Bob Scott – Franklin Mayor
It was the craziest of times and the most ridiculous of times. It was when hundreds of Maconians got caught up in the CB radio craze. Collectively our IQ dropped 60 points when we turned the darn things on. Luckily, Macon County survived.
We called them, CB’s. It was a form of epidemic mass hysteria. But Macon County was not alone. The phenomena swamped the United States in the 1970s. Seems like everyone had to have one. It was the smart phone of the times.
CB radios became so hugely popular that demand for them outstripped the manufacturer’s ability to produce them fast enough. In Macon County, there was for a while, a black market for them. My CB radio came from a local business and it had a microphone that looked like a old timey rotary dial telephone handset. I was proud of it because it made people believe I had a telephone in my old Volkswagen hippie van minus the flowers.
People who would not talk to each other on the street, even if hell froze over, would gobble with each other for hours, even though the conversation was usually useless information, chatter, and things which made absolutely no sense. Same thing as Facebook is now.
The genesis of CB radios came about around 1973 when the oil crises caused the cost of gasoline to soar and shortages developed. A national 55 miles per hour speed limit was issued. Drivers learned that CB radios could be used to find service stations with gas and warn of speed traps set up to catch motorists exceeding the 55 mph edict. Some Washington crackpot said that limiting speedometers to 80 MPH instead of 120 MPH would slow people down. Brilliant thinking.
About that time came songs and movies such as “Smokey and the Bandit.” One very classy song, “Convoy,” by C.W. McCall went like this, “Ah, breaker one-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck. You gotta copy on me Pig Pen, c’mon? Ah, yeah, 10-4 Pig Pen, fer shure, for shure. .. we definitely got the front door, good buddy. Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy.” Talk about the intellectual conversation? We developed an entirely new language.
Rubber Duck and Pig Pen were drivers of 18 wheelers. Truckers would bunch up in a convoy on the lookout for the law, “Smoky Bears and County Mounties,” who were on the prowl looking for speeders. A “Momma Bear” was a female officer of the law. By 1977 just about everyone in Macon County had one. Some had “base stations” and jacked them up from five watts to hundreds of watts. Illegally. It was borderline insanity.
Channel nine was for emergencies. When CB’ers heard a call for help on channel nine, they flocked to help out. Didn’t matter that pre-CB they wouldn’t have lifted a finger to help change a tire or go for gas. I know of people who monitored channel nine just so they could find someone to help.
Channel 19 was supposed to be for 18 wheelers only but nobody paid attention to that. CB radios were the forerunner to GPS for finding your way. CB’ers were always ready to give directions. And advice.
Nobody ever used their real names. Instead of names we had “handles.” Some handles I remember were “Kojack, The Admiral, Easy Money, Jail Bird, Hot pants, Green Giant, Super Lady, Linebacker,” and so forth. CB radio allowed anonymity which allowed the shy, introvert to talk non-stop.
CB’ers were always playing jokes on each other. One CB’er told a female CB’er that if she sprayed her outdoor antenna with water, she could talk for hundreds of miles on her CB. The pranksters waited from across the street. In a few minutes and she came out and began spraying her antenna with the garden hose.
Some CB’ers claimed they could talk to others in California or Mexico. Bragging rights belonged to those who could talk to the farthest reaches.
You can still buy CB radio occasionally finding them at flea markets ut their popularity is not what it was in the 1970s. Cell phones, GPS, and Facebook have replaced them.
But for all the foolishness that CB radio brought to Macon County, it was all in good fun. I miss those
days of yesteryear.