Luke Matthews

Saying goodbye to an old friend

Saying goodbye to an old friend

I am a big fan of progress. Things that are old and outdated should be updated and made new. That doesn’t mean that I won’t get nostalgic when that time comes.

I took the photo above on Sunday, June 16. It’s of the old front of Valley High School, the side of the building that faces east on to 35th Street. What sits there now is the ghost of the old cafeteria on the left, the recently demolished forum lecture hall, and somewhere in that debris pile, the remnants of the Valley radio station.

I graduated from Valley in 1996. Of the many activities that I participated in, none meant more to me than the radio station, 88.7 KWDM. I got started at the station in my freshman year. I thought it sounded like something fun to do and I had a passion for music, so it seemed like an easy fit for me. Over the next four years, I would have some of the best experiences of my teenage years. Met some life-long friends, and started down the path that would eventually lead me here to STAR 102.5.

Those four years at KWDM shaped the kind of radio person that I am today. When my junior year started, I knew that I wanted to pursue radio as a career. I missed being on the air so much over that summer that I was one of the few itching to get back into the Valley halls so we could start playing music again.

The years that I was at KWDM are, in my mind, the heyday for the station. I was there for the move from 88.9 on the dial to 88.7. I saw the jump in power from 10 watts to 100. I was there for the transition to digital broadcasting. I was even the one that coined the current name of the station: “88.7 KWDM The Point.”

From 1992 to 2000, ten to twelve KWDM students went on to make broadcasting part of their careers, be it radio or television. Some of us do weekend shifts and work behind the scenes like me, others like my classmate Chad Rufer, are Program Directors (Chad is in Sacramento, California).

None of our successes could have been possible without the help of our favorite teacher and mentor, Brian Christensen. “Mr. C” also worked in radio and transferred his passion to many of his students. How many 30 somethings do you know that stay in touch with their high school teachers? Not too many. Mr. C has been a constant presence in many of our lives, even attending some weddings.

Once Mr. C left Valley, the KWDM program sadly started to fade away. The station is still there and still teaches students about radio, but it’s not like it used to be. A lot of the “90s Era” students have reached out to come back and share some real world experiences, but have yet to be able to do so. I’d love to go back and talk to the broadcasting students about everything I’ve learned since my days at KWDM.

The old studios have been demolished, and new ones are currently being built, but it’ll never quite be the same as it once was. The studio that was unbearably hot and loud. The carts lining the carpeted walls. The outdated equipment on which we did our best to learn. It was really something special. I wish I could have been allowed to go back in one last time to say goodbye to the old former storage closet-turned rock radio station studios. The physical walls may be gone, but the sounds that came from within still resonate with me today.

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