Business Users vs. Hobby Users


Taking advantage of business users for comic relief.



It's sometimes hard for today's active CB hobby user to visualize what the band was like back in the 1960's and 70's.  Today, the CB radio service is a band full of mostly anarchistic users who pretty much do their own thing, without any consideration for rules, regulations, or even purpose.  It's strictly a full time on-air party, and the only rule is to pretty much have fun, the definition of which is pretty much dependant on the viewpoint of the individual.  But back when the CB band was first created, it was designed to be a sort of cheap and dirty business band for common citizens, and small mom and pop businesses who couldn't afford or didn't want a commercial quality business radio system, to coordinate their personal lives or business needs with their assigned remote units.  Security companies, tow trucks, farms, and oil delivery companies were a few of many such examples of small businesses which utilized CB radio in those early days.  As one might suspect, as interest in the hobby aspect of the band grew in the later 60's and into the 70's, business users often had to deal with interference from these casual hobby users.  Many of the business users were instructed to ignore "chatter" from hobby users, who they felt were illegitimate interlopers, who had no legal right to use the band. When these businesses would try to conduct their operations over top of, and without acknowledging the hobby users, it eventually raised the hackles of some of the more verbally prolific of the hobby users, who would then take it upon themselves to disrupt the operations of the business users as a payback.  And thus the "war" began.  Business users tried to continue as best they could under the conditions, hopeful that the FCC would swoop in and take care of the situation.  But they were fighting at a disadvantage. The business users were bound to conform to FCC rules, while most hobby users tended to be a little more cavalier about bending or outright breaking Uncle Charlie's wishes. As time wore on, the sheer numbers of new hobby users would overwhelm the business users, to the point where they could no longer reliably conduct their businesses.  The huge numbers of hobby users also overran the FCC's already limited ability to effectively enforce the rules as well.  History will bear out who the eventual winner was in that war, as you don't see many business users on CB anymore.  Most moved to GMRS or to a more suitable land mobile allocation.  But as the war waged on back in the middle 70's, some of my friends and I had a few opportunities to score some "in the trenches" battle points of our own.  As usual, our purpose was not to truly disrupt, but more along the lines of looking to get a good laugh at someone else's expense. The following are recollections of a few such exploits. The passage of time, and the attainment of the wisdom and maturity which usually comes along during that journey,  reveal these as little more than simple childish pranks.  But when you're young and childish, what better way to have fun than by playing such pranks.


The Norriton Fire Company Fire Police: In the early 1970's, it was common practice for fire companies to utilize CB radio for their fire police traffic control activities, so to keep the "official" VHF dispatch frequency clear for fire safety and related logistical traffic.  Our local fire company was no exception. The various members of the squad had CB radios and, ironically, they used  Channel 19 for their activities (This was a few years before the truckers would move there from Channel 10), and most of the old time members had less than 23 channel radios, so frequency flexibility was not something that they had in abundance.  Besides official fire police activity, the Norriton fire police used to conduct a "Spook Patrol" on mischief night, the night before Halloween, every year. They would patrol the streets looking for mischief making kids and attempt to intervene, by confiscating their soap, corn, eggs, or other tools of the trade.  If the situation was serious enough (like someone setting a pile of leaves on fire or spray painting houses), they would call in and have the police dispatched.  Starting in 1971, I used to monitor their activities, and learned their procedures, call signs and unit numbers.  In 1972 and 73, my friends took their walkie-talkies out with them while they were out causing mischief, and I would relay where the "spooks" were when I heard them check in.  In 1974, I had a full powered radio, and instead of simply monitoring their activities, I decided to play with their heads by pretending to be different units and reporting fake activities.  Initially, I pulled it off fairly well.  But eventually they got suspicious, and realized what was happening.  Since our up and coming teenagers group on Channel 11 had become somewhat infamous in the local area, our group was immediately suspect.  Accusations were subsequently made, although they never found out who exactly was responsible for sending them on wild goose chases and reducing their effectiveness.  In 1975, the truckers moved up to Channel 19 and, with so many of the old timers in the fire police group owning old radios with few channels and with many of them being too cheap to upgrade, that pretty much ended their "Spook Patrol" activities on CB.


Central Montgomery County Area Technical School: This school was a vocational-technical school which was funded and sponsored by several neighboring school districts.  I was a proud student there from 1975 to 1978 as part of the Radio/TV/Electronics technology program.  Shortly after I started my first year there, I noticed that the administration staff at the school all carried around what looked like Fannon CB walkie-talkies.  Soon after that, a second year student in the electronics class, and a fellow CB'er, told me that they indeed were CB radios and that the school operated on Channel 15.  This guy had a particular dislike for the vice-principal, and was motivated to interfere with him at every turn.  He had brought in his Realistic TRC-11 radio,  which he powered with a 12V gel cell battery and utilized a screw on the back antenna.  All of this he had stuffed into a surplus military issue canvas backpack, which he wore into school (Try doing that today). Then, at every lunch period, he would eat his lunch in the school cafeteria while trying to provoke a reaction, from any of the administrators that happened to walk by, by calling them by name over his camouflaged radio. The problem was that he only had Channel 14 in his radio, while the school used 15.  But he hoped that he could bleed over onto 15 enough to cause a problem.  But it didn't look like he was having much effect. Then sometime later in the school year, I had a chance to play head games with the school administrators, when I brought in a broken Lafayette HB-525 in to repair. The radio had a receiver problem, but the transmitter worked ok. So during the time that I was working on the radio, I would dial in Channel 15, and make intermittent transmissions. I had hooked the radio into the school's MATV antenna system hoping that it would radiate enough to get the office staff's attention.  I would play music for minutes at a time, un-keying only out of concern for the final transistor (I knew the SWR had to be high).  Because I had no receive, I had no idea, at the time, if my transmissions were heard by, much less interfered with, the school staff.  But I would not have to wonder this for long, as the answer to that question came soon enough. The very next day, my class instructor called me aside.  He inquired if I had been doing anything "improper" with the radio I had brought in the day before.  I replied that it was broken and I had only been trying to get it to work.  At that point he told me that he had received a complaint from the staff about interference on their CBs.  I said that I didn't know anything about it, and it was dropped at that point. The school had no evidence as to where the interference was coming from, and I didn't do it again from class. Although, if I happened to be home sick, I would make it a point to visit channel 15 from time to time and broadcast a comment or two. I doubt if any attempts at disruption were particularly effective from the distance that my home was from the school.  Eventually Channel 15 was taken over by a local group of adults, and I don't remember if the tech school used CB for their communications much after that.


Meadowick Townhouse Construction:  In the 1975 timeframe, in a section of Whitpain Township, a developer decided to build a cluster of townhouses.  Shortly afterward, we started hearing regular transmissions on our home channel, Channel 10 of what appeared to be construction related traffic.  Naturally, our local group became incensed that someone was "squatting" on "our" channel, and doing so without even acknowledging our presence. Initial attempts at getting their attention in order to complain were met with silence. It would seem that they were running with their squelches fully advanced.  Running the amplifier allowed occasional small interactions to occur.  But they were not about to move frequency, no matter how much we complained. The situation escalated once their location was found, and some of our mobiles would ride around nearby playing music and otherwise jamming their operations.  Never mind that we were also disrupting the channel for our own use as well, but back then we had a "Cut our nose (lips?) off to spite our face" attitude when it came to intruders.  Steve, at first, was a primary ally in this fight to disrupt these intruders, as most of us were still just below driving age ourselves, and he was more than willing to play mobile agitator for us.  But then, for reasons known only to him, he played his classic Benedict Arnold act by suddenly and unexplainably barging right in to the construction office and offering them the use of his Yaesu FT-101, for the day to "combat" us (huh?). It was a shock to see the construction base's signal increase from its usual S9 to +15 over S9, and with D-104 audio over their former stock mic audio. I was also shocked (but not all that surprised) that Steve would play such a blatant turncoat move. But I guess it was just another of his numerous attempts to seek approval by playing the hero, even if he sold out his friends in the process.  Eventually the problem went away. I don't remember if they finally switched channels, or if they just finished their job and moved on.


The Wissahickon School District: One of the more common business uses for CB back in the early days was school bus dispatch. While school buses normally ran specified routes, it was felt that there was value in having the capability to reach the drivers while they were out on their routes. In the case of Wissahickon, they equipped their buses with CB radios to coordinate their activities.  Back in late 1976, when I was a part of the Channel 6 group, many of our channel members were students in this school district. They were able to determine that the buses ran on CB channel 5.  So it wasn't long before several of us would send out a very special "hello" on a daily basis, to specific bus numbers, and to our fellow CBer's who rode them.  For a few days, the routine was tolerated to some degree. Eventually, the bus driver had enough and would turn his radio off, during "our" time slot.  One day, in an obvious case of frustration overload, he stopped the bus, stood up and made an announcement to the riders, specifically to whomever the "clowns" on the CB were directing their shtick at, to tell them to knock it off.  True to form though, once we realized that we were actually pissing people off, we made an extra special effort to continue.  One day, one of our members rode up next to one of the busses at a red light, and then keyed his radio and hit a birdie noise maker and then listened to hear the noise reverberate inside of the bus, while the driver frantically reached for the volume to turn it down. Then, someone somehow obtained a list of the driver's names, and they would send out a special hello to each of them on a semi-daily basis. I don't know if our antics ever got elevated to the level of the district administrators, what may have gone on behind the scenes at the school district because of it, and whether the FCC was ever contacted. But suffice to say that the Wissahickon School district no longer uses CB to dispatch busses. I think they went to UHF not too long afterward.



So there you have it. A small slice of what we had to deal with on a daily basis in those early days. Truth be told, these occasional conflicts and distractions added a little diversion from the same old stuff, and added an additional dimension to the daily routine of simply exchanging small talk.  Plus, teenagers just can't seem to behave themselves for too long. It's ingrained in their DNA to be mischievous. It's all part of being young.......