Look… Some parts of college are pretty fuzzy for me. After more than a decade away plus some weekend choices that, in retrospect, might have been less-than-good for my brain cells, there are things that just aren’t going to stick.
But I do remember one thing: the original Bear’s Den.
I know I probably missed the heyday of things like Bumstock and the Bear’s Den as a kid of the 80s/90s. But when I was an impressionable little frosh, there wasn’t a cooler thing than sitting down with a few upperclassmen and a pitcher of beer and drinking a pint out at a bar for the first time. Especially if there was a band playing – and it didn’t matter how good they were (or not. Usually not…). The Bear’s Den was the first taste of young adult living: out for a beer, music, and a good time. The greasy cheese sticks or fries soaked up the suds, as cholesterol, sodium, and trans fats never crossed our young minds.
The Bear’s Den was also a staple of daytime life, of course. For me, it was the perfect pit stop on my way from Oxford Hall on hilltop to classes in the Pavilion Theatre, Nutting Hall, or Libby Hall, or before/after hitting Fogler Library (See? I did some actual school work!). My staple was the grilled chicken sandwich with a Fresh Samantha (remember them? Before Odwalla, kids…) – portable and delicious-ish.
Most of all, the Bear’s Den was a meeting point. If you had to meet someone, the Bear’s Den provided one of a few central locations and reference points (Fogler’s steps, The Pit, maybe the Maine Center for the Arts/now the Collins Center would’ve been the others, I guess). That’s what I think the best part of recalling college days, or any days – the places and times that give a common sense of the community where we were, and what we shared. The Bear’s Den did that for thousands of stein fillers over the years. The new incarnation of the Bear’s Den may not be the same, but seeing some of the newer Black Bears taking part in some of their own memories that might be a little fuzzy one day helps keep the tradition alive.