Monday, April 12, 2010

'Sweet' sign at the supermarket

Here's the deal. It's always yesterday somewhere.

And in the parking lot of the Peony Park Hy-Vee in Omaha, you still can party like it's 1999 -- at least judging by the vintage Sweet 98 radio station and "Gary Coleman Has a Posse" stickers on the back of a sign there.

If you've been in Omaha a while, you certainly remember Sweet 98, which reigned as the undisputed champion of FM radio here for a couple of decades.

NOW, IF YOU'RE new to town or happen to be under 20, you would be one of the few people who don't still call KQKQ radio "Sweet 98," even though it changed format and name six years ago. For your edification, that previous incarnation of Q 98 Five played all the hits, had all the great contests and enjoyed the undying loyalty of every teenybopper in eastern Nebraska (and some of their parents, too).

It goes without saying that -- like the vintage bumper sticker there in the Hy-Vee parking lot -- was back when teenyboppers still listened to the radio. Which, of course, was back when radio was the picture of health and the iPod hadn't come out yet.

Back in the day, however, Sweet 98 was a hell of a station . . . if Top-40 was your thing. It inherited the mantle of "king of the teen-age hipsters" from the previous Omaha Top-40 powerhouse, "the Mighty 1290" KOIL (always said as "coil").


KOIL reigned from the late '50s through most of the '70s, but difficulties with the Federal Communications Commission knocked it down -- even off the air for about six months -- and then when "Sweet" came along in 1980, that was that, forever and amen.

I'm not from here, and my glory days were in the '70s, not the '80s, but I understand how it is. Sweet 98 was to KOIL here what KOIL was to WLCS, which wasn't in Omaha, but instead in Baton Rouge, La., where I grew up. Are you following me here?

IN OTHER WORDS, when I was a kid,
"the Big Win 910", was like KOIL, which was like Sweet 98, except that 'LCS got knocked off by WFMF, not KQKQ. Get it?

Whatever. If you're from my neck of the woods, and you still miss WLCS, go to the Big Win 910 CafePress shop and buy one of my shirts. Poppa needs a MacBook, OK?

They call this "full disclosure," I think.

But what we're really talking about here is sainted memory, isn't it? The little things long gone and -- objectively -- of little import, but which mean the world to me. And you. And everybody.

Usually, these things live on only in our hearts and minds. But sometimes . . . sometimes . . . they hang on and hold out -- kind of like those long-ago Japanese soldiers deep in the jungle on an island somewhere in the South Pacific, still fighting a war that ended long before, fighting on simply because no one told them it was over.

Obviously, not many people -- OK . . . no one, actually -- would mistake the parking lot at 78th and Cass for deepest, darkest New Guinea. But there, Sweet 98 holds out, ambushing unsuspecting grocery shoppers with promises of "Today's Hit Music."

Trying to win a brutal Top-40 ratings war that, for the rest of the world, is nothing more than a distant memory. A "sweet" memory of a time when radio mattered, and kids still listened.

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