Christmas Time                   

The time of the year when many new people were introduced to the radio world.   


Christmas is always a magical time for young children. The anticipation of those new toys, and whatever else Santa might bring, kept us kids on the proverbial seat of our pants weeks before the big day. By the time Christmas Eve finally rolled around, the excitement had reached its crescendo, and it was hard enough just to get to sleep that night. We would eventually outgrow the magic of "Santa" and the toys would evolve into things like Walkie-Talkies and CB radios. So it should come as no surprise to learn that so many younger CB radio enthusiasts got their start in radio on a particular Christmas. I can proudly count myself among those people, since my start in the wonderful hobby of CB radio began on the Christmas of 1969, with the acquisition of a Sears 100mW base station. As I tuned around the channels, and heard other kids with walkie-talkies, I became fascinated. Especially when I discovered that I could talk to someone well out of eyeball range or later at night, in hushed tones, when a friend was supposed to be in bed sleeping. At that point I knew this was the hobby for me.

And so it began for me much the same as it did for other kids years afterward, and probably for those who started many years prior as well. The chain of events pretty much followed the same progression. A bunch of neighborhood kids would get walkie-talkies for Christmas. They would play with them, and maybe discover a bunch of other kids who also got walkie-talkies. At that point, a fork in the road presented itself. Those who thought no differently about their walkie-talkies than any other toy, would play with them until they lost interest, the batteries went dead, or they managed to snap off the metal telescopic antennas, and that would be the end of it. On the other hand, there would be a small percentage of those kids, who had a recently awakened yearning to delve deeper into the mysteries of two-way radio. They would then start to experiment, upgrade to better equipment and to reach out and discover other similarly minded "radio geeks". And thus their journey had begun. For me, that journey has been going on now for over 40 years, and has shown no signs of ending anytime soon. Yes, the journey has taken different paths at times, but it's always been about some aspect of radio. Many of my radio friends got their start at Christmas time as well. I remember those first transmissions I overheard from my soon-to-be arch nemesis, Uncle Albert, during the Christmas vacation of 1973, as he attempted to make contact with his two-door away neighbor on his newly acquired Archer Space Patrol walkie-talkies. His official sounding, "Come in 5, this is 4" transmissions were the strongest signals I could hear above the chatter of dozens of other kids further in the distance who were also trying out their newly received Christmas toys. I had also received a walkie-talkie that Christmas, but it was not a 100 mW super-regen cheapie, but a 1 watt Midland, with a fairly hot super-het receiver, which allowed me to hear all those different groups of 100 mW talkies, who's less sensitive receivers, ironically, kept them oblivious of each other. My 10 times stronger transmit signal also allowed me to be heard by those other stations, and it was fun interjecting a comment here and there when they thought they were the only ones on the channel. That's how I first got acquainted with Uncle Albert. I would disguise my voice in a really high pitch and pretend to be a Martian. He, of course, didn't believe it was a real Martian, but it piqued his curiosity to find out who I really was, and I was not about to make it easy. Eventually he did find out, and because I had introduced him to a whole 'nother universe of people beyond the confines of channel 14, his continued interest in radio was kindled. Similar experiences with other people resulted in even more friends catching the radio bug. And that new crop of newbies, who came into the fold as a result of each successive Christmas, is what kept the local channel active. As older people lost interest and moved on, there were always others just starting out, to replace them.

It was not always low-powered walkie-talkies that were received at Christmas either. The same Christmas that Uncle Albert got his first 100 mW WT, and I upgraded to a 1 watt WT, my friend Doug got a Realistic Mini-23 mobile rig, which he ran on a power supply and hooked temporarily to a 3 element beam antenna suspended horizontally from the rafters in his garage.  As the years went on by, especially when the CB fad took hold in the mid to late 70's, quite a few newbies skipped right over the walkie-talkie stage and started out with full blown 23 channel sets. I was somewhat jealous of this, as I had to work my way up from low power walkie-talkies, to higher powered versions, before I finally entered the arena of full powered, all channel CB radios. And that journey of continual upgrading took a couple of years to complete. Most of my original core group of friends had evolved in a similar manner and it was felt that any subsequent newcomers should have to cut their teeth in the walkie-talkie world in the same way.  But that initial jealousy didn't last, once we had all made it to the full base setup stage, especially if the newcomers learned the ropes quickly and played well with the rest of the locals.  There were still many things to learn and more road to travel as the radio journey progressed.

But not every person, who was ushered into the CB radio hobby by way of Santa's blessing, was welcomed. By the time the CB fad was in full swing, people were getting CB radios for Christmas who had absolutely no idea how they worked, or how the locals conducted themselves.  These people weren't getting them because they were attracted to wireless 2-way radio as a hobby, but rather as "cool" trendy popular fad. Their only exposure to CB was what they heard from movies such as "Convoy" or "Smokey and the Bandit".  Needless to say, when the normally peaceful channels were suddenly inundated with dozens of people calling "Breaker 1-9 for the Bandit", it was not seen as a good thing. They thought they were being hip and cool, but to the those of us already firmly involved in the hobby, they were anything but. These newcomers didn't quite know what to say to break the ice, so they would spin the channel dial around until they found a group of people talking, and then break in asking for a time check or a radio check.  Naturally, when someone first sets up a radio station, it's customary to get a radio check to see if it's working correctly. But when the same person would do it several times a day along with a bunch of others doing the same thing, it eventually wore on the local's nerves. I'm sure quite a few agitators were created from the rejection and scorn that their hapless attempts to interact had perpetrated.  We probably could have handled the situation with far more compassion and positive reinforcement, but we were impetuous teenagers, and didn't have the patience to help the truly radio-challenged.  So we ridiculed and chastised them instead.  Some eventually got with the program, others couldn't handle the rejection and left, while a few vowed to get even, and became agitators, who would attempt to jam us whenever they had the opportunity.  Fortunately, those people lost interest quickly, and we were pretty much back to some semblance of order by the time Easter rolled around.

Eventually, walkie-talkies and CB radios fell off the list as popular Christmas toys, being replaced by newfangled video games (like the Atari 2600) and the first generation of the personal computer. The influx of Christmas CB'ers fell off and with it, the hobby in general. So perhaps if we want a CB hobby resurgence, we should all ask for new radios next Christmas.