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.
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 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.
Anybody who has been following me for any length of time, knows that I am constantly telling people about the hidden gems known as QSL cards.
QSL cards aren’t hard to explain but it’s a little hard to keep the description succinct. I found a blurb in The Neosho Daily News on March 25, 1976 that explains QSL cards in simple to understand terms.
As the article states, QSL cards originated as souvenirs/trophies of a radio user’s on-aor connection. When a radio user spoke to another radio user they would send each other a card, usually postcard-size, with their name, call sign and location.
In the early days of Citizens Band (1960s and early 70s), radio users would often plaster them all over the walls near their set as a way of bragging about how much time they spent on the air and the power of their radio. These early QSL cards were definitely function over form.
CB user names, or handles, were not the norm on QSL cards in the 1960s. As the 1970s started, handles would start showing up on cards.
Often QSL cards showed people at their radio to show other users what kind of set they were using.
Steadily throughout the 1970s, QSL traders started adding art to their cards.A company called CBC Wholesale Club out of North Carolina provided stock art for QSLers. (I plan on a full post about CBC in the future).
However, sometimes CBers would draw the artwork themselves.
As the fad grew, people has a desire for cards that represented their handle or their lifestyle better than the crudely drawn cards. That’s when QSL artists became all the rage.
QSL cards became status symbols to collectors and CBers. It didn’t matter if you had spoken to someone over the radio anymore, it mattered if you had their QSL card.
Collectors clubs sprung up all over the country. For a small fee, you could join a group of collectors, make new friends and find an easier way to trade cards. Collectors clubs would often pool cards together and trade with other collectors clubs.
QSL essentially detached itself from the CB craze and became a mini-craze of its own. However, much like baseball cards, the bubble burst and these cards were forgotten or just plain thrown out. I feel like the images should be preserved and the artwork shared.
I have had several art showcases showing the art of written multiple articles and a booklet on the subject that you can purchase here.
I will be posting a lot of cards on this site. Some will have stories, some won’t. Some will be drawn by trained artists who made quite a living drawing these cards, some won’t.
In the new few weeks/months/years I will be introducing you to some of the biggest names in QSL art and collecting. You will get to know such artists as The Viking, Sundown, Squeaky, Moonglow, Moonbeam, The Shepherd, The Brushstroker, Muzzleloader and especially Runnin Bare.
I will also being share stories, photos and items that collectors have been kind enough to share with me.
I have tens of thousands cards from all over the world and I hope you enjoy them half as much as I do.
Please drop me a line or leave a comment if you have stories about your days on CB or as a QSL collector. Every story helps paint a picture of this crazy world.
10 codes originated in the USA and are CB radio lingo mostly used in English-speaking countries. However, no matter which codes are used in your country, be aware that there are local dialects in every urban area and region. You have to listen to others to learn the phrases and codes in your area. And not everyone knows or uses 10-codes, so be prepared for some people to not understand you.
QSL Card from Golden Termite & Pest Control
10-1 Receiving Poorly
10-2 Receiving Well
10-3 Stop Transmitting
10-4 Ok, Message Received
10-5 Relay Message
10-6 Busy, Stand By
10-7 Out of Service, Leaving Air
10-8 In Service, subject to call
10-9 Repeat Message
10-10 Transmission Completed, Standing By
10-11 Talking too Rapidly
10-12 Visitors Present
10-13 Advise weather and road conditions
10-16 Make Pickup at……
10-17 Urgent Business
10-18 Anything for us?
10-19 Nothing for you, return to base
10-20 My Location is ……… or What’s your Location?
10-21 Call by Telephone
10-22 Report in Person too ……
10-23 Stand by
10-24 Completed last assignment
10-25 Can you Contact …….
10-26 Disregard Last Information/Cancel Last Message
10-27 I am moving to Channel ……
10-28 Identify your station
10-29 Time is up for contact
10-30 Does not conform to FCC Rules
10-32 I will give you a radio check
10-33 Emergency Traffic at this station
10-34 Trouble at this station, help is needed
10-35 Confidential Information
10-36 Need correct time
10-37 Wrecker needed at ……
10-38 Ambulance needed at ………
10-39 Your message delivered
10-41 Please tune to channel ……..
10-42 Traffic Accident at ……….
10-43 Traffic tied up at ………
10-44 I have a message for you
10-45 All units within range please report
10-50 Break Channel
10-60 What is next message number?
10-62 Unable to copy, use phone
10-65 Awaiting your next message or assignment
10-67 All units comply
10-70 Fire at …….
10-71 Proceed with transmission in sequence
10-73 Speed Trap at …………
10-75 You are causing interference
10-77 Negative Contact
10-84 My telephone number is ………
10-85 My address is ………..
10-91 Talk closer to the Mike
10-92 Your transmitter is out of adjustment
10-93 Check my frequency on this channel
10-94 Please give me a long count
10-95 Transmit dead carrier for 5 seconds
10-99 Mission completed, all units secure
10-100 Need to go to Bathroom
10-200 Police needed at ……….
As most of you who followed the link I sent out know by know, I am fascinated by CB radio culture of the 1970s. I have tens of thousands of CB radio QSL cards, numerous catalogs and other crazy memorabilia from a sadly under documented era. My goal is to share the images and stories from this cultural phenomenon.
A CB radio QSL card for Bashful & Cuddles
CB radio has often been dismissed as a fad from the 1970s akin to the pet rock. Admittedly, CB really did thrive most in the 1970s, reaching its peak in 1976-77, but it is a lot more just than a fad.
The Courier Express, December 31, 1976
This is the story of America coping with a gas crisis, sharing homemade and professional made artwork, collecting and learning a whole new form of what we now refer to as social media.
CB was truly a medium for people. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, black or white, urban or rural you could use and enjoy Citizens Band Radio.
Over the life of this website, I will be posting newspaper articles, magazines, catalogs, stories and images from CB users and QSL collectors.
QSL cards have especially been a fascination of mine. The next CB related post will try to explain QSL cards, their collectors and why it is relevant to today’s culture. I will also try to explain its demise and why it has been a mostly forgotten world.
Buckle up, because it is going to be a lot to take in.
Feel free to share your CB stories/pictures with me in the comments or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Paris News, September 27, 1978
On September 26, 1978, Governor Dolph Briscoe of Texas declared, “10-4 Day-CB Recognition Day” to honor the the 1958 birth of citizens band radio. This would be one of the last major years of the CB radio craze.
The speech given that day sounds eerily familiar to the social media of today:
In his proclamation, Governor Briscoe noted the growth of CB Radio and its social aspects; “friendships formed, the monotony of tedious journeys broken, communication established between home and business.”
Governor Briscoe joined the nation’s other governors as well as many federal officials in observing “10-4 Day.” The Oct. 4 celebration highlights a special yearlong anniversary program sponsored by the Electronic Industries Association which includes the honoring of former First Lady, Betty Ford, as “CB’s First Mama,” and recognizes her early use of CB radio.
Betty Ford, CB radio and the 1976 campaign stories coming soon….