Hey Woody! I just found this website and like it a lot! I wanted to submit my "How I first became interested in CB" story for the site. Here it goes. Ill include some photos at the bottom.
I grew up in the Provo/Orem area of Utah a valley with a large lake surrounded on all sides by mountains. All during my childhood I wanted a set of walkie-talkies. Every Christmas I would ask for a set and never receive them. About the time I was 11 or 12 a friend got a pair of the horrible bottom of the line Archer Space Patrol walkie-talkies. These were the gray ones that had an on/off switch and nothing else no volume control or anything. They had a transmit crystal for channel 14 but the receiver picked up numerous channels simultaneously. They were so noisy that using them for communication wasnt much fun but one night we did notice that we could hear a lot of the local CB traffic. I became infatuated. I wanted in on that scene, badly. In 1975 when I was 12 the same friend and I each saved up and bought one of Radio Shacks best 100mW walkie-talkies. These were the tall gray, almost military looking 3-channel units (see picture below). They cost $34.95. Seems like a lot for a 100mW unit. We filled them up with crystals and batteries and went out to see how far we could communicate. We also filled out license applications for our fathers and sent them in.
What turned out to be truly exciting for us was that we could talk to a friend about three blocks away who had a base station in his bedroom. It was a mobile unit running on a 12 volt supply and his antenna was the popular Radio Shack Crossbow 5/8 wave ground plane. Even though he was only a kid he was very popular with a lot of the local CB crowd. We had more fun roaming the foothills and riding bikes with those things. I never went anywhere without it. I also got one of the little base-loaded antennas they made for walkie-talkies back then, the kind that clamps to your telescoping antenna with a screw (now they only sell the "rubber-duckie" kind) so that I could listen in confined quarters. I took it in the car and actually talked to a trucker we were driving next to on the freeway. I felt like such a big shot.
The next year the novelty had worn off and I really wanted to be able to talk more than a few blocks. The FCC license had come in. The call sign was KOX 8177. Too cool! I had $100 saved up and convinced my dad to help me get a real 23 channel mobile radio. Unlike most of the other readers of this page, I loved the Radio Shack gear. It was available, affordable, and actually of a decent quality. Id spend every night in bed looking at their catalogue and dreaming. I also had a couple of "All About CB Radio" type books that I mustve read a hundred times. Anyway, the unit I figured I could afford was called the "Mini Twenty-Three." It had an on/off/volume knob, a squelch, and a channel knob that was it. Its price tag was $99.95. Remember that one? Mom and Dad took me to Radio Shack. I brought along my prized walkie-talkie and told the manager what I wanted and asked if he would give me any trade-in value on the walkie-talkie. Im amazed today when I think about this, but he gave me $25 for it. I said I wanted the Mini Twenty-Three and then my parents started asking my if Id really be happy with the bottom of the line unit. I assured them I would, but they werent convinced. The next model up was $129.95 and had a meter on the front. Dad asked me if Id prefer that one if he paid the extra. I said that would be great, but not necessary. Then the manager threw out something else. He said, "The next model up is our best AM unit, its $159.95 but right now if you buy it you get a mobile antenna for one penny." A little while later we left with a "single trucker" center-loaded mirror-mount antenna (they still sell the exact same model) and a TRC-24C, the top of the line AM model. I couldnt believe it. I was more excited than on any Christmas morning.
We mounted the antenna to the luggage rack of the station wagon. Dad was not electronically inclined, but fought his way through the installation process and got me up and running. I would sit for hours in the driveway draining the cars battery talking to anyone who would answer. The song Convoy had been released by then and the CB fad was in full swing. The channels were crowded with friendly folk who were eager to talk. My friends and I had 17 for our home channel. Later we moved to 23 when the sidebanders took over 16 and 17.
I began to miss my walkie-talkie though. At one point, Radio Shack had a sale. The TRC-180 2-Watt 3-Channel walkie-talkie which looked just like my old one except it was black and silver instead of gray (remember the "Range Boost" side panels?) was on sale at half price! Only $24.95! I dont remember where the money came from but I got one. I began to have a lot of fun with it. If I climbed on my roof I could talk to the next city with it. Taking it into the foothills increased my range even further!
Later I brought my mobile unit into my bedroom and put it on a 12 volt power supply. I clamped the mobile antenna to the rain gutter of our house. It worked great! Later I got the Realistic desk top power mic and one Christmas upgraded the mobile antenna on the roof to the Crossbow 3 element beam antenna. Those were only $59.95. Ah, the good old days. I really felt like hot stuff. I got to know all the guys and especially girls in my school who had CB. It almost made you feel like a member of a club or something. Staying up late at night with a CB by the bed talking to friends was as much fun as a sleep-over.
I used to lie on my bed one night a week and listen to a large group of locals having a "skunk hunt." Somebody would drive his car and park somewhere and start giving out vague clues about his location over the air. Whoever found him first would get some sort of a little prize and then theyd all meet at Sambos for coffee. I wished and wished I was old enough to drive so I could go on a skunk hunt, or at least go out afterwards and meet these people. It never happened.
My first 40-channel rig was Radio Shacks telephone style mobile unit. I loved it. My best friend on the air hated it. "Unplug that handset and plug your power mic in! It doesnt sound right!" Eventually I sold all my mobile radios and bought a TRC-455 base station the one with the alarm clock in it. I still use it today, though the clock motor died years ago.
Unlike a lot of other readers of this page, I never did anything with linear amplifiers or anything like that. My favorite moments were when I would take a walkie-talkie on a hike in the mountains. From there Id have all kinds of range. I went through a number of models selling one to raise some money, only to end up really wishing I had another one. Eventually I ended up with a great big TRC-212 40-channel walkie-talkie. It had an LCD display and a leather carrying case with a shoulder strap and everything. I loved it. While I had it I gave a 3-Channel 1-Watt walkie-talkie to my fiancée who lived about a mile away. Wed talk to each other with those all the time. Her parents thought it was so strange.
When I met her grandfather I was carrying that big thing on my shoulder. He saw it and started asking questions. Then he went on to tell me that he was the fist licensed CB operator in the state of Utah and had a lot of fun stories to share. Its always enjoyable to meet another CB enthusiast.
My fiancée and I once hiked the tallest peak around here and took my 40-channel walkie-talkie with us. High at the top of Mount Timpanogos I turned that thing on channel 19. From an altitude of over 10,000 feet we could see from the north end of the Salt Lake valley to the south end of Utah Valley. It was an awesome sight. I could also hear every truck driver across about a 100-mile stretch of I-15. It was deafening. My mother had said that she might try to talk to us on my base to see if we made it up there safely. When I called for her she answered immediately. It was so cool to be so far from home and yet talking to my mother on a CB walkie-talkie. That was the only time I ever talked to mom on a CB. She passed away in 1991.
When I got married in 1985 my wife and I bought a mobile home. I should point out that being surrounded by mountains makes shooting skip a rare occurrence. Even with my beam I only made it out of the state a few times. I wasnt ready to move that big beam from my parents house to the mobile home right away so I stuck a magnet mount mobile antenna right on the steel roof of the mobile home. That big flat metal surface must have made a wonderful reflector. One night my wife was talking to some guy who asked where she was. She replied, "Orem." He said, "Where the hell is Orem?" She told him it was in Utah and he said he was in Lake Oswego, Oregon. That blew her away. It was her only DX experience.
A couple of years ago I discovered that eBay is sometimes a treasure trove of old walkie-talkies. For purely nostalgic reasons Ive bought back a number of the old units I used to have or wished I could have had. Now my wife has two and each of my children have one. Every spring I get the urge to grab a walkie-talkie and head for the mountains. The sad part is, theres no one left to talk to. A few years ago we had a handful of old-timers living around us that I could chat with but these days the only thing I ever hear are passing truckers being obnoxious with their echo units and roger beeps. Im almost hoping another CB fad comes along soon!
A few of my other hand-helds. Remember
the PocketCom at the far right from 1976? I still think these
are the coolest 100mW units around! I was also delighted to add
that TRC-101A 23-Channel monster on the left to the collection
about a year and a half ago, thanks to a good brother-in-law.
I used to look at those in the old Radio Shack catalogues and
think, "That would be soooooo cool!"