Does anyone here remember CB radio?
I am reluctantly raising my own hand as I stand here at the podium. Anyone else?
For the uninitiated, meaning those who are too young to know what I’m talking about – which is a whole lot of you – the CB in “CB Radio” stands for “Citizen’s Band,” while the “Radio” part is just that… it’s a radio, but you can talk to other people on it.
The FCC here in the United States – that’s the “Federal Communications Commission” – set aside a group of radio frequencies, otherwise known as a “band,” which is not to be confused with a group that plays music – and they said that these frequencies can be used by anyone to talk about anything without having to get a license.
This is not to be confused with “HAM RADIO.” I have no idea if “HAM” is an acronym for something. I suppose I can look it up since I’m sitting here at a computer and Google is only a click away, but I don’t care that much.
HAM operators are different in several ways – they have these HUGE antennae arrays that rival NASA deep space listening dishes. Most HAM operators have a small room full of whirring, humming equipment that they’ve invested thousands of dollars in. Also, whereas your average citizen’s band radio user, known as a “CBer,” would have a “handle” like “Taco Bender,” “Big Duke,” or Little Willy,” your local HAM operator went by something like “KS4GN.”
These guys didn’t like us CBers. They’d invest big bucks in their gear, learn Morse Code, take difficult tests to get licensed and you’d often find them tweaking a huge dial on their receiver as they called out, “DX, DX, this is KAY ESS FOUR GEE EN, for any Australian users, copy?”
Us CBers would buy a seventy-five dollar COBRA unit from Radio Shack, install it in about ten minutes and call out, “How ’bout that HotLips Harry, you got your ears on, Harry?”
HAM Radio still has its place in the world, whereas CB has all but disappeared. Truckers still use it to gab back and forth out there on the nation’s highways and I suppose there are rural users, but the days are long past where you’d get interference on your TV set because your neighbor bought a huge CB base station and is yakking away with the members of his local CB club.
We had a base station AND a mobile unit mounted in our four-wheel-drive Bronco when I was in high school, because we lived in the foothills of northern California and, believe it or not, didn’t have a phone. My dad had moved us so far up into the hills that the phone company said it’d be thirty thousand dollars to string line all the way out there, so he passed on it and bought a couple of CB radios.
My “handle,” which is the user-name you go by on the air, was “The Galloping Goose.”
I’ll wait until you all stop laughing.
I had this best friend, Bryan, who went by an equally clever handle, “Little Foot,” because we lived in a rural area and he vaguely resembled a little “Bigfoot.”
We’d gallivant around the county Dukes Of Hazzard style right after I got my driver’s license, calling each other on our CB radios. We actually even went to some of those meetings where people would show up wearing these denim vests with badges and patches all over them, and bring “pot luck,” and talk about how they talked to someone in Idaho the other night when “the skip was running good.”
I’ll never forget “Great White Father,” who was this older, retired gentleman living down in Placerville. He had a deep, booming voice and when “Great White Father” was on the air, everyone else would shut the hell up and listen to what he had to say.
One of the reasons that I’ll never forget him was that he actually called me once – ON THE CB RADIO – just to talk. I was a skinny seventeen-year-old kid and here my radio was booming, “How about that Galloping Goose, you got your ears on? This is your Great White Father calling!”
I was enthralled. He invited Bryan and I “out to the place for a spell,” so we went and marveled at his gleaming lollipop microphone, huge antennae on the roof and secret boosting equipment that ran his radio output about a hundred times over the legal limit. He could have gotten busted and fined for that, but he didn’t care.
They wouldn’t dare fine the Great White Father.
His wife, Mrs. Great White Father, served us coffee and cookies and they told us tales of the old days, kind of like I’m doing for you right now. I remember that visit pretty well after all these years, so it must have had some kind of impact on me.
Things have changed technically and socially – we have very few CB radios these days, and I haven’t personally talked on one in twenty-five years, but I talk to people in Idaho, Australia, and Europe on a daily basis now on the internet.
I’ve been using “Rhodester” as a brand, but I got to thinking about “The Galloping Goose” the other day, and I’d like to see him enjoy a bit of a revival so he may pop up in a series of stories that are just hanging out right now in my head.
If that happens, now you’ll know where the name came from.
“Roger, over and out.”