The following article talking about the meteoric rise of CB radio, written by Ernest Waaser, appeared in The Yazoo Herald on New Year’s Day, 1976:
The yellow Oldsmobile edging off the road, its driver lulled to sleep by the smoothness of many miles of interstate driving.
Suddenly a voice blared in his ear: “Hey, you in the Oldsmobile, get back on the road.”
The drive jumped to attention, swung his car back onto the pavement, and proceeded safely down the road.
Another CB radio has “paid for itself.”
Once it was a rare sort of novelty, known only to the few who engage in the use of citizens band radio as a hobby or part of a business. But in the last year, and particularly in the last few months, citizens band radio (and the language than goes with it) has become commonplace.
Yes, CB radio has grown quickly, almost too quickly for its own good.
The new of CB radios here in Yazoo County increased dramatically during the Christmas season. Electric Service Company, one of the few merchants in the county that handles CB equipment, reported a big boom in the sale of citizens band radios this Christmas, mostly to young adult males.
The Yazoo County Citizens Band Radio Club has also felt the effect of the recent CB rage. The club has tripled in membership in the last three year, and now has 58 CBers on its roll.
The radio club forms a vital link in the Yazoo County Civil Defense network and it is primarily due to that responsibility that the club has not grown even larger.
“Because we do so much Civil Defense work, we have to look out for the people who will get out and work. With so many people getting radio, we’ve had to be more selective,” says club secretary Glenn Spitler.
What is the attraction of CB radio? Why has it suddenly become one of the most popular pasttimes in America? Primarily, Yazooans say, it’s because they like the idea of having instant communications from their automobile.
On long trips, many CBers use their radio as a way to break the boredom of driving, as a way to stay awake. For the motorist stranded by automobile trouble, the citizens band provides an immediate and reliable resource of help.
The accounts of the real value of the CB radio are endless. A man needs a police escort to the hospital, so he radios ahead and the police meet him at the edge of town, saving valuable time..someone comes upon an accident on a lonely stretch of road, and the CB radio allows him to call the police without ever leaving the scene…a young woman’s car break’s down in the middle of the night, and the CB radio provides help…and the stories go on.
Recently, the Mississippi Highway Patrol recognized the value of the citizens band radio in emergencies and now has a CB radio at each of its district headquarters to listen for emergency broadcasts.
But one of the most publicized reasons for owning a CB radio has stemmed from the truck drivers’ use of the radio to keep track of highway patrol units, and thereby avoid tickets for speeding.
Although the use of CB for giving out the location of ‘smokies’ is illegal, the practice is widespread. To make the cat and mouse game even more challenging, many highway patrolmen have installed CBs in their patrol cars. And so the game goes on…
The great boom in CB radio sales has not been without its problems, though. The great influx of new CBers has led to overcrowding on many of the 23 channels.
“You can just about pick any channel now,” says Glenn Spitler, “and there’s somebody on it!”
And most of the new CBers don’t wait for their FCC license before they begin broadcasting. And many neglect to read the regulations concerning the use of CB.
The license is required by law, however, and the $4.00 license is now good for five years.
I have been bad. When I started this blog back in October (10-4 to be exact) I intended to share equal amounts ephemera and CB radio history. However, over the past few months I got distracted by the other stuff in my collection and ignored a big part of my obsession.
Starting today I will hopefully have a regularly occurring featuring showcases some of the hired artists of CB radio QSL cards.
QSL cards were used by CBers to confirm their two-way radio contacts with each other. Each amateur has their own card which is exchanged with the other amateur or ‘station’ in that two-way contact.
CB radio cards have been a part of my life ever since the summer of 2011 when I discovered them by accident on eBay and now I have over 30,000 cards, have had several art shows covering the era, been showcased in magazines and on CBC radio about my research. I have even written a booklet available here and am currently working on a major project regarding QSL.
QSL cards were a big part of 1970s CB radio culture and they have been essentially lost to time. It’s my goal to share some of the forgotten artists of the era.
The first artists is Bob Barnes, aka Alley Cat. Barnes was located in Tulatin, Oregon – about 25 minutes south of Portland. Barnes was never a major name in the field and probably produced fewer than 100 cards in the mid 1970s – the actual number is unknown.
There are no articles about Bob Barnes and information is non-existant. If you know anything about Alley Cat please drop me a line at cardboardamerica at gmail.com or leave a message.
This is a QSL/business card for a man named Eddy West, a fancy gun handling, trick shooter. His nickname was apparently “Quick With Colts.”
I cannot find much about him or his announcer Whittie Smith but not from lack of trying. He must have not been a major star in the Rochester area. If you have any information about Eddy, please drop me a line.
The following syndicated column ,written by Ink Dipper, appeared in newspapers during the third week of October, 1976.
Expansion of the Citizen’s Band from 23 to 40 channels has stopped some prospective CB buyers dead in their tracks.
The new 40-channel rigs won’t be on the market until early January, and manufacturers are using a variety of approaches to sell out inventories of 23-channel models.Most are doing one of two things – either offering to convert 23-channel models to 40-channel capability or cutting prices on present stock with offering conversion.
Hy-Gain was one of the first companies offering to “retrofit” recently purchased models, and it estimates that adding the new channels will cost about $20 per radio. Most conversion plans are similar to that.
Officials for companies offering retrofitting plans say they want to sell a product that will not be obsolete in a few months.
But companies not offering to convert CBs don’t want the expected headaches of setting up temporary conversion facilities.
And they see a risk in converting because no one is certain how the Federal Communications Commission will react to converted CBs.
When the expansion was announced, the FCC added new electronic filtering requirements to lessen possible interference.
Manufacturers are now trying – and not always successfully – to gain FCC approval for new 40-channel units under the toughened requirements. And gaining approval for retrofitted rigs, some manufacturers feared, would be an even steeper hill to climb.
A prospective CB buyer can find slashed prices on radios that can;t be retrofitted, with some models selling for half the regular price.
The radios won’t be obsolete in the sense that they can’t be used, but a CBer who buys one of them won’t have the freedom of 17 new channels. Most CBers, finding channels crowded in the lower 23, will want a radio with 40 channels.
An exception to that is the trucker, who relies on channels 9 and 19, Channel 9 is the emergency channel and channel 19 is the trucker channel, and you don’t need a 40-channel model to operate on them. Manufacturers are betting, if they don’t offer conversion, that the truckers will but out a big part of the inventories.
Besides retrofitting and price cuts, manufacturers are offering other deals to lure in customers for 23-channel units. One manufacturer, Sharp, will replace each radio it sells from July 26-January 31 with a “comparable featured” 40-channel radio. The replacement cost will be $30.
Another company, Hadnic, U.S.A., will allow customers buying its 23-channel units to purchase 40-channel sets at half price having to return the 23-channel sets.
If you want yo buy a CB, you can go in a lot of directions to find a deal, but make sure you know what you are getting into. If the salesman says that there is a retrofit or replacement offer being made by the manufacturer, get it in writing.
The companies with the offers should be giving out certificates guaranteeing it.
And if the certificate has to be mailed to the manufacturer for the retrofit or replacement make a photostatted copy of it just in case your radio is lost in the expected shuffle.
This is Bob. Bob was a CB radio operator in Great Britain. This is Bob’s QSL card showing his illegal radio set-up. CB was not legal in England at the time of this card, which I would guess is from the early 1980s.
The map on the wall seems to be the locations Bob has DXed (international CB) with over the airwaves. You can see also a few QSL cards, a telephone, complete with the Juli Phone which was an early answering machine, an ashtray and a microphone. Bob was ready to go.
This is a pair of CB radio QSLs for Bill Croxdale, aka Bobo The Town Clown. Bobo was a man of many hats. He was a local celebrity with a children’s show, a clown, a magician and a QSL printer.
Billboard – May 14, 1949
Croxdale started as a clown as late as the 1940s. Known for his balloon stunts, Croxdale was very popular as a local party clown. He worked birthdays, get-togethers and had many grocery store appearances in the Knoxville and Nashville area until he was given an opportunity to bring Bobo to the newly forming world of TV.
Croxdale’s children’s show called Bobo The Clown, aired throughout the 1950s in Knoxville, Tennessee on local UHF station WTSK Channel 26. Croxdale fashioned Bobo after a trip to a Cincinnati TV station made him think about what sort of kids’ program would be the most timeless. Croxdale’s wife Martha joined him on the air. Martha, known on air as Aunt Maggie, wore a red and white polka dot outfit that matched Bobo’s.
Bobo was replaced on TV in the early 1960s, but remained a well-known local act. Croxdale would use CB radio as a hobby and a way to promote Bobo. I can’t find any information about how he came to print QSL cards.
Croxdale would continue to portray Bobo until his death in 1985.
The following syndicated column, written by Ink Dipper, appeared in newspapers in the 2nd week of October, 1976:
A CB HOT line? That’s what Maryland CBers are talking about. Or how about a Holiday Inn CB line? One of the latest improvement in the CB world involves travelers being able to use CB more effectively.
If you haven’t been through Maryland this year then you may have missed one of the more original and best organized CB plans.
Maryland’s Division of Tourist Development has started a program called CB HOT line (Helping Out Travelers). The program trains CB club members to give out reliable tourist information via CB.
And if you’re wondering about how these CB helpers are designated, well, they’ve thought of everything. Just look for bumper stickers saying Maryland Travel Info, the CBer’s call numbers, and the channel monitored.
The originator of the plan, Bob Willis, Maryland Tourist division director, says he happened to be traveling in a car with a CB, and heard someone asking directions “by making an appeal over the air waves.”
That “appeal” may have lead to the development of one of the most coordinated travel bureaus in the United States.
But you may not have to go to Maryland to see the system in action. Willis says he was contacted by a governmental agency which would like to use the idea of a HOT line nationwide.
Could this be where CB is heading? CB was first planned for small business purposes and not for chit-chat, so perhaps Maryland is giving the rest of us a hint of what will come.
It’s a great idea for those travelers who always leave the road map on the kitchen table. Or those who are a little too adventurous for their own good, and need help.
There’s also the Holiday Inn trial of CB going on in the Boston Area. The plan has received both good and bad reviews from innkeepers, as well as guests.
One Holiday Inn representative says the problem is the excess noise on CB. The base stations for the experiment were placed behind the main desk so the person working could hear the calls or give them. Holiday Inn executives just couldn’t see the practicality of hiring someone only to monitor the CB action.
But placing the unit near the lobby area has brought complaints from guests who say it’s too noisy and only aggravates them. And innkeepers aren’t saying anything good about its use yet.
Holiday Inn people say they’re not trying to sell rooms by CB, but are simply trying to do a public service by giving travel conditions, directions and, if asked, room availability.
Their main worry is that if the plan is put into effect then there is no reason why unprofessional innkeepers won’t take to the air waves to barter for the cheapest room. Their greatest hope would be that the FCC would help by establishing one channel for just this type information.
There’s been no final word from the committee, which decides of the worldwide chain will get ears. But if they do take to the airwaves it will benefit every CBer from campers to traveling salesmen.
With one sate and a well known American institutions getting into the CB routine, at least a few channels may get some badly needed organization.
The 1976 race for the Presidential Republican nomination between President Gerald Ford and California Governor Ronald Reagan was close. Ford was the incumbent but had never been a part of a presidential election and Reagan and the conservative wing of the Republican Party saw Ford as vulnerable to loss in the general election.
The Republican ticket had been elected in 1972 was Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. By 1976, both men would be out of their respective offices for completely different reasons. Agnew resigned on October 10, 1973 amidst numerous corruption and bribery scandals from his time as the Governor of Maryland. President Nixon would appoint Ford as Vice President.
Somerset Daily American – December 31, 1973
Less than one year later, Gerald Ford would become the 38th President of the United States after Richard Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal and the horrible decisions he made after that. Ford would pardon Nixon right away, sparing the now-former President from any charges.
At the same time, a form of communication known as Citizen’s Band Radio was starting to become popular across the United States. Citizens Band (CB) radio was not new. In fact, the first licenses were issued in 1960. It took 16 years for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue one million licenses.
CB radios began gaining popularity among truckers during the oil crisis imposed in 1973. Fuel shortages and rationing hit everywhere across the country. To save on fuel, the U.S. government imposed a 55 mph speed limit nationwide. In 1974, it was used to organize convoys and truck blocks in a strike protesting the speed limit. CB radio became a useful tool in aiding drivers, especially truckers, in their search for service stations with a bigger fuel supply and make other drivers aware of speed traps.
By 1974, CB had started making its way to everyday folks looking for a fun new hobby. The entertainment industry began to take notice of this new trend. A TV show called “Movin’ On” debuted in September 1974 on NBC. The show as about a grizzled big-rig trucker and his college-educated cohort showed trucking in a favorable light and CBs were a big part of that world. At the end of 1975, a novelty song about trucking and CBs would rise to the top of the pop music charts and change the course of CB forever.
CB radio and politics would collide head-on in 1976. 16 million CB licenses would be issued by the FCC that year alone and the reach and scope of Citizen’s Band proved to be a useful tool in the search for more votes.
In early 1976. Betty Ford was dealing with a chronic arthritic neck ailment and had difficulty traveling. She did not begin campaigning for weeks. In February it was announced that she would hit be hitting the campaign trail. With her travel abilities somewhat limited, the First Lady sought to utilize CB radio to get her message across.
The Indianapolis Star – April 6, 1976
On April 6, 1976, the Associated Press reported that the Federal Communications Commission that Mrs. Ford had been granted a temporary Citizen’s Band license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The First Lady almost immediately put her temporary license to work. While campaigning the next day in Madison, Wisconsin, Betty used the CB to reach out to Ford supporters over the airwaves.
When a group of some 240 Ford backers from Grand Rapids, Michigan, the President’s home town found out that she was going to be in Madison they set off on a convoy down to convac with her.
She spoke to the group, and everyone else on that channel in limited CB language and said, “Keep on talking for President Ford. We appreciate your help in keeping the Ford’s 10-20 (location) at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Indiana Gazette – April 7, 1976
This was new territory for the FCC and the nation. No major political candidate to this point had used the airwaves like that for campaigning on a mass scale. Many cried fowl, saying that politics had no place on CB, but the FCC stated time and again that there were no restrictions and no rules governing politics on the airwaves.
The Indianapolis Star – April 9, 1976
Mrs. Ford was now a major CB celebrity and brought a “legitimate” name to the hobby. CBers were excited about the exposure and were willing to greet her with open arms.
Two days after receiving her temporary license the First Lady would receive a welcome message from the biggest name in CB radio, country singer C.W. McCall.
McCall, real name Bill Fries, was seemingly everywhere at the beginning of 1976. His novelty hit song “Convoy” about the exploits of truckers/CBers Rubber Duck and Pig Pen. “Convoy” was the number one song in America for most of January 1976 and was one of the major catalysts for the CB radio boom of the next few years.
McCall sent the following telegram to Mrs. Ford on April 9 welcoming her to the CB airwaves:
“Mercy sakes alive, a big ten four and congratulations to our First Lady on becoming a member of the convoy. You definitely have got the front door. Hope you enjoy your new CB rig and will look forward to modulating with you somewhere out there on the super-slab 3’s and 8’s.
We catch you on the flip. We gone, bye-bye.”
McCall also told the First Lady that he would be sending her two radios.
The First Lady had celebrity, a radio and a platform but she still needed a handle. Handles were radio nicknames, akin to modern screen names, that were fun, playful and conveyed how you wanted other to perceive you.
After a week of going back and forth on the decision, Betty would ultimately choose the handle “First Mama.” The moniker was bestowed upon her by comedian Flip Wilson during one of their encounters. Mrs. Ford felt that with that handle you still knew who she was and it wasn’t completely literal or dull.
Other handles being bandied about:
Not a Lincoln
The First Lady
Dixon Evening-Telegraph – April 13, 1976
However, it wasn’t all smooth, First Mama’s temporary license sparked some pretty strong outrage among CBers. The FCC field offices were flooded with complaints after the First Lady’s quick license turnaround. It usually took about 70 days for the FCC to process a license due to the sheer volume of requests and it was perceived that the First Lady was granted a favor.
The FCC stated that emergency licenses had been granted in the past, and with Mrs. Ford’s special campaigning circumstances, time was of the essence and a temporary license was granted immediately.
Instead of trying to explain itself further, the FCC immediately announced plans to make instant temporary licenses for CB operators. Users would receive a 60 day license when they bought a radio and they would be able to get on the airwaves after the they filled out their application and put it in the mail. The FCC said that the plan had been in the works long before the complaints, but few bought that.
Asbury Park Press – April 21, 1976
Armed with her new handle and license (call number KUY-9532), Mrs. Ford was out campaigning for her husband in the the Texas Primary that was taking place on May 1st.
On April 21, 1976, Mrs. Ford visited San Antonio, Texas to and hit the airwaves right away.
Using a portable CB unit with s in her car for the first time, First Mama spoke to anyone “with their ears on” tuned into CB Channel 12.
“There’s a lot of smokies on my front door,” she said, referring the police escort she was receiving from the airport.
First Mama would end up speaking with at least two operators that day. The CBers had the handles “Starship Enterprise” and “Peg Leg Charlie.”
After some polite conversation with the CBers, First Mama signed off the air as her motorcade arrived at the airport.
“This is the First Mama. KUY9532. Catch ya on the flip.”
On her next stop in Houston, Ford reached out to the local REACT unit. Radio Emergency Associated Communication Teams or REACT was formed in 1962 during the early days of CB. The purpose of REACT was having CBers monitoring Channel 9, the CB emergency channel, around the clock for distress calls and to alert the proper authorities. Later, REACT would aid in storm spotting, disaster relief and civic events such and fun-runs or parades. Ford spent an hour in person with REACT group and got on the airways. First Mama had instantly become the most important CBer.
The Brownsville Herald – April 22, 1976
Gerald Ford would ultimately lose the Texas Primary to Reagan but that did not deter him or Betty from continuing on the campaign trail. First Mama would get on her radio at every stop on the campaign trail.
However, whenever Mrs. Ford was in town, the already incredibly jammed channels would become more jammed with people hoping to speak with the First Lady. The 23 channels on CB were no longer enough. Ford would help spark the change to expand to 40 channels at the start of 1977.
Speaking with First Mama over the air wasn’t much in terms of conversation, but the enthusiasm of CBers that got the opportunity to speak with the First Lady could be felt all over the country.
Ford would send letters to people she spoke to over the radio over the next . People from Washington, D.C:
El Paso Herald Post – August 16, 1976
to Nampa, Idaho,
Idaho Free Press – May 29, 1976
and Salina, Kansas.
The Salina Journal – August 10, 1976
There are numerous stories of people receiving letters from the first lady. Communicating with CBers after your encounter was part of CBing. However, letter writing was not as common as QSLing.
It was customary for a CBer, when they spoke to another over the air, to exchange street addresses so they could send each other a QSL Card. QSL cards started with amateur radio operators. The “Q” came from the old HAM radio Q codes and the “SL” basically means acknowledgment received. The purpose of QSLing was almost the same as a souvenir from every state you’ve visited -it was to show off all of your radio exploits.
QSL cards were generally about the size of a postcard and would feature your handle, address, and a picture or illustration. Some users drew the cards by hand, others ordered stock art from a company called CBC radio out of North Carolina. Many more hired professional artists to design QSL cards for them.
By 1976, the nature of QSL cards had shifted. While,still used as souvenirs of radio interaction, the cards were also being collected similarly to baseball cards. To many it no longer mattered if you spoke over the radio to the person the cards was all that mattered.
First Mama’s QSL card #393 by Brushstroke (from my collection)
In the Summer of 1976, First Mama would commission her first QSL card from an artist who went by the handle of Brushstroke. Brushstroke was probably the most popular QSL artist on the East Coast. Known for his caricature style artwork, his cards were sought after by QSL card collectors.
I have done serious research on QSL cards and artists of the era but have yet to find the real name and origin of Brushstroke.
Ford’s cards would be swapped among collectors and collector clubs to the point that it is not easy to tell if First Mama ever actually exchanged QSL cards or if she had them commissioned and shipped out by others.
By the end of the Summer of 1976, Ford would no longer just use the CBs in her cars, she would have a base station installed in the White House. The unit would be the only CB ever installed in the White House.
The Cincinnati Enquirer – September 10, 1976
Ford kept multiple CB slang dictionaries by her radio and she would always sign off with: “Ten-four, good buddies, catch you on the flip.”
As the campaign began to wind down in the Fall of 1976, Betty Ford crisscrossed the nation in hopes of helping her husband be (re)elected.
St. Louis Post Dispatch – October 2, 1976
At almost every stop along the way her CB use became the topic of conversation. She would be invited to join numerous REACT teams and would be made an honorary member of numerous CB groups.
Betty Ford used her CB constantly in hopes that it would help her husband win in November. It didn’t work.Gerald Ford would lose the 1976 to Jimmy Carter in a fairly tight race. That didn’t mean her efforts were in vain. Her enthusiasm sparked awareness of problems emerging with CBs – slowness in licenses and crowded channels. Her radio use sparked numerous people to become CBers on their own and put a face on the craze that swept the nation until it all came crashing down.But that’s a story for a different day.
The following syndicated column by Ink Dipper appeared in newspapers starting in the first week of October, 1976.
Most people aren’t likely to put a photo of a naked woman on their calling cards.
But in CBing, calling cards are bound to have just about anything – from Bible verses to naked women.
Non-CBers sometimes marvel at the colorful handles CBers adopt, hearing CB songs about Rubber Duck, Pig Pen, Teddy Bear and the White Knight.
People don’t know the half of a CBers imaginations, though, until they see his calling card, known as a QSL card. The card, like his handle, usually reflects the way he would like for people to think of him being.
For instance, the Super Plumber might not be all that much better than a regular plumber, but he thinks he is, and he want you to think so also. His card might have a cartoon of himself, dressed in cape and tights, flying to the nearest overflowing toilet.
Just about anything is likely to end up on QSL cards, which are about the size of postcards.
A very devout little lady will put her favorite Bible verse on hers. An avid hunter’s card will have a photo of his jeep and bird dog.
Probably the most unusual card we’ve seen lately was one from a Venezuelan CBer, featuring a four-color photo of a well endowed, very naked native woman. The card probably got a lot of second looks as it made its way – slowly – through the postal system.
QSL cards had their beginning with amateur radio operators. The “Q” means that the letters are part of the amateur Q-code, much like CBers’ 10-code. There are varying ideas on what the “SL” means, but probably “send letter” or “signal letter.”
Hams swapped cards only when they have actually talked to each other or one ham has monitored another. Hams can legally talk to any other ham in the world, but CBers are limited to 150 miles.
That means unless CBers want to break the federal law, they are limited in the variety of card they can receive on signal reports.
Many card swappers though, collect QSLs without ever actually talking to people whose cards they collect.
At CB gatherings, like jamborees or coffee breaks, there are often card-swapping tables, and CBers from hundreds of miles apart will legally exchange cards.
The cards are sometimes referred to as “wall paper” because CBers hang the cards on the wall near their base stations.
We CBers probably hang the cards to impress our non-CBing friends. After all, it’s a lot of fun to watch a friend scan the wall and notice a card from an operator a couple of thousand miles off.
The far off CBer, incidentally had passed through town on vacation the week before.
“Did you really talk to this guy?” he asks, pointing to the card.
“Yep,” the answer comes without hesitation.
We CBers, after all, will stretch the truth occasionally.