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Mike Tussey: Breaker, breaker 1-9; you got your ears on? My, how world of communications has evolved

Communications in our world today as routine as it may seem, wasn’t always available. The need was there, but the question was “how” can we do it?

Through centuries past, it was necessary to share information. Messengers would carry vital information from place to place just like the Pony Express. Native Americans created an idea to communicate. They used “smoke signals” from high atop mountains or terrain. In 1837, Samuel Morse invented the Telegraph and the first message was sent in 1838 for a distance of two miles. Thirty-nine years later in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell submitted his patent for the first telephone, and the rest is history.

An early telephone

In America, the telephone changed our country to a society that we would come to depend on the phone, both commercially and domestically. Just about anywhere there was the ever present public “Phone Booth.” You could certainly make a call IF you had the change.

Try finding one today….you can’t.

Growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s, I remember the phone at our house and even our number which was High 1155. In those days when you lifted the ear piece you would hear a voice say “Number Please” and your call was on the way. The sign of the times was the all inclusive “Party Line.” This meant you and others in your area would share the open line. But, there was a severe problem. Some would dominate the line for hours on end and each time you attempted to make your call, it was still busy.

The rotary dial was an advancement.

Later the dial phone came and subsequently, the push button style. Today, our science and technology has advanced into a marvel of the future, it’s our I-Phone.

You can verbally order a phone call via your I Phone and just say, “Hey Seri, call home!” and your call is on the way.

However, let’s turn back the hands of time, to the mid 1960’s. Long before the “bag phone” in your car or a flip phone, there was an invention, the “Citizen Band Radio.” It was created in 1958 as a UHF (Ultra High Frequency) band radio with 23 channels, but very expensive for the average consumer.

The new decade of the 60’s roared in and the CB service was now being used by small businesses etc. However, the technology improved and prices became lower and CB clubs were formed by the public. This brought about CB slang, and even a ten-code. The horizon looked very bright for Americans to communicate informally with each other.

If you used one of these, you are dating yourself.

By the 70’s, CB radios were like spring flowers, they were popping up everywhere. The new fad was rolling. The huge factor was that if you had a CB in your car, you could communicate with friends or for any other needed use. Many people decided to buy what was termed a “base” CB radio where the resident could contact a spouse or friends in the neighborhood from any location in their home. Of course, this meant the home operator would have to have a large antenna attached to the roof or chimney. Many broadcasters used what was called a “ +2 ” microphone which was much clearer and had nice fidelity to the sound. The hand held Mic used in the vehicles did not.

Early on, the CB craze was all over America by the mid 70’s and initially the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) required a call sign in addition to a purchased license for $20. By, 1975, the fee was reduced to just $4.

This brought about users ignoring an official call sign, they just used what was called “handles.”

A home-based CB

For me, my official call sign back then was 19Q-0244, complete with my numbers on my back bumper and my whip antenna blowing in the wind.

But, like everyone else, I coined my new handle and I became, “Casper the Ghost.” My wife’s handle was “Lady Bird.”

Great memories of those time for sure.

Even Betty Ford, the former First Lady of the United States, created her CB handle of “First Mama.” Renowned actor Mel Blanc used the handle of “Bugs.” Mel’s voice was used for the Bugs Bunny cartoons.

It was a good idea to learn the CB lingo because if you didn’t understand it all, you would be in a fog.

Here are just a few:

• GOOD BUDDY Term used by everyone
• BEAR IN THE AIR Police Helicopter
• BEAR TRAP Police using radar at a mile marker
• CHECKPOINT CHARLIE Police checking for DUI
• BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL Police with emergency lights on
• WALL TO WALL BEARS Police everywhere
• BLINKIN WINKIN School Bus with lights on
• 10-100 Taking a restroom break
• DOUBLE NICKEL 55 mph speed zone ahead

Did you have a CB in your vehicle?

Seemingly the most popular channels used on the CB Band were Channel 19 and Channel 9. Most of your friends would be hanging out there.

In 1973, there was an oil crisis and the country imposed a new nationwide speed limit of 55 miles per hour. Our cars even had the numbers “55” on the speedometers shining in a different color. The Truckers of America used their CBs to locate service stations and advise motorists on the highway of speed traps up ahead, barking out that “Smoky the Bear” was watching at a certain mile marker. The use of CB radios by now made its way into films, television, and music. An influx of hit movies such as “Smoky and the Bandit” 1977, “ Breaker Breaker!” 1977, and 1978’s “Convoy” were playing to huge audiences across the country. There was even a song entitled “Convoy” by CW McCall that climbed to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975, which actually later spawned the ’78 movie.

Other hit CB songs were “Teddy Bear” by Red Sovine in 1976, and “Phantom 309, and Dave Dudley’s “The White Knight” in 1975.

Television got into the action as well with series like, “The Dukes of Hazard” 1979 and “Movin On” 1974.

Without any doubt, movies and television helped cement CB radio status with a nationwide craze.

When you look back to the mid 20th Century and this incredible fad that brought America together either through our hometowns or even on the nation’s highways, the bottom line was clear, it was fun.

From those days of the world of CB radios to today, there’s no doubt here in the early 21st century with our I-Phones and Internet, we’ve come a long way!

So, for Casper the Ghost, I’ve got one question: Breaker Breaker One Nine (19). Y’all got your ears on?

Mike Tussey has “retired” from a 60-plus-year career as a legendary play-by-play announcer for over 2000 football, baseball, and basketball games, including most recently for ESPN+. His career also includes a stint in law enforcement, teaching and coaching, and writing books, including the “Touchdown Saints.” He grew up in Eastern Kentucky and now lives in Florence with his wife, Jo. He has opened another “Door of Opportunity” and is now a regular columnist for the NKyTribune.

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  1. Mike Buxser says:

    10-4 Good Buddy. Nobody embraced the CB culture better than country music and country radio. Good times.

  2. Ric Robinson says:

    I’ll tell you a quick story. When I was a WV State Trooper CB’s were being used by ladies (lot lizards) at truck stops. I was close to the truck stop at Winfield when a lady came on “looking for a date”. I came on and said that I was about to pull in. As I did the radio went silent. Then a very timid sound woman asked, “are you in a Blue & Gold State Police cruiser with a “bubble gum machine” on top. I said, “yes I am.” I don’t think she thought it was nearly as funny as I did! LOL!!!

  3. Mike Tussey says:

    Mike..you nailed it for sure…! Thanks…! Great to hear from you too!!

  4. Rik says:

    very cool!! sounded like fun. Rik

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