Part 24: Where Offerman ate, a TV exec drank and an astronaut swam

Part 24: Where Offerman ate, a TV exec drank and an astronaut swam

With the University of Illinois celebrating birthday No. 150 this year, we caught up with hundreds of graduates who've gone on to greatness. Every Tuesday and one Sunday a month throughout 2017, Managing Editor JEFF D'ALESSIO will tell their tales. Today, in Part 24: Gone but not forgotten.

Every time he's back in town — and his next trip could be just weeks away — Hollywood funnyman NICK OFFERMAN (BA '93) yearns for some of those fresh-baked baguettes that the late, great Nature's Table served across from Krannert, on Goodwin Avenue.

"A half for a quarter, or 50 cents for a whole, warm with butter," says the former "Parks and Recreation" star. "The rest of their food was incredibly delicious and wholesome, especially the cookies, but their fresh bread allowed us to subsist on literally pennies."

And with that, here are a few other oldies but goodies that alums say Campustown just isn't the same without:

1. Bouncer-less bars. No ID? No problem in the early '70s, as JUDD PARKIN (BA '74) remembers it. Before he'd go on to become a network TV big shot — among his titles: VP for movies/miniseries for ABC and director of miniseries for NBC — Parkin and friends would flock to Treno's.

"My fellow theater students and I basically lived there when we weren't in class or rehearsal — that's where everyone went to get hammered," he says. "Almost none of the bars carded in those days, so it was pretty easy to get served alcohol just about anywhere, and as theater students, we felt it was our duty to take advantage of this laxity."

2. The World Heritage Museum. The fourth floor of Lincoln Hall is where Tampa Bay Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter LEONORA LaPETER ANTON (BS '86) could spend hours gazing at exhibitions, then catch up with her mom, Barbara Bohen, who ran the museum for 15 years.

"She turned it into a special place with unique finds around every corner, from a spruced-up replica of the Parthenon Frieze to a real Egyptian mummy," Anton says. "I remember she once bought a massive ceramic classical Greek vase at an auction in Switzerland and booked it two seats on the plane under the name Mr. and Mrs. Vase.

"The World Heritage Museum is long gone and has morphed into the Spurlock Museum (in 2002), but it was quite the little museum in its day, tucked away into the Lincoln Hall attic, as it was."

3. The Huff Gym pool, a forever favorite of Danville-bred NASA astronaut JOE TANNER (BS '73). Men's swimming hasn't been an official sport at the UI for more than two decades, but when it was, "we trained and held meets in the Huff Pool in Huff Gym" for Tanner's three years on the team.

"It wasn't a great pool, but we called it home. A few of us enjoyed jumping off the top rail of the viewing stands, much to the chagrin of the coach."

4. The original grease pit of campus, as former Illini basketball big man CHRIS GANDY (BS '97) will always remember the old Illini Orange snack bar, demolished last decade as part of dorm upgrades. "If you lived in the Six Pack," Gandy says, "it was eating out, five-star style."

Or something like that.

"It had windows that barely opened, you'd leave smelling like fried chicken, and there was so much oil in the air, the floor would be like a Slip 'N Slide," he says. "It was also the only place you could go and get a grilled cheese and a book at the same time.

"Bring back the Orange."


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