To the first bar I ever thought of as “our bar.”
It’s a weird thing to go to a bar for the first time. How do you act? What do you do? What’s the etiquette here? It’s hard to understand and learn based just on movies or what your older siblings tell you, which can make for a difficult transition into the world of social drinking.
That transition was made infinitely easier at Nipissing because of a wonderful place known as the Wall.
The Wall is closed now, but during my five years there are a student was one of the most important intsitutions for a number of reasons. It’s gone and been replaced, but I felt the need to write about my appreciation for the first bar I ever called “our bar.”
As I mentioned, it can be hard to know what to do at a bar. How do I get a drink? What are bars even like? The Wall gave me and other students the opportunity to learn that etiquette and experience social drinking in a safe space that was predominantly students.
Instead of going out into the vast unknown (at the time) of North Bay, we could stay on campus. A quick walk down allowed students in for wet/dry or all ages nights to experience first hand what a bar and nightclub is. There were no (or at least very few) older strangers; it was just students like us out to have a good time.
My very first night at the Wall, I wore a hat with a propellor on it because of course I did. Proof of my stellar fashion sense can be seen left. It was stolen by another student in an act I consider unforgivable to this day. Yet I love that first night because after that, it was never considered for me a scary place.
They had theme nights, celebrating Hallowe’en and New Years. There were nights to go out with friends to celebrate or relax after a long week. There were pub nights on Tuesdays to celebrate or relax after a long half week.
They had the best concerts. My first year alone saw Down With Webster, Steve Aoki, Alexisonfire, Bedouin Soundclash, Lights (who seemed to come every year) & Mother Mother all come to rock a small stage in a little bar in the middle of Northern Ontario. I would have never seen these artists without the Wall.
It also hosted other events. Charitable groups could run coffee houses to support awesome causes like Relay for Life or Movember. We once had Verne Troyer come in and do a Q & A. Yes, Mini-Me from Austin Powers just hung out at our campus bar. How cool is that?!
The Wall was the first place my Nipissing friends ever saw me do stand-up. I asked how long I was allowed to go on for, as up until then I’d only done five minutes.
“You’ll get the same as all the musicians, so you get 20.”
I then proceeded to go home and write about ten minutes of new stuff. Gotta fill the time, right? After that night, I felt like I really had the ability to be a comedian.
The Wall was shut down for a time in my fourth & fifth years at school, but did open back up. This elated me and my friends, who had been going to the Wall for so long and felt a gap when it had shut down. The Wall had been a huge part of our socialization as students. When we lived nearby, we could pop by the bar for a 1 am walk around, grab a pita from Pita Pizza upstairs and head back home without ever having to pay for coat check, even in winter.
When it opened back up, it became the place for myself and my education classmates to unwind after all of our classes. It was the spot to celebrate getting our education, finishing a long road and looking back on what we accomplished.
The first day it was opened in fifth year, I clearly was going to attend. I got there and the line was already pretty large. I saw a bouncer I knew only as MoFo (I assume it was not his birth name) wave at me and tell me to get on up to the front. He said it was good to see me and asked how I was doing, when I was graduating, things like that. This proved me two things:
1. The Wall staff really did care and remember
2. I may have gone to the Wall too frequently.
It was run with faces we recognized. My friends were the bartenders, the bouncers, taking coats. It was an operation built on the backs of students to give students a place to unwind and socialize on campus, with alcohol or without.
The Wall, as I mentioned is now closed. It absolutely breaks my heart because I know I was not alone in loving that bar. I am not the only person whose friends thought of it as “our bar.” It was an integral part of growing up at Nipissing for me, and I’m sad that part is lost on future students.
I hope that another campus pub or bar can fill that void left in the student experience. It can, and it will. I’ll forever be partial to the brick walls, the dancing on the speakers, and the genuine atmosphere of fun that the Wall provided to me.
If you ever worked at the Wall, or also shared in it’s wonderful experience, thank you for making it such a great place and a big part of our campus. I’m glad we all got to see it together. Now, cue up Closing Time.