Growing up, my grandpa and grandma listened to a country radio station in Wichita, KS called “KFDI – The Radio Ranch.” It was the old school country western music station, at least that’s what it became as a new school of country music emerged sometime in my late elementary school years. Rock and Roll and the high production values of performers like Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson invaded the folksy lyricism of artists like Hank Williams Sr. and Loretta Lynn. As that happened, KFDI lost a lot of its musical fanbase to the newer and louder country station in town, KZSN.
I say this as if I know anything about it- I have always had an aversion to country music. Growing up, my immediate family did too – my parents did not like country music very much. But the rest of my family really did. It was a blue collar Wichita thing – you were either a country mega-fan or a fan of groups like Journey and The Eagles. I have no idea how those binary affiliations would be represented now, in 2014!
But KFDI was really a Wichita institution. They cultivated a community, of sorts. The KFDI “ranch-hands” seemed like they were really interested in what the callers were talking about; they were respected members of the community. The station’s public service in times of severe weather was legendary – they employed fleets of storm chasers to provide real-time data before many of the Doppler improvements that have allowed radar to provide earlier and earlier warnings of storms capable of “tornadic activity.”
And I remember they used to have an annual contest where they would call someone randomly from the phone book, and if the person picked up the phone with the greeting, “KFDI’s gonna make me rich” then they would win some money – maybe $1000. Not rich, at least not in my book, but in the early 1980s I suppose the thousand would have gone further.
So of course my grandma played along. She never won but for weeks at a time she’d answer the phone dutifully with “KFDI’s gonna make me rich.”
It all seemed so normal. And, actually, I think it was.
Thanks for reading.