Ohio University has long been known as a party school. True, it has world-renowned teaching in journalism, broadcasting, business, engineering and other disciplines, but the school’s partying ways herald back to its very founding.
Over the years, seven bars have emerged as legends among some very stiff competition.
Klippie’s Cold Room – 1880s
Klippie’s started out as a back room operation where the proprietor sold shots out of paper cups to students and faculty. In those days, it was still considered blasphemous by good citizens to drink alcohol, so Klippie kept it on the down low in the back. According to Klippie, “The more conservative members of the town and university were my biggest customers.”
Muddy’s – early 1900s
Named for the mud fest that the whole town became after the spring rains and subsequent flooding of the the Hocking River, Muddy’s was renowned in Uptown Athens. One story talks about the dean of the business school driving his new Ford Model T into the back door in the alley at Muddy’s. The wall caved in, so the owner just set up tables and kept serving. An alumni later remembered, “It stayed that way for 40 years till they sold the place and it became a donut shop.”
Bobcat Walk – 1920s
Bobcat Walk was at the far end of Court Street, Athens’ main drag where most of the bars are located. In the mid-1920s, Chester Jergens from Cleveland created a tradition named after the bar. At closing time, students stumbled up Court Street toward the College Green, singing the school fight song as loudly as they could, stopping occasionally to set fires and roast hot dogs in the middle of the street. The Bobcat Walk tradition died out only a few years later.
Bumper’s – 1930s
Like Klippie’s before it, Bumper’s did its best business when alcohol was frowned upon by society at large. During prohibition, Bumper created an underground bar that included gambling tables, dancing girls, and even stand-up comedy. Students and faculty in the know descended the stairs to the secret room for fun and laughter until the sun came up the next morning. One nationally-known professor racked up huge debts at the poker tables. Bumper and his cronies held him upside down by the heels from Memorial Auditorium before his wife came to the rescue, rushing across the College Green with wads of money in her hands to save his life.
Cat’s Claw – 1940s
As the country’s fighting men and women came back to campus after the war, they immediately went to Cat’s Claw to catch up on lost partying time. Known for its rowdy mix of Greeks and jocks, Cat’s Claw almost burned to the ground after two fraternities got into a rumble over a young blonde from Pittsburgh. “She was the girlfriend of one of the guys from the biggest fraternity on campus, and this other kid from another fraternity started getting too chummy with her, I guess,” said one bystander. “They started shoving each other, and the whole place erupted into a rumble and fires broke out. The next thing I knew the Athens police were outside, storming the place with billy clubs. I still have a welt on my head.”
Banker’s Hours – 1950s
Set in an old bank that went out of business, Banker’s Hours appealed to poor students and faculty members alike. The bar was shut down when a freshman was inadvertently locked in the bank vault turned VIP room in May, and wasn’t found until the following September. Remarkably, the student survived on Jaegermeister and bar food he found in the vault, but soon transferred to Rutgers.
Raddy’s – 1960s
Raddy’s was one of the first Athens taverns to appeal to the growing counter culture movement that was sweeping across Athens and the country in the 1960s. Raddy was known to grow a particularly strong strain of plant favored by locals and students alike. Raddy’s closed after he was busted for selling his potent brand from behind the bar, and allowing smoking of it on his back patio. Neighbors complained about the noise and the billows of smoke wafting through the alley made them constantly hungry and paranoid.