University of Wisconsin College Life in the 60s: Top Ten Things to Do at the Badger Tavern
The University of Wisconsin Campus in Madison, Wisconsin
The Badger Tavern in Madison
The Badger Tavern or BT just off of the University of Wisconsin southwest campus was a favorite hangout for many students when I attended college. Located on University Avenue in Madison right across from the School of Agriculture, The Badger Tavern run by bartenders Joe and Tony was mainly frequented by Lakeshore Residence Hall dormitory students who lived a short walk away across Agriculture Hill.
I was introduced to the BT by my roommate during the end of my freshman year in 1963. Throughout the next three years, and especially during my junior and senior years, the Badger Tavern was one of my favorite social hangouts. With great nostalgia, I reflect on the top ten things we used to do at the BT in the early and mid-1960s.
Top Ten Things to Do at the Badger Tavern
1. Socialize with Dorm Mates and College Friends
In the early and mid-60s, young people in Wisconsin could not drink hard liquor until the age of 21. College students could, however, drink beer at 18. The only thing needed for this was an age of majority card with a picture proving that you were 18 years of age. Having always been known as a "drinking school," U.W. Madison had a number of beer bars located right off and adjacent to the college campus. The University even served beer in its Rathskeller Restaurant in the Student Union.
On most Friday and Saturday evenings, students from the Lakeshore dorms would primarily head with their friends and dorm mates to the Badger Tavern. At the BT, usually groups of four to six students would sit in booths, and with the aid of a pitcher or two of beer reflect on college life and solve world problems.
2. Celebrate Home Football Weekends
The BT and surrounding bars were always packed on home football weekends in the fall. On late Friday afternoon, students would start getting into the spirit of the game by "firing up" at the Badger Tavern. During homecoming weekend in 1965, I can remember our dormitory unit passing an hour or two on one Friday afternoon at the BT with a coed dorm unit. Both of our units were participating in the "Yell Like Hell" cheering contests later that afternoon. On Saturday evening, and for some students right after the game, the Badger Tavern was the place to celebrate a victory by singing "On Wisconsin" and the alma mater song "Varsity."
3. Playing Drinking Games
When students got together in groups at the BT, drinking games were almost inevitable. One game I will always remember playing is "Fizz Buzz." The object of this game was to get your buddy inebriated by having to "bottoms up" or "chug" a small glass of beer if he couldn't say a correct number or word. The game proceeded in this fashion. Player one would first say the number "one." Each person around the booth would then count one number in turn. Any number divisible by five would be replaced by the word "Fizz." Any number divisible by seven would be replaced by "Buzz," and any number divisible by both five and seven would be replaced by "Fizz Buzz." Furthermore, the direction of counting would be reversed if "Fizz" or "Buzz" was called out. For example, the counting would proceed like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, Fizz, 6, Buzz, 8, 9, Fizz, 11, 12, 13, Buzz, Fizz, etc. It was a fun game because the more inebriated you became, the harder it was to say the correct word or number and avoid having to drink up. Another game we played on rare occasions was Whales Tales.
4. Listen to the Jukebox
During the 60s there were no personal MP3 players or I-pods. When people went out to restaurants or bars, they would listen to music on jukeboxes. The BT had a big Wurlitzer jukebox which played the top 40 hits. In the late summer and early fall of 1965, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Byrds were really popular. I can't remember how many times I played "Satisfaction" and "Mr. Tambourine Man" on the Badger Tavern's jukebox.
5. Play the Palooka Pinball Machine
We didn't have electronic video games in the 60s. If college kids weren't playing pool or listening to the jukebox in the BT, they were playing one of the two Palooka pinball machines in front of the bar. A skilled player could turn the machine over at least once (get more than 100,000 points), and get at least one free game for only a dime while playing for minutes on end.
6. Shoot Pool
On any given evening, but especially the weekends, the Badger Tavern's two pool tables would be continuously occupied by students shooting eight or nine ball pool. I never played much pool, because I wasn't very good at the time.
7. Eat Sunday Supper
The Badger Tavern bar and grill was a favorite place to get a hamburger, fries, and salad on a Sunday evening. Lakeshore dormitory eating halls didn't serve Sunday suppers which made the BT a great place for a bite to eat.
8. Take a Date
Although most college students would go to the Badger Tavern with their buddies, it wasn't uncommon for a guy to take his coed date occasionally to the BT, especially if she liked drinking beer.
9. Stand on Your Head
During my senior year, the BT would hold contests on Saturday evenings to see who could stand on their heads in the bar the longest. I remember participating a few times, but I never won a contest.
10. Blow Off Steam After Finals
Finally, the Badger Tavern was a popular spot for blowing off steam after final exams. So many students would go there after two or three days of testing to celebrate the end of testing and a college term by getting inebriated.
The Badger Tavern was a big part of many UW students' off-campus social life. The many exciting things we did there, especially on football weekends, will always be remembered.
Varsity Played at a University of Wisconsin Football Game
Drinking Games with Friends
A Pinball Machine
Top Things to Do at the Badger Tavern
What would you have the most fun doing at the Badger Tavern?
Top Things to Do at the Badger Tavern
© 2013 Paul Richard Kuehn