15 - CB Radio Days (mp3)


I have a sort of mania for electronic gadgets. I inherited from my father a sort of compulsion to try new electronic gadgets. He was always the first to have the latest electronic whizzbang. This compulsion led me to getting any number of devices for which I had no real need, such as a Scanner radio receiver which allowed me to tune in on police, air, fire and private company broadcasts on special radio bands. Listening in meant long moments of boredom interlaced with a few moments of great excitement when the cops were chasing somebody or some gangster was having an argument, over their cellphones, with his girlfriend who was trying to ‘out’ him on the air.

Because it was on sale, I got myself a CB Base Station at the time of the CB radio craze. A Base Station is different from a car CB. A base station is meant for your house. I knew nothing about antennas and all sorts of things that you need to know to get on the air. There was a fellow who went by the handle, George, the Book Bandit. Everybody had Handles, that is to say Nicknames. You might get to know their real names eventually, or not. It didn’t much matter. George ,the Book Bandit, was a CB hobbyist, big time. He caught my very faint signal, as I tried to reach out to talk to people. He happened to be on the Channel I was trying to broadcast on. My voice was as strong as I could make it but my signal was very weak but he heard me. This was a man who managed to pluck out a broadcast from the Solomon Islands that came in on the skip very faintly on an odd channel. George had good radio ears .

The Skip happens when the scattered patches of relatively dense ionization that develop seasonally within the E region of the ionosphere reflects and scatters radio frequencies. When frequencies reflect off multiple patches, it is referred to as multi-hop skip. E-skip allows radio waves to travel many miles beyond their intended area of reception.

George and I managed to make contact on air and he got me set up with a Radio Shack big stick antenna which was mounted halfway down my back yard. George put my big stick up and anchored it with guy wires. Then I had a very strong signal. This was really important because characters out there called carps liked to walk over another CBer's signal, to drown them out. If you had a base station with a good antenna the carps didn’t stand a chance.

Eventually, a group of adults came together on air. We weren't interested in hurling insults at each other or talking nonsense about nothing. Well, we talked nonsense but it was about something. We started to congregate on the channel that was just above the dime. Channel Ten or the Dime was the channel that regular CB radios ended on. More expensive CBs had the upper channels above Channel 10. You got rid of a lot of the riff raff if you worked above the Dime. We gathered up there and talked. I got to know some of the regulars like Ingmar. He was a computer systems guy who remembered when mainframe computer tubes were bigger than beer cans. There was the Blue Goose. Heavens! There were all kinds of people.

Then, I heard Mike, the Irish Viking. I was kind of stuck on him for a while. He had this great, deep radio voice and I have a weakness for radio voices. Through Mike I met John, the Earthworm who lived in a basement apartment. Along came Starfighter who was a born communicator. Starfighter, also known as Craig, later went to to do some regular radio broadcasting as a DJ on AM radio., not making much of a living at it but still....

At that time I was into Dungeons and Dragons. I was a Dungeon Master and ran games where I made up the plots and told players who had won each fight . I transferred Dungeons and Dragons to the CB radio. We met on one of the legal upper channels and had a game going with dungeons, of course, with grey stone corridors and with great hairy monsters with green dripping fangs and red flashing eyes and swords of magical power. I would throw the dice for the gamers. We had quite a good game going there.

One time, a trucker, who was just cruising the dials, started ‘sandy-bagging (just listening in but not speaking) . Finally he couldn’t stand it any more and he shouted out. “What do you mean there’s a green hairy monster coming down the corridor after you and you pulled your sword and you’re going to stick him in the eye? YOU’RE ALL CRAZY!!”

Well, maybe we were but we had a lot of fun. We grew quite close in the game. Role-playing games are funny. They have a gestalt, a sort of a group existence. At one time if someone was wounded in the game, seriously wounded, then an accident would happen to them in real life and that got to be a little Oooh, oooh, oooh – spooky. It was all part of the game.

The big event I remember in the Dungeons and Dragons game on the CB radio was when John the Earthworm fought Death and won. His father-in-law had just passed away and he was very fond of his wife and had seen her suffering while watching the old boy go, so he had a bone to pick with Death. When he came into the game I, more or less, extemporaneously, created a skeleton monster called the Death Man, or something like that. John was a Paladin, one of the good guys, he got out his sword and he fought death. It was a fierce fight and the dice rolls were going against him but he kept on. He lost some blood and he lost some points and then he WON! That was a really, really big deal.

You heard tales on the CB from older folks who had some kind of story worth listening to. There was an old trapper who got on one night and talked about the guy he knew up in the bush who had a mink jock strap. The fur was on the inside. Go figure.

Then, there were veterans of WWII who had been in battle and would talk the strategy and tactics of certain battles in their corner of the war. George the Book Bandit had been in Germany in WWII and he had had some adventures there.

CB Radio had its time in the sun. Nothing lasts forever. The CB radio was a really great fraternity of radio people and I learned from it. CB radio's legacy is that I can still talk about anything to anybody, anytime - and that is useful!

© Sonia Fricker Brock 2005
Edited July 11, 2017


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