Radio Active

Radio-station bumper stickers

Photo by Anthony Mair

Photo by Anthony Mair

Dateline: Houston, 1973.
Dan Cooley?an aerospace engineer working at the Johnson Space Center on Skylab, America?s first space station?pulls up behind a car and notices a bumper sticker. It?s red and tan on a black background, and features the call letters KIKK. All of the ?Ks? are shaped like cowboy boots. Says Cooley to himself: ?I have to have one
of those.?

So began a passion?collecting radio-station bumper stickers?that lasted a quarter century. Including duplicates, Cooley says he?s accumulated more than 400 stickers, from Seattle to Tampa, Florida, to all points in between. And all but one came with a self-imposed stipulation: ?My rule is I had to hear the station,? says Cooley, who calls himself an avid radio listener. ?If I saw a bumper sticker, say, at a street fair, then I?d go tune it in, just to satisfy myself. So I think the collection is a little more authentic.??

While Cooley keeps a very detailed spreadsheet of all the stickers, it would be wrong to call his quirky hobby an obsession. To that point, the retired 73-year-old says the pastime petered out in the late 1990s, and despite relocating from the Bay Area about a year ago, there?s not a single bumper sticker from a Las Vegas-based radio station among his collection. ?If I see one around, I?ll pick it up. But I?m not going to go out and seek one.??

In fact, if Cooley is obsessed with anything, it?s the art of collecting. In addition to the bumper stickers, he has a collection of coins, matchbooks, bar coasters, race bibs and stamped postal covers, all of varying sizes. ?If you do this again,? he says, ?come on back.?

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Radio-station bumper stickers ?

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