Planning A Trip To Your Old “College Town?” Well, Best Check To See What’s Still Open After All Of Those Years!

My husband and I will be visiting Mount Pleasant, MI after New Year’s and staying in a motel for two nights. And we’re trying to “plan” where we’ll go, what we’ll see, etc. We both graduated from Central Michigan University in the mid 1990s and I guess you could say we were “college sweethearts,” so this will be a bit of a nostalgia trip for us. Here’s what we looked like around this time:

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Caption contest? Mike and I at my folks’ house in 1993.

One of the “key” places we want to visit in Mount Pleasant? Why, “The Bird,” of course! It’s a downtown bar that was previously called “The Flamingo,” until being renamed its current name by students. It was “the” bar to go to – especially on Thursday nights. Though I was never lucky enough to not have Friday morning classes, it was still a fun night to go out! Even if I didn’t end up back-handing a “townie” for calling me a “tall drink of water!”

You couldn’t escape The Bird back in the day without almost all of your clothes reeking of smoke. There were no laws stopping customers (or workers) from smoking in bars and restaurants. I wasn’t a smoker in college, but I guess you could say I was a “second hand smoker” by default!  My daddy’s old beaten-up leather motorcycle jacket didn’t seem to soak up as many smoke odors as jackets made of fabric, so that old leather jacket –  was my “bar jacket!” Later, I would learn by accident that hanging clothing near a dehumidifier also removes some smoke odors.

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Me in my dad’s old motorcycle jacket in the mid 1990s. Another clothing item I “jacked” from him was one of his heavyweight flannel shirts. It started out blue and white – but after I washed it with a red shirt, it turned into a blue and pink flannel shirt. Needless to say, he didn’t want the shirt back!

The last time we visited The Bird was in 2012, when some of my husband’s college friends were in town – for a family member’s funeral.

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From left to right – my husband Mike, his college BFF Craig, and me at The Bird in 2012. Mike and I had only planned to visit for the day – but we had so much fun we wound up getting a room in town that night so we wouldn’t have to drive all the way home!

Sadly, The Bird won’t be open on the first night of our trip to “Pleasantville” – but it will be open the second night we’re in town. It’s enough of a “dive bar” that us old fogeys won’t be out of place in there (it will be a holiday week, so there probably won’t be as many students as usual).

In addition to visiting our favorite bar, we want to see the only  “old apartment” of ours that might still be standing. Two of the apartment buildings in which we lived have been razed and replaced since then. Even Mike’s old dorm building – Rachel Tate Hall – was demolished a couple of years after he graduated. Now, there is graduate student housing in its place.

Since we can’t look at his old dorm or our old apartments – we will be taking a look at South Crawford Road to see if the apartment we shared during my last year of college is still there – or also has been replaced by “new hotness.” If weather permits, it might even be a hoot to take a walk to campus through the “rape woods.” No, nobody actually called them that! But looking back at my sketchy foot route (and occasional bike route) to campus, some of it was probably a bit…unsafe! But I fancied myself a bit of a bad-ass (vis a vis the back handing incident I mentioned a bit earlier), so I feared nothing as I trekked through the woods between my apartment and campus – even after dark! Though I will admit that riding my bike after dark to hand in a journalism assignment did kind of give me a bit of a scare!

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Behold the college grunge me that fancied herself a badass! God how I loved the “grunge” fashion craze… the whole being fashionable while not giving a f—.

Aside from our residences, we also hung out in other places! We loved doing happy hour at “La’s” (La Senorita) for the free happy hour munchies (queso, chips, salsa, beans), but La Senorita is now closed. On Sundays, we’d head over to the Malt Shop, so Mike could play “Gauntlet,” and we could both have dollar pizza slices. What better place to hear the words “Elf needs food badly” emanating from the Gauntlet machine than a place with super cheap pizza? Yup, the Malt Shop is closed now, too!

A couple of restaurants we visited as students and are still open included Ponderosa and Mancino’s. We plan to visit Mancino’s on our first night to get “grinders” (yum)!

Wayside Central was another bar we used to visit (and it is still open). But it’s unlikely we’ll be going there on our visit this week (it’s way too young of a crowd). It was more of a nightclub scene – where you’d hear nine inch nails, Butthole Surfers – and “moshing” was definitely a thing!

I remember getting really hammered on a night at the Wayside when we were celebrating my birthday…the YUGE Long Island Iced Tea was my “freebie” birthday drink, but it just got the party started. And the party ended with me crawling to my bathroom in my apartment so I could puke! #memories

We also enjoyed lots of outdoor pursuits when we were in college! Deerfield Park was a favorite spot (we always tried to get in when they weren’t charging at the gate), and also farther west, Brower Park. We enjoyed taking lots of hikes and nature walks – in fact, that was what we did on one of our first dates! While we were walking along the Chippewa River, I thought it would be a hoot to hop on top of some stone planters…and then I fell on my ass! This is still one of my husband’s fondest memories! There I was in my paisley corduroy shorts, tights, booties, and purple sweater – on my ass on the sidewalk. I couldn’t tell you why he enjoys this memory so much, but maybe he’s more of a sadist than he wants to admit? #shrugs

Mount Pleasant has changed quite a bit since we were students. The Soaring Eagle casino complex was just a small operation at the time (Mike worked in a bingo hall part time), more motels/hotels have been built to accommodate the casino tourists, and the Ponderosa restaurant has been moved closer to where the casino complex is. For the record, neither of us are “gamblers,” and have no plans to set foot in the casino during our upcoming visit (although the outdoor hot tub at the hotel is kind of nice)!

Stay tuned, I’ll be sure to post a blog about our visit to “Pleasantville!”

 

 

 

 

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