My first memory of Albion is from when I was in fourth grade. My mom, an alum of 1987, buckled me and my older sister into the back seat of her car and brought us along for the two hour trek from Rochester to Albion for her 20 year reunion.
The entire drive there, I sat in the back seat complaining, continually asking “Are we there yet?” like the annoying eight year old I was. I vividly remember looking out the window as we drove along Michigan Avenue. Finally stepping onto the solid ground of the Ferguson parking lot, I remember thinking that the campus was huge compared to the small hallways of my elementary school.
I followed my mom around the entire day, in awe of the sights I was taking in. My view of Albion was shrouded in childhood wonderment, and when the day ended, I didn’t want to leave. I remember telling my parents, as we packed up to head back home, that one day I’d be back. One day, I said, I’m going to go to Albion, just like my mom.
Well, twelve years later, here we are. I guess as an eight year old, maybe I knew a thing or two.
The special thing about Albion is that, for as much as it’s stayed the same since the day I first saw campus twelve years ago, so much has changed as well. That led me to wonder, how much has changed over the years since my mom was a student? And how much hasn’t?
I wanted to sit down with my mom and talk about Albion’s history over a cup of freshly brewed coffee as we read the Sunday paper. But, given the fact that there’s roughly 100 miles between us, a simple phone call had to suffice.
Jordan Revenaugh: Back in the day, what led you to Albion?
Karen Revenaugh: We had a college night at Marion, my high school, and some colleges came and set up little tables. Your grandpa came with me, and we saw the Albion College table, and I spoke to a man named Skip Zabel. He was really nice and really positive about Albion, and I honestly just thought Albion was a super cool name for a college. It was that simple.
JR: When did you first decide to visit?
KR: I had a visit before I decided to go there, just to check out the campus. I don’t remember a whole lot from the visit, but I remember going on a tour like yours. The campus looked a little different back then. The KC wasn’t there, and there used to be a building back by the observatory. The science center was four different buildings, not like it is today. But for the most part, a lot of it was the same. Wesley, Seaton, Whitehouse, Twin. All the dorms were the same, except Wesley also had a cafeteria in the basement, which was convenient. All the fraternities were there. All the sorority houses were on the same street they are today.
JR: When did you officially decide that Albion was the right place for you?
KR: Well, I applied there, Wayne State, and Michigan State. But all along, I knew Albion was the right place for me. I just had that feeling.
JR: You still had the Bohm back then, right?
KR: So, the Bohm was definitely there, but I don’t even know if it was up and operating. We watched movies in the big room in Norris. Union Board put on movies like Purple Rain and Indiana Jones when they came out. Super fun. People went to Cascarelli’s all the time, that was a definite thing. Cascarelli’s was about the only thing downtown aside from a Mexican restaurant that I personally never went to. Family fare was also still there, but it was some place called Felpausch. Things were a little bit different.
JR: How do you feel about there being more downtown now?
KR: I’m so thrilled to see the changes. The hotel, the bakery, the brewery. The fact that you kids go down to the Bohm to see movies and that the college has offices down there. I’m just so thrilled about it all.
JR: Yeah, it’s definitely cool to have more going on down there, even since my freshman year.
KR: Oh for sure. Things have been changing fast.
JR: Without the revitalized downtown that we have, what did students do back in the day?
KR: Oh, everyone stayed on campus. I had a car starting my sophomore year, but I didn’t use it much. Union Board was a thing back then, too. One of my friends was president for a couple years. And they always had events going on. But other than that, we’d just hang out in our rooms. People left their doors open and we just hung out on our halls, whether it was playing cards or whatever. Bowling was a thing too, back then.
JR: Wait, you guys had bowling?
KR: Oh yeah, definitely. It was called Little Kings Night bowling. Think I bowled in the wrong lane by mistake once.
JR: Was it Thursday night? Free for students?
KR: There were 25 cent beers, but I can’t remember. It was one day of the week when most people had lighter class schedules the next day. That was one off campus thing that people would do. But a lot of the times, kids just hung out on campus and had fun. Like I said, Union board had a lot going on. There was always something to do.
JR: Did you guys have the Union Board carnival at the beginning of the year?
KR: I don’t remember a Union Board carnival, but Kappa Delta had our Shamrock philanthropy, and we had a carnival in Upper Baldwin every year. We also had a Big Show. That was always in Kresge. We had a band come every year. I can only remember three of the years, but The Romantics came twice. It was huge that they came to campus. And then Book of Love, this unknown ’80s band, came once. Students hung sheet signs on the building that used to be next to the observatory, called Epworth. It was the economics and management building.
JR: Were The Romantics as big as Jesse McCartney last year?
KR: Well, The Romantics were huge. And everybody at Albion loved Book of Love, too – Not too sure many people outside of Albion knew of them, but people were very excited. We all listened to music like that, alternative bands that no one knew about. It was an Albion thing, I think.
JR: So, if you had to pin it down to one thing, what do you think is the biggest change you’ve seen in Albion?
KR: The revitalization of the area. Not only downtown, but campus. The KC building and all of that were really positive changes since I’ve been there. And the campus, for the most part, looks exactly the same. I’m always happy when I’m back on campus. Your dad says he can just tell. There’s something very comforting about it being the same. But I love seeing that Albion is growing with the times, both on campus and downtown.
The other big thing is the Keller. You guys just eat there, but that used to be like how you can get food at the KC now. You could go to the Keller and get the most delicious fries and shakes. People would go hang out in the Keller, just sitting and talking and laughing. People would come and go, but we’d be there for hours and hours just hanging out. It served off hours, so Baldwin would be closed. People would take a study break and go there late at night and just sit together. There was something really special about the Keller, I don’t know.
Oh, and we had a radio station. I remember that now. WLBN. Get it?
JR: Oh my gosh. That’s all so different.
KR: A lot has changed, but a lot has stayed the same.
JR: Is there one thing in particular you like that’s stayed the same?
KR: I can’t say there’s any one thing. This is going to sound so corny, so I’m sorry, but going back to albion is like going back home. Those were four of the most impactful years of my life. Personally, socially, professionally. When my friends and I graduated, we were like, “No one will ever understand our experience here,” which is a silly, youthful thing. But I tell you this because my years there were fundamental in making me who I am today. You learn how to live with people you love and don’t love. You learn to pursue your passions. To live on your own and take care of yourself. It’s a small community, so it’s just all very comfortable.