St. Marks Pirate Radio

August 8th, 2005 · 4 Comments · Writing


In the early 90s, my family lived down the street from St. Mark’s School of Texas, an elite private school for boys. The boys of St. Marks were smart, rich, nerdy and off-beat. They drove vintage, bumper-stickered Beemers and listened to Belle and Sebastian. They affected Monty Pythonesque British accents. They wore Dockers and Polos, but refused to tuck their shirts in or brush their hair. Let me tell you: they were the boys the girls of Dallas secretly dreamed about while dating the “yes ma’am” boys on the basketball team at the local high school.

It just so happens that St. Marks is where the Wilson brothers, Owen and Luke, went to high school. Owen was expelled in the 10th grade; Luke ran track and still holds the record in the 400m and the 800m. Wes Anderson went to a similar all-boys school in Houston, and the film Rushmore is loosely based on those two schools.

St. Marks had a pirate radio station with a very weak signal. In fact, KRSM first broadcast on the local PA system at the school. Late at night, when they should have been home doing homework like the rest of us, those mysteriously sad-eyed and worldly, rebellious boys of St. Marks would send songs into the dark, tree-lined neighborhoods of Preston Hollow. Brian Eno. Frank Zappa. Stereolab. The Beastie Boys. Nirvana. Slowdive. Spiritualized. Joy Division. And late at night, I would curl up in my windowseat in my house on Orchid Lane, my tinfoil wrapped antenna pointed toward the brick and ivy fortress down the street and that boy-DJ who was out past curfew, my ear to the speaker.

Related: The History of Dallas/Ft. Worth FM Radio; the quintessential Dallas neighborhood at night.

Category: Writing

4 Comments so far ↓

  • AC

    what a lovely, lovely post. In the early ’80s, I lived in Houston with my parents as a teen for a nanosecond (my dad was an oil exec) and thought the same thing of those River Oaks boys… your post also had the quality of a section from “The Virgin Suicides,” the novel more than the movie. I recognized that St Marks thing in Owen Wilson and love him for it, too.
    rock on

  • Meg

    Thanks, Adrienne. I loved “The Virgin Suicides” — in fact, the AIR soundtrack is always on heavy rotation here at the homestead.
    You lived in Houston, did you? I’ve always had a real soft spot for that city. It reminds me of LA by way of a little New Orleans, mixed with a dash of Atlanta. Glassy, modern, hot and humid, with a healthy dose of gentility and old Southern charm.

  • AC

    yeah, my family and I have a really soft spot for Houston. We moved there from Pasadena/La Canada. We didn’t expect to love it there, but we did. My parents made some really great friends there. I loved the clouds, so amazing. The huge cockroaches were even crazier. I miss the ice cream–Blue Bell ice cream, specifically. I also loved the clouds and the food. We couldn’t get over all the fantastic sea food and spicy snacks. I’ll always regret the chance to drive to Galveston and New Orleans when I had a chance.
    I could go on but I won’t. Thanks for bringing up some nice memories.

  • The Magician King

    One correction, it was *not* a pirate radio station; it was officially licensed by the FCC. You were correct about the signal strength — it transmitted at 10 watts, which on FM gives a radius of perhaps a dozen miles on a good day.
    KRSM broadcast on 88.5 MHz into the early 90’s, and then at 93.3 until it finally went silent for good in the late 90’s after losing a battle for the frequency with another local radio station.
    Thanks for the reminiscence.
    (A former KRSM DJ)

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