(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.
4 thoughts on “The Day of the Big Gulp: WLS Top 45s, August 1979”
Love this one!
Very visual with each of you biffing it on the way home. It’s happened to me even just getting out of the car in the garage with a large cup in my hand or even walking from the fountain up to the register to pay. Heck, I’ve even botched the hand-off a couple of times. There’s just something about the sound of a full cup with crushed ice and some colorful beverage hitting a hard surface and exploding. Sonic, with their foam cups and tiny crushed ice pellets, is the best for such soda bombings.
My best Big Gulp story took place during my junior year of high school in 1982-1983. Back then school was still an open campus, there were no fences, no gates, and no security monitors. Lunchtime rolled around and we were free to leave campus and head over to the University which is right across the street to the northeast, catty-corner to our campus or head two blocks due south to a 7-11/Lavicio’s.
Marty, Larry and I opted to go run/walk those two blocks 2-3 times a week for a $3 deal that included a made fresh that morning eight-inch deli sandwich and a Big Gulp. We’d eat and drink on the walk/run back to school as well and usually had enough time to get back to one of our shared lockers where we stored the emptied, rinsed out Big Gulp cups because they ran a deal where if you brought in three proofs of purchase that were printed on the cups, you got a free one! We paid for the first seven months of the school year and got free ones in April and May. Plus we got a meal and workout!
We attempted something similar our senior year but each of us had a car and a job by then so our world of choices opened up and 7-11/Lavicio’s almost never made the cut.
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