double or more the amount of alcohol of a regular mixed drink. You could get a Junction Punch, Patio Lantern, Screwdriver, 7 and 7 and probably other drinks I don’t remember (why would that be?) for $2. It was the perfect price point for the poor college student.

We had a tradition. We’d get to the The Junction around 9 or so for Quad Night, post up around the jukebox and play the same songs by the same artists (Jimmy Buffett, Tom Jones, Barry White, Journey, The Marching 110) every week. I’m pretty dense, but even I knew then that this was something I would miss when college was over—getting a dozen or two people together, laughing our asses off, dancing, closing the bar, grabbing a slice of pizza from GoodFella’s and walking home down Mill Street together.

Favorite Junction memories: every Quad Night, our Ohio University Parrothead Club meetings, which consisted of the very important tasks of drinking Corona and dancing in a conga line, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” playing us out every Thursday, grabbing the odd beer at 6 pm on a Friday when it was just a few of us and the owner Keith, hearing “Closing Time” the last night we went there my senior year, the time on Dads Weekend when Jeff’s dad bought us all shots of Crown Royal (who buys shots of Crown Royal?!?), firing them back and then watching one of our buddies projectile-vomit his against the wall and, best of all, whenever members of the Marching 110 played inside the bar.

I saw The Junction for the last time last summer. My wife (also an OU grad) and I held our bachelor/bachelorette parties in Athens. Word got out that week that the owner had sold it, but I had no idea how much it would change between then and when I returned a few weeks ago for the student newspaper The Post’s 100-Year Reunion. All of us who were there last summer were thankful we got the chance to grab a few more rounds there.

This is a lot to write about a bar, right? There’s a reason it’s remembered fondly. Many of us who hung out there together were nerds who didn’t enjoy high school all that much, because who likes being ignored or made fun of for four years? Then we nerds met up in college and discovered that having a social life was not only possible, but enjoyable. We needed a place to gather—not the frat bar (Pawpurr’s) or the sorority bar (The Crystal) or the jock bar (Cat’s Eye) or the grunge bar (The Union) or the townie bar (The Smiling Skull) or the freshmen bar (The Greenery), we needed a place where the miscellaneous kids on campus could gather and have a good time, and we found it on the corner of Court Street and State.

The Junction floor will forever be sticky with beer and memories.

Joe Donatelli graduated from Ohio University in 1998. He is the author ofThe Marching Band Refused to Yield: The true story of the time Ohio University’s alumni band fought the Miami of Ohio football team.” Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


Junction facts and such:

–Here’s the recipe for a Junction Punch, from my buddy Kevin Holbert. He told me, “There was actually something called The Junction Handbook, which some of this information was taken from. I asked two former bartenders and they argued over one point, which was discussed further.” Junction Punch ingredients: vodka, gin, rum, triple sec, wildberry schnapps, sour, 7-up and grenadine.” Kevin says a bartender told him, “When you make the Junction Punch and you are busy you leave out the triple sec for time reasons. However, the actual recipe calls for triple sec.”

— The Junction was purchased by Dave Cornwell from Keith Martin.

— It was previously known as Igor’s.

— The Junction has been the site of a student bar “for generations.”

— The guy who invented the XFL, Basil DeVito, invented Quad Night in 1975.

— The last time The Junction was sold it went for $800,000.

UPDATE: My buddy Jim sent me this photo. You are welcome to send yours: contactjoed(at)gmail.com

ohio university
Another quiet night at The Junction

 

More Ohio University posts:

Some advice for President Obama on his trip to Athens, Ohio

11 Reasons Miami is the Worst

Returning to Athens is for foolish, brave alumni (The Post)

Uptown Athens, Ohio at Christmas

— What a 2012 Ohio University football game looks like to someone who watched OU lose 5-0 to Utah State in 1994

 

 

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Author: Joe Donatelli

Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles. He publishes The Humor Columnist.

  • Great article! Also very sad. Lots of good times there. Good luck to Keith.

  • Thanks, Trent. Agree.

  • Pingback: The Junction: A EulogyJoe Donatelli()

  • Gl504104

    And where the employees “released” themselves for so long behind the bar that the entire floor boards were rotten bc of the piss. Mmm…great place :/

  • parakeet_petey

    I graduated in 2001.  I loved that place.  I was a regular there my last year of school.  It was the only bar I went to when I came back to visit.  Keith is a good dude and I wish him well.  I lived above the Pub which was right next door, so walking down stairs to go to the Junction was such a swell convenience.  My wife and I who is also an OU grad got married at OU last year, and we all went out for drinks the night before our wedding at the Junction.  

  • Haters gonna hate…

  • Way to live the dream, parakeet-petey,

  • parakeet_petey

    …my love for Athens grew when we realized it was a lot cheaper to get married there than it is to get married in Chicago.   :) 

  • The Pod

    Frat bars are cool

  • Deftone944

    Does anybody know what is in a Junction Punch so I can keep the memory alive?

  • Good question. I’m looking into this.

  • CB

    You’re too young to remember Swanky’s, the Greenery, Hangar 5, Mug and Margarita, the Nick, O’Hooley’s….the Junction was great but it was only one of many equally awesome bars….not to mention that on any given weekend night, the greens would turn into a collection of bars themselves because you were allowed to serve alcohol in the dorms and it was nothing for some dorm government to got to Kerr’s, get 100 kegs, charge $1 at the door for a bottomless cup, and have 3 bands playing in the lobby. Same at the College Inn, except it was also a pool party. OU & Athens will never be the same that it was in the 80s, it’s so restrictive compared to what we had.

  • I was there for The Greenery, The Nick and O’Hooley’s. You were there during the golden era. I am jealous. When I was there, I think the greens had a pizza party. Once.

  • silly_billy

    2parts liquor, 2parts liquor, 2 parts liquor, 2 parts liquor, splash of grenadine and soda

  • Ha ha ha ha ha. Wait. Is this right?

  • The recipe for Junction Punch has been posted in the bottom of the story. You will be surprised to learn it has a lot of alcohol.

  • Tim Keiser

     I lived above the Pub as well. Graduated in ’07 & am thankful for how cheap those beers were as opposed to Chicago. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for J-bar; even as my “function at the junction” t-shirt is beginning to break down from overuse.

  • Quad Night:  Going to the Junction on Thursdays to get $2 Quads, because on every other night of the week they cost…$2.  Awesome.

  • LOL. They didn’t call it Harvard on the Hocking for nothing.

  • Rcyr

    I think I have a few Junction glasses in a box in my basement.  Loved the Hanger, Green weekends and I married a bartender from the Greenery (he was an alum as well) we have been married 25 years now. 

  • That’s outstanding. Congratulations. On the glasses. And the marriage, too.

  • Julie Miller

    Is it wrong that I still think of Thursdays as Quad Night? Great memories!

  • Ha ha. Not at all. I still take a “reading day” every now and then.

  • Steely Dan

    I can still hear “Black coffee in Bed” echoing in my head

  • Renick Blosser

    Memories….bartender there was one of the best experiences of my life so far! Miss all my regulars! Renick

  • Wavy

    The Junction is the first bar my boy Zak and I visited our first day on Campus in 1987. We both got in with identical ID’s – Zak’s employee ID cards from Cleveland Stadium Vending Services. Many good times followed at the Junction. We were all there are a reunion last spring and it still smelled the same. Awful good.

  • Jmduffy97

    Loved the Junction! I also have one of their “Hurricane” glasses with the logo on it which I cherish…sad to know it is now a historical collectors item!

  • VegasBobcat

    I met my future wife at The Junction during Homecoming 2006. It was my first time back since 1999. The Junction Punches and Patios were good to me. Best of luck, J-Bar. I’ll probably stick to Tony’s around the corner the next time I go back.

  • Crystal

    I met my husband there….after a Junction punch..we were the ones making out :)

  • Whoah. Seems a lot of people met their future spouses while (possibly intoxicated :) at The Junction.

  • Paddy_mcguire

    The patio lantern, is actually called the Paddy O” Lantern. A couple of Sigma Nus and some Canadian Hockey players use to come in for happy hour when I tended bar there from 86-90 and we use to mix up shots with all sorts of favorites, it was hit and miss, this one really took off with the ladies. Those were the days, or at least the few I remember!

  • Geoff D

    Best “memory” of The Junction was when I was “resting” my head on the bar and Ted proceeded to fill my left ear with butane from his lighter and set my face ablaze.  He said he was trying to wake me up so we wouldn’t get kicked out of the bar.  I say “memory” as I had no recollection of this and only found out about it the next morning when all the hair on the left side of my faced was charred.  Good times.

  • Jon

    Great article, Joe. I graduated two years before you, and you nailed that era! My favorite memory is distracting the bartenders while my friend wrote our shuffle name on the bar. Long live Quad Night!

  • Scott

    Loved the Junction.  I was on the Rugby team and we would have Rugby Beers from 6 to 9 on Thursdays and then head to the Junction for Quad Night.  Great place!

  • Melanie ’00

    6710 on the jukebox was Elderly Woman Behind the Counter of a Small Town by Pearl Jam.  I wonder what will happen to the old school Budweiser Clydesdales rotating sign they had over the bar…..And the random yellow chair that looked like it came out of a grade school classroom that was always underneath the balcony.  Ahhhh, thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  • Jgeesling13

    From one OU grad to another thanks for conjuring up the memories of that place. Had many a great night there . Hard to believe its no longer there.

  • Adamhafner22

    Remember when we had the Junction Quad Night party in L.A. at your place with the real Junction glasses? That was sweet!

  • Alisonfalbo

    If only we all had phones in our pockets with cameras on them… there would be so many more pictures to share. But times were simpler then.

  • Also, none of us would be employable.

  • You’re welcome.

  • Love that song. I forgot about the random yellow chair. I love that everyone is remembering these things,

  • Thank you. Good technique. Another one that worked: buying them a drink.

  • Is this for real. If so, awesome. I had no idea. What a great story.

  • Save it for whatever the bar version of The Smithsonioan is.

  • Paddy_mcguire

    It is for real! We did it just about every Wednesday, the original Paddy O’ was wildberry schnapps, rum, a little grenadine, a splash of 7up and some 151 on top. I remember going back around 2000, and asking a bartender about the 151 and she told me it wasn’t how you made a Paddy O Lantern. I smiled and kept drinking. It was never meant as a Quad, however it really took off, and obviously the contents changed with time much like the Junction itself. In 1987, Keith, myself, and at the time the owner before Keith, Rich Stratton, (co-owner with the guy from Cleveland-Bob Smith) spent a summer sanding down every piece of wood, including the upstairs  bar. That was the last time it had been refinished. Now, someone has changed its name. Changes happen, the memories are still there. I have thousands of memories of the Junction, I drank on the bar, danced on the bar, typed many awesome research papers on that bar, i taught a mixology course on that bar, and I even had a pillow back by the ice machine for when I slept on the bar. One of my favorite things to do on a quad night was to go to the Pub. Let me explain, if you ever got a chance to go into the basement it was an interesting place, mostly because the junction and the pub were connected if you knew the way. So I would go over to the Pub through the basement. The Pub had a door on the floor, between the bar and their front window. When you entered into the Pub it was to your left, not too many people ever noticed it. In the middle of the night, to get away from the crazy quad folk, I would bang on that door, until some one let me up from the Pub basement, I would get two goldfish bowls, have a bunch of laughs, and bartenders and I would tell everyone I lived in their basement. I’d head back the way I came and enjoy the Quad celebration. By the way, thanks a million for writing this article, I’ve got memories popping up that were long forgotten!

  • Paddy_mcguire

    Don’t worry Joe, anyone who was there during the time of the Hangar, doesn’t really remember much!

  • Joshmcclintock

    Joe. Thanks for the memories. Remember your many great stories in the post as well. You always covered the cc and track teams like a champ. Here’s to ya!

  • Sorry to hear about the conditions of the mens’ room!  I think I had one of my first drinks there, a 7/7 when I was there on sibs weekend as a high school junior; then quad night for my 4 yrs at ou.  It was a cheap place to start out the evening until the bagel cart at the end of the night if we still had money!  My only tattoo is of the outline of ohio with a big fat green pawprint and a tiny heart by cleveland!

  • This is a great summary of how I remember it too.  Minus the men’s room.  I was even asking my niece, who is now a student, if The Junction was still there.  Too bad I can’t go back and do the shuffle with her and show her the great places that were there in the 90’s. 

  • Kim

    I have a glass from a Junction Quad Night. A great souvenir of an unforgettable bar that contributed to an unforgettable college experience.

  • This cracked me up. Thanks for sharing.

  • I remember you, Josh. Great to hear from you. Only a comment from Mo Banton himself could top this.

  • Scubasteven96

    The Junction was always fun.  At least the best bar in the world, The Pub, is still next door!

  • LA in Chicago

    Hey Joe – great to “find” you – it’s been a long time! Great article too – I had no idea The Junction was gone – so sad! 

  • Great post.  Every college kid should have a “Junction” – I know I did.  This post is sure bringing back some memories as I register for my 25th reunion coming up this summer !

  • Gretchen

    Weren’t they $2.10 or $2.25 on other nights? That was a rip off!

  • Gretchen

    We loved that Budweiser sign too!

  • Jean Yousefi

    I saw the Almann Brothers at the Hanger (1986?)!  Good times, good times…I think…

  • Jean Yousefi

    Great article!  I stopped in Athens in September about a week or so after the Juntion closed last year – I actually shed a tear. Even back in the olden days (1980’s) last song was My Way but the song I remember most from there is American Pie.   I can still recall all the words (maybe not in the right order…)   Also, every year when day light savings started – it was a near riot trying to get them to stay open another hour – it never did happen.  So I will raise my stolen quad glass tonight in a toast to the Junction, while my daughter starts working on her early acceptance application for OU (God help me!)

  • Cwilsey

    This is so depressing! I have so many Great memories of this to include Kevin Brandich and I (dressed in black and looked like I was pregnant) getting married by our friend Stu! Or listening to David Allen Coe, “You never called me by my name”, which is still on my Ipod today. Athens will never be the same. 

  • Ned

    How many students did the owner date? I think he had a new one every year from ’90 to ’94? Why would you sell and give that up?

  • Ohiou110

    Thanks for the article. I was in the 110 and spent many hours at the Junction. Some of my best memories…

  • TF

    Best place to get a Slow Comfortable Screw Up Against the Wall with Masking Tape.  That was a drink, of what I have no idea!  85-89 great years!

  • Yes.  Well, sorta, we probably blacked out.  But there are 6 dozen quad glasses still in my garage to remember it by.

  • Tom Bosco

    I was a Tony’s man and don’t think I ever went into the Junction. But your article brought tears to my eyes. My friends and I experienced the same feelings right around the corner — laughing, singing, crying, carousing, and enjoying youth. Like you, I was aware enough to know that these were “the good ol’ days.” Thanks for the memory, Joe. 

    Tom Bosco, ’92

  • Kateowen20

    Thanks for the memories!  I loved The Junction!  It was the place where I could count on my fake id to work as a sophomore and where I spent my last night as an OU student.  My friends and I (accompanied by our parents) spent the night before graduation 1997 in The Junction.  I can still remember bellowing out American Pie as we stood on the balcony.  Closing time came and we were no where ready to say goodbye … Keith grabbed a case of beer and followed us to our apartments above Burger King.  It was a thing of beauty!

  • I love this post and your thank-you and the comments so much I want to marry them — and I’ve never even been to the Junction. One of our “Junction” places here in Traverse City is an old bar called The Cabaret, which was about as diametrically opposed to a Cabaret as humanly possible. Really, it was a biker bar and still is, only under the name Union Street Station now. 

  • Oh, and I’m dying to know what that guy in the photo is doing – the one that’s about ready to catapult backwards off the ledge. I bet *that’s a great story. 

  • The best bars are the ones that do not look like the thing they were named after. Treasure that Cabaret. 

  • BGreening

    Can I just say, as a proud ou j-school alum, that’s one head of a lead sentence.

  • BGreening

    Damn autocorrect. *hell

  • Ha ha. I got it even without the autocorrect. Thanks!

  • Was there when they made the change from Igor’s … that cedar rustic look was pretty cool for the time. Had many a friend work there and always had a great foosball table. OU is and always will be as Playboy Magazine termed back in the ’70’s a “Professional Party School” with all others being pretenders.

  • Kateartsy

      The comments are just as great as the story. Thanks Bobcats!

  • A rush of memories came fleeting back after reading the article and postings.  Like many OU alumni, I met my wife in the balcony of The Junction. A typical Thursday night uptown Winter Quarter 1979.  Jam packed brick streets and lines of students outside every bar.  The Junction was always the longest.

    Living on the third floor of the former FIJI house (39 N.College St), I had a perfect view of The Junction.  When the line subsided to an acceptable length, several of us would head out.  The Rolling Stones “Some Girls” cuts blaring from speakers.  I can still smell the stench of stale beer AHHHH.

    Years later, the journeys back to Athens to join fellow Phi Gams ALWAYS included The Junction as the first stop.  Nothing was more enjoyable than partnering with a brother, placing a quarter on the foosball table and for the next two hours taking on all the “fish” that thought these old guys lost the skills.

    I joke with OU friends that looking back I ‘majored’ in The Junction and ‘minored’ in foosball.

    The Junction  —  R.I.P.  – Rest in partying.

  • So, I graduated in ’93, and I was always partial to closing down the (equally dive-y) CI, but it was not uncommon for us to start Thursdays at The Junction.   I’m sad to see it go.  I’ve been back to Athens many times in the past (OMG) 20 years and am always saddened by the loss of the places I thought were the definition of the Ohio experience.  I am a high school teacher and a few kids from our school make their way to Athens every year, wide-eyed freshmen, ready to grow up.  When they come back to visit, they have the same devotion to the uptown experience that I remember. There must be something magical about Court Street because, even with the loss of so many places essential to my experience there, it seems the OU spirit endures.

  • I would have to say one of my favorite memories of the Junction (and there were many) was from the year I lived above it. Most days fall quarter I would get out of class at 4pm, walk home, wave to whom ever was bartending and go up and start any work I had to do. 20 minutes into my work the stereo would get louder and louder until I couldn’t hear myself think. The first time this happened I was like WTH- I walked down to see what was going on and the bartender said I thought that might get you down here, now here’s a drink. This proceeded to happen every time I got home from class and did not stop in for a drink. What a great year!
    Good luck to the new owners and to the new patrons. I hope you can have as many wonderful memories from the J Bar as I did the Junction! Slainte

  • Gwhisseljr

    I love the Junction. Had some gret times there. I am 2001 grad. I spent way to many nights or last call at the greenery. Not a pround thing to admit. I also love the Nick/ Wooden Nickel. I hated it when it closed. That was place that everyone got along together. I also spent time at Zachary’s. That was a cool place too. Thanks Joe for the memrioes. I can’t wait till I vist the new J bar or what ever it calls.

  • Gwhisseljr

    Congrets on getting married. I graduated in 01 too. Take care.

  • Thank you! I was class of ’98. The time has flown.

  • Vicki

    I was recently at OU for Homecoming and hit The Junction first.  I can’t believe it’s now called the J-Bar.  It’s just not the same.  Although good times with good friends can be done anywhere – there will always be a place in my heart for The Junction.

  • Brock Onat

    The Hangar! 10 cent beer night…Old Style Beer…can you say hangover?  I knew you could!  The Hangar opened and closed during my tour…good times

  • Kape

     It was on a hanger night that I peed on Dean’s feet before you were even a twinkle in the morgue’s eye youngster

  • OK, not I really wish I had seen the place. Where was The Hangar?

  • Now I really wish I had seen The Hangar. Where was it?

  • Beth Russell

    Oh wow! I graduated in 1979, and I don’t remember that we were ever “allowed” to have alcohol in the dorms! At least in Truedley Hall on the Wwst Green! Swanky’s! Talk about a dive! Yikes! Also the Cat’s Den and the Lantern. Mr. Magoo’s—turned Crystal (when my daughter was there). I was lucky enough to be there from 1975-1979 and to go back for Moms weekends from 2006-2010. My daughter thought it was so funny that I cried every single time I headed out of town on 50 E. Until she graduated.

  • Ha. Thanks for sharing, Beth. I COMPLETELY understand.

  • RonisJ

    Hanger was an old arched “Hanger” across from Lakeview Apts and old Intermural fields … which were the home of Springfest (which died in 1989 after going dry!) That was the first Palmerfest that year … in a parking lot behind the duplex next to 4 Palmer St … 1989 w/ The 18th Emergency playing … good times!

  • T Patrick Ryan

    Love seeing the old bars I went to (82-87). DJ’d with friends at the Nick – we were the OU Nasty Boys! And always had a mug hanging with the “mug club”. Greenery was pretty much the Greek bar and Brainstompers was the drink of choice. You always knew it was closing time when Frank Sinatra sang “New York, New York” – never knew why that was the song of choice but I sang along to it MANY times. Beer parties at Lincoln Hall was always the way for RAs to fulfill their “program” requirements. Always said that was the BEST time to be at OU. Drinking age was still 18. Springfest was HUGE. GREAT TIMES

  • jmoser

    I recall that after the Hanger closed someone tried to make a go of it as a laser tag arena. That didn’t last long. Anyway, I have a lot of fond memories of that place–I got there in summer 1985 (as a McGuffey Scholar) and they never carded there. It’s where I really learned to drink.