(Above: The Brementowne pool. Not pictured: the WLS Magic Bus.)
Yesterday’s piece on how going back home is impossible got me thinking: What if time travel is possible on a blog? What if we try to preserve the memories in print? (If I can jog enough memories, can they take on a life of their own and still exist?) Let’s find out.
For some reason, I got to thinking about one specific day growing up in the Brementowne area of Tinley Park – the day that a few of us decided to ride our bikes up to the 7-11 to get a Big Gulp. I can’t think of the date – there’s no way to trace it – except that I am sure it took place in late summer of 1979.
The 7-11 was one of a select few spots in the neighborhood that you didn’t need to give anyone directions to. We all knew where it was, and once you were given clearance to take your bike off your own block (remember getting THAT level of freedom?), it was where you took your pocket change and bought baseball cards, Slurpees, or candy. (It was also jammed up at the end of BYAC Little League games, since our dads/coaches often took teams up there for a treat after the game.) Blogger Michelle Regan wrote a great piece about the Brementowne 7-11, and the strip mall that contained Brementowne Drugs, Chicken Unlimited (which became Taco Fiesta), and a restaurant that held teen nights that later billed itself as a “sophisticated night spot” (which if you have to tell people you are, you are not).
So why the Big Gulp? Because either John Records Landecker or Bob Sirott (or both) told us that they were only a quarter. WLS had a long-standing partnership with 7-11, and would have been the station we were listening to that summer. This was because the WLS Magic Bus had paid a visit to the Brementowne Pool, handing out cups of slightly-flat Coke and T-shirts that would take me five years to grow into. I can still remember the ad, complete with WLS reverb: “The Big Gulp.. is a quart cup!” And for a quarter? Challenge accepted. Off we went.
Four of us took our bikes up to the 7-11: ten-year-old me, my friend Alvin, my little brother, and his friend Jason. This was a longer ride for the younger kids, but they were eager to join us, and we could each scare up a quarter. We pedaled up to the store and got our drinks – and that’s where the flaw in the plan arose. A quart cup full of drink and ice is massive in the hands of a ten year old, and even bigger in the hands of a seven-year-old. Could we get them home?
Of course not. My brother wiped out about a block away from the store, dropping his drink in the street. We all laughed, prematurely: I believe Alvin swerved to miss a parked car and dropped his, and I can still picture Jason riding off the road into someone’s driveway losing his. That left me to be the sole survivor. Could I do it? I was about to turn on to Nottingham Drive, our block, when I misjudged the corner, hit a sewer cover, and lost my cup – with about half of it left. 0 for four.
To be honest, I think that may have been the last time I purchased a Big Gulp. I am sure I could handle it now – there’s two cup holders in my car now – but it’s never occurred to me to pick one up. Maybe if I can get a gang from the neighborhood together, we could all ride our cars up there and get one, with a side of chocolate licorice (that’s for another post).
Of course, this is a blog about music. I thought to take a look at a WLS survey from August, 1979 – about the time that the Day of the Big Gulp took place – and found some great records on the list. What might have been playing before we were encouraged to go get a drink far too large to carry?
–The Knack, “My Sharona.” This was #1 right about the time we went back to Keller School to start what was for me the sixth grade.
–Cheap Trick, “I Want You To Want Me.” Rockford, Illinois’ own Rock and Roll Hall of Famers were all over the radio that year. The Cheap Trick at Budokan live LP was one of my first “real” records, and I believe I got that one for Christmas that year.
–John Stewart, “Gold.” What a great record. And yes, that’s Stevie Nicks singing backup.
–Raydio, “You Can’t Change That.” Actually, the clearest memory I have of this song is Nancy Faust playing it on the organ before Sox games. It stands out because it had a cool bass solo, at least when echoing through a ballpark.
There are lots of others on the list, and it could have been any of them. I can assure you, though, that I wasn’t also carrying a radio and a Big Gulp, so we’ll never know for sure. But the next time one of these songs comes on, I’m stopping for a pop.