CB Radio, Some of my trucking memories…
In the old days we didn’t use VHF radios in our trucks, the internet didn’t exist and early cell phones were not commonplace because of their cost and unreliability.
That leaves the CB radio which everyone and their brother had two of. It wasn’t uncommon for there to be chatter on any channel of the CB , day and night, including side-bands. The annoying echo boxes and the ever-present “skip” which would be fading in and out on several channels was commonplace as well.
Skip is the phenomenon of CB radio waves bouncing off of large bodies of water and then travelling literally thousands of miles in some cases. “Skip” can include everything from a fleet of Korean fishing boats to someone in Australia looking for a good sandwich shop and radio skip makes for some very interesting listening at times.
The CB radio is still widely in use although its significance and traffic volume has declined dramatically with the advent of smart phones, the internet and VHF radio which many of us use in trucks now.
In the old days , before the internet, the CB radio was, in a primitive way, a form of social media for some people. People that had never met before would start talking on the CB radio and pretty soon they’d be organizing Bar-B-Qs and other functions to actually meet each other.
I never attended any of these meetings personally but I remember listening as they were being organized on the CB radio.
From the beginning the CB radio has been a paradox, on the one hand it is one of the most obnoxious, redundant and senseless implements ever devised by man. In listening in on CB radio chatter one can hear everything from the exchange of cake recipes between a caravan of out of State RV'ers travelling at sixty miles an hour to the solicitation of drugs and prostitution by those living on the fringes and ragged edge of society in any large city. The conversations can literally send chills down your back sometimes.
Other times the CB radio can also be a wonderful tool when used in the case of emergencies or a simple navigational aid by someone in a strange city who is trying to find a certain address, exit ramp or fixed location.
This approach with the CB radio works very well provided that the traveler is fortunate enough to be Blessed with a good Samaritan familiar with the towns layout and is willing to take the time in steering the wayward soul in the right direction and thus onward to their destination.
Occasionally the radio chatter can be hilarious and a good diversion to a monotonous day of driving. I remember once when I was in a large city there was a guy trying to get an actual date with a woman on the CB. They were obviously both local people who had probably talked with each other hundreds of times over the air waves for what must have been an ample amount of time and the guy wanted to actually meet and have coffee with the lady. I’m driving my truck and listening to all of this (with 300 other people that have CB radios) and I’m thinking, OK, nothing wrong with that I guess.
About the time the guy would say something to impress the lady, some young smartass, listening in from somewhere remote, would key
his mic and interrupt the conversation with something like “Forget about it dude, she’s looking for someone with a bigger d**k than yours , you don’t have a chance with her, you moron.”
This of course would invoke a hailstorm of reprisals and insults hurling back and forth between the guy trying to get the date and the young smartass.
The lady and the guy trying to get the date would then switch to a “secret” CB channel to continue their conversation “in private” but eventually the rest of us listening in would catch up and find the channel and the whole thing between the guy trying to get the date and the young smartass would start all over again.
This whole conversation went on for about 30 minutes over several different CB channels and I know there were hundreds of us listening in that laughed our guts out that day. Wiping tears out of my eyes from laughter, I remember that I kind of felt sorry for the guy trying to get the date.
In most cases however the radio chatter is boring and repetitive and can range from everything from a relayed shopping list to the recital of someone’s latest poetry. Boring is the word that comes to mind.
In those days we had Paul Harvey on the AM radio, once a day, which many of us listed to and enjoyed while we were driving. After the Paul Harvey show we’d usually start surfing stations on the AM radio for a while or listen to cassette tapes.
Invariably, out of boredom, the CB radio would be switched on again with its non-stop chatter and mayhem.
On this particular day I was driving through a little town in the Mid-West someplace. I’d been on the road for weeks and was glad to be headed home to Alaska and had switched on the CB more or less for a diversion to my own thoughts.
The radio traffic was the usual nonsense, small town gossip mostly, which was the same in any small town wherever you went. I really wasn’t paying much attention to the radio chatter when all of a sudden this guy YELLS over the radio
“EVERYONE SHUT THE HELL UP! …it’s time for the story teller now” he said proudly.
Amazingly everyone shut up, and I’m wondering what is this all about?
Then this guy key’s his mic with a harmonica, and he plays pretty well too. The guy then blows softly into the mic and makes a sound like a desert wind out in the plains.
He then begins his narration with
“The stranger who rode into town that morning wore two guns. His youthful face was hard and covered with several days’ of dust and sweat. To the bartender he said one word - Whiskey.”
For thirty minutes I listed to this guy who was known locally as “The Story Teller”. Apparently he would recite a cowboy story for thirty minutes each day - Monday through Friday and just make up the story as he went along. I would have paid money for cassette tapes of him, he was that good.
In my travels I have talked with other truckers, since, that have heard of “The Story Teller” or remember him.
It’s ironic that even after 30 years, when this happened, I still remember “The Story Teller” and his talent for telling a story , a good story.