The life and times of a young radio station: a vague history of KDIC
By Trey Reasonover ’01
KDIC’s Little Sister
On the morning of December 6, 1948, the Grinnell College campus discovered a tiny newborn radio station that had been abandoned in front of the Forum by a mysterious stranger from the FCC orphanage down the road. How odd! The sympathetic student body immediately adopted the tyke and affectionately named her KGRW. She was a pleasant little radio station, from whose little lungs came the gentle and mellifluous sound of the news, interviews and classical music, with the occasionally fit of rock ‘n roll music.
Unfortunately, by the early 1960s, KGRW had outgrown her clothes. You see, she had arrived on the campus bundled up in nothing but a close-circuited AM blanket, but that blanket just wasn’t enough to keep her little body warm any more, and so she became sick. They say that students living in Norris Hall could not even hear KGRW’s beautiful voice anymore because the dormitory’s electrical wiring interfered with the feeble sound waves she managed to squeak past her tiny little voice box. Poor little KGRW!
The concerned student body, who just adored KGRW, ran to the grand Board of Trustees and appealed for funding in order to upgrade her wardrobe to a warm pair of FM pajamas, but the Board frowned and grunted, “I’m sorry boys and girls, but we just don’t have the money.” The Board of Trustees did not love KGRW as much as the student body. As her voice dwindled to nothing, KGRW gave up the fight and got sicker and sicker. Alas, one day dear little KGRW went to sleep forever. “Don’t worry little friend,” whispered the student body as she sighed her last breath, “just close your eyes and go to candyland.”
Baby KDIC Arrives on the Scene
As the years went by, the students came and went, and KGRW’s legacy was shamefully forgotten. But one day in 1966, a clever and mischievous sophomore by the name of Babak Armajani ’68, convinced the Board of Trustees to give him some spending money for a milkshake at the local chocolate shoppe. But instead, he ran down to the FCC orphanage to adopt a new orphan radio station! Gee, Babak sure was clever, wasn’t he? After a couple years of troublesome paperwork, Babak managed to bring to campus a little boy station he named KDIC. Yay!
KDIC said his first words on May 20, 1968, much to the glee of the Grinnell student body. He dressed in very hip FM garb, and took on the tough nickname of 88.9 MHz, mostly to impress the awed coeds. Unfortunately, though, KDIC was still a scrawny little guy, with a squeaky 10-watt voice. Nonetheless, he used that squeaky 10-watt voice to laugh and cry and sing with all his might, all over campus, for 121 hours a week.
KDIC was fond of all types of music, and he spent his free time reading and reciting news from the UPI and outside news sources. He was even pen pals with Radio Netherlands, the French Radio System, and the PAN-American Union. What a precocious little radio station!
KDIC took up residence in a northwest bedroom on the second floor of Darby Gym. Imagine that, an attic suite all to himself! But to keep KDIC out of trouble, eighty-five students watched over him that first year. To do so, they moved directly underneath him in what they referred to as the “office and production room”.
Because of KDIC’s scrawny physique and squeaky voice, the other nearby radio stations often bullied him. It was horrible! One particularly bad day in 1971, a bruiser named WOI from Ames got a voice box enlargement so he could bellow even louder at the smaller stations. Poor little KDIC just didn’t know what to do, and his voice was too weak to contend. WOI’s terrifying yells just left him trembling like a solitary wilted stalk of corn on a desolate Iowa landscape.
Well, the Grinnell student body complained about this, and WOI’s mom punished her son severely for his bullying. Part of his punishment was to pay KDIC enough money to buy a swank new polyester suit. He was now super fly! To celebrate his new style, KDIC changed his nickname to 88.5 MHz and with the extra money he got those very call numbers tattooed onto his bicep. Our little KDIC was truly coming of age.
Youthful Rebellion and Consequence
Unfortunately, as with every adolescent, KDIC went through a rebellious experimental stage. He was caught several times in his Darby bedroom smoking marijuana and drinking beer with the student body. And you should have just heard some of the words that were coming out of his mouth!
One time, KDIC let some delinquent students convince him to connect his vocal chords to the nearby train tracks, so he could laugh and cry and sing with all his might all across the land. Well, a big mean FCC person from the orphanage heard about this, and the Grinnell students lost their right to play with KDIC for a whole year! KDIC was locked away in the closet and everyone was very sad. They also had to pay a big fine! “Jeepers,” exclaimed several of the students, “just who is this big mean FCC person anyways? We just want to rock!” But the big bad FCC person does not rock.
Somehow, KDIC survived those wild times, and in 1984 as a coming of age present, the Grinnell College Board of Trustees gave him a fat check to pay for an operation to enlarge his very own voice box. KDIC was now kicking it at 132 watts!
Most people were thrilled with this change. They loved KDIC, and wanted everyone to experience him and see what a great guy he really was. But some people were worried. KDIC could now reach a lot more people, and with that greater range might come trouble. “He just can’t say those bad words anymore. My babies might hear him!” said one concerned woman in a local drugstore. “The way he presents himself is downright incompetent! Get a haircut you hippie!” snapped a grumpy old man at the Laundromat. And the big mean FCC person even said, “See here, KDIC, I will be watching you even more closely now. Don’t disappoint me!”
Don’t worry,” said KDIC. “I don’t want to cause mischief. I just want to rock!” And that’s exactly what he did. And it was wonderful. KDIC and his friends rocked and they rolled. But they did continue to get into a little bit of trouble every now and then, as only a strapping young radio station can.
For example, one time in 1988, KDIC and some of his more confrontational friends said some particularly offensive things, and a lot of the student body got very very mad. KDIC started a big free speech debate on campus, what we now refer to as the Steinman Affair. Imagine that! Well, KDIC’s more responsible friends just did not condone his actions, and so they locked him back up in the closet for a week as a goodwill gesture to those who had been offended. KDIC learned a very special lesson from this: He is free to go around and say whatever he wants, as long as he is respectful of his friends and neighbors.
KDIC’s friends locked him away in the closet yet again in the Fall of 1992. Apparently, he had turned into an “apathetic slob” which quite frustrated his primary caretaker, a young woman who referred to herself as the “station manager”. She got so frustrated, in fact, that instead of trying to better the situation she just pulled the plug on their friendship right after Thanksgiving and locked him away for the rest of the semester. Poor KDIC.
And then, in 1993, the big mean FCC person paid a surprise visit to KDIC’s bedroom. KDIC tried to clean up before the FCC person came barging through the door, but it was too late. Uh oh, KDIC! Trouble! Apparently, KDIC did not heed the big mean FCC person’s earlier warning to behave. The big mean FCC person went into a tirade about how there was “discontinued operation” and “unacceptable EBS maintenance” and “inadequate public inspection files” and “no station logs”! KDIC stammered out an apology, but the big mean FCC person just wouldn’t listen. Instead, he made KDIC and his friends pay a fine of $1,000! Fortunately, the college administration footed the bill.
Emergence into Young Adulthood
KDIC was saved, just barely. “Hey, let’s rock!” he yelled triumphantly when the danger had passed. And that’s exactly what he did. And it was wonderful. KDIC and his friends kept on rocking and rolling as tome progressed, but they actually managed to stay out of trouble for quite a while.
At one point in 1995, KDIC decided to get a pet, which he named The Creature Music Magazine. The Creature was actually avery good looking and clever animal that had quite a knack for securing interviews with big-name music stars. He also had quite an ability to review records! KDIC, The Creature, and their special friend, Kurt Orzeck ’00, spent a lot of time together and traveled all across the land, schmoozing with record execs and spreading their musical passions. Unfortunately, The Creature passed away with autumnal grace in 2000. KDIC and his friends cried and cried as they buried his limp little body next to that of KGRW. “Maybe someday we’ll bring the little monster back to life,” Kurt sighed aloud, with a glimmer of hope in his eyes.
Friendly students continued to come and go as the years passed, while KDIC grew into quite a respectable young man. In the year 2000, he joined his charm and slick personality with the charm and slick personalities of three of his friends (Brad Hilkene’99, Jon Petit ’01, and Garrett Shelton ’01) to convince Grinnell College President, Rusty K. Osgood, to give him fifty grand for a new soundboard and some other equipment. This really helped him pimp out his bedroom! No longer did he have to deal with an outdated sound system from the seventies; he was now surfing the wave of the technological revolution.
KDIC in these Modern Times
Which brings us to today. What has KDIC been up to recently? Well, he recently decided it would be a good time to try out the whole “information superhighway” thing, so he made a website. And for his Millennium resolution, he promised he would get all the technology sorted out so he could laugh and cry and sing with all his might all over the Internet.
You can go visit our friend KDIC at his bedroom in Younker Pit. Or maybe you’ll find him doing a kegstand at one of his wild parties. Or getting down right funky at the Dionysus outdoor concert he organizes every year. Yep, that KDIC sure knows how to rock. What a guy!
[Historical information culled from the KDIC archives, the Scarlet and Black newspaper, and a 1998 historical report prepared by Leslie Czechowski and Emily Burke of the Grinnell College Library's archive department. Additional thanks to Catherine Rod of the Iowa Room.]