My wife and I left in 1980. Went to most games throughout the 80s. Then sporadic thereafter. Last time we were there for a game was 12 years ago. We decided to spend a lot more time and walk the entire campus. We basically covered all the ground from Lincoln Ave to 4th Street and Florida/Kirby to Springfield. We played a lot of trivia about things we did associated with different campus buildings and campus town establishments. We arrived Saturday morning. The first thing I did was drive down Wright Street the wrong way. I needed to use a washroom and was hoping the university buildings didn't require a university ID with a magnetic passcode (considering the current times). I was happy to see all the halls were open and especially my favorite, Altgeld. I went for the men's room that I had used so many times. Where I once read my all-time favorite bathroom stall wall graffiti. One wrote, "Jesus Saves!", another wrote below it, "Esposito rebounds and scores!" (Remember the 70s). The bathroom hasn't changed a bit. I was pumped looking forward to seeing so many places from my past. We checked out the Undergrad Library and were surprised by how empty it was, no students. We went to Treeno's and my wife had a Hazelnut Mocha Cappuccino Frappe Latte ( and few other words I think). I had hot chocolate. Something didn't seem quite right. We started to consider all the places we could have lunch. But, first we stopped in the Union and cashed a check. We decided that the line at Garcia's for a Gutbuster would be too long, so we headed for Papa Del's. We had a Chinese dish, or maybe it was Korean. That was surprising, and it didn't satisfy me. We considered Zorba's, Bubbie and Zadie's, Grunts, White Horse, Eddie's Deli, House of Chin (but we already had Chinese), Coslow's, or Pagliai's (but would have had to drive to Urbana), so we went to Deluxe Billiards. We walked right in got a seat at the bar and ordered a fish sandwich. I was disappointed they no longer had the turntable and albums that anyone could play. Again, something wasn't right. Maybe it was because they also no longer put pickles on the fish sandwiches. We thought we would have a drink in another of "our" bars. Particularly Round Robin where we had our first "official" date. We couldn't find Round Robin, Second Chance, Boni's, or Cochrane's. We also couldn't find Kam's and Dooley's, but we did find Murphy's. We chalked it up to our memory fading. So we went into McBride's to get Carmex before the game. Then went upstairs to see if Mabel's had any afternoon live music. We bought some Target home goods instead. Then we went next door to Record Service so I could go through the discount album bins looking for hidden gems. Didn't find any. Since we didn't need any Illini attire or books, we passed on going into Follett's. We had time for a matinee, but The Coed didn't have any. So we went to McKinley Hall and watched a classic (High Noon or Casablanca, I don't remember). We headed for the hotel (Jumer's Castle Lodge, I think) to check-in before the game. I thought I would see what live music there might be available after the game at The Red Lion, The Alley Cat, or Panama Red's. Couldn't find anything online. Went to the game. Had a great day. The next morning we stopped at the Alma Mater for a photo op, then crossed Wright to the News Stand at Green and Wright to buy a Chicago Tribune or Wall Street Journal and have a cup of coffee before driving 3 hours home. Can anybody remember if that news stand with the breakfast diner bar had a name? We and none of our friends can come up with anything.
In all seriousness, we had a great time. The game was exciting. The present and future of Illinois sports is looking up. I absolutely understand change, the need for change, and nothing stays the same. We still love the UofI campus and I am confident it will retain its character and certainly it's credentials. I was reasonably prepared for the change of campus town because I read a lot and stay somewhat informed. But I could not grasp the transformation until I saw it. Campus town is a sad sight. I understand why it changed, but it doesn't make me happy nor do the reasons why it changed. I won't say anymore because it might sound like I am something I am not. I feel sorry for the current students, but I guess they'll never know what they missed. It will always be my college, but it is no longer my college town. Sorry, this started out to be fun, but turned melancholy. We had fun and we'll go back.