CB radio was a very rewarding and fun hobby which provided many avenues for learning the ropes when it came to electronic and radio theory. In addition to those numerous educational opportunities, it was also a wonderful medium for social interaction. But like most other public venues (Just look at USENET newsgroups today) which attract a large and diverse set of personalities, there were bound to be personality clashes and general disagreements. While most of the people I got to know as friends were decent, interesting, and fun people to spend quality on-air time with, there were also those people who my friends and I generally either rubbed the wrong way, or just had nothing in common with, much like oil and water. There were also certain people who liked to cause trouble for the sheer fun (for them) of it. Fortunately, in the early days, those people were few and far between. But even within the bounds of normally civil people, there were still those situations which just seemed to breed conflict. There's only so much irritation someone can take before the urge to tell someone else off, overwhelms any sense of good manners, or respect a person might otherwise have. So I've stretched my memory to the limit trying to recall our most intense, or most problematic longer term conflicts throughout the last 30 years, and to present some background on how these conflicts were viewed from my perspective, both then and retrospectively now. How we handle and resolve conflict is a great judge of an individual's character and their level of maturity. Needless to say, as teenagers, most of my friends and I were not all that far up the maturity ladder yet, and our actions at the time pretty much reflected that. But what was surprising, was the lack of maturity shown by many of the adults who should have known better. But instead of setting a mature example, they chose to lower themselves to the level of the kids, letting their pride and egos override any semblance of a desire to rationally resolve the conflict, thereby guaranteeing a prolonged period of strife.......
So without further adieu, here the candidates are, in loose chronological order:
Channel 3/Zipper: Starting in late 1973, when our young people's group started to come up to speed on Channel 11, we began to have some trouble with some of the folks on Channel 3 and Zipper in particular. It is likely that he first became aware of us, due to our association with Steve and Jimmy. Those guys had well-earned reputations as troublemakers and agitators on Channel 3, and I guess we came under the umbrella of "guilt by association" more or less. I first met Zipper, purely by accident, one day in the summer of '73. I was riding home on my bicycle from another CB friend's house and I was talking to him on my Midland 13-428 100 mW walkie-talkie. I turned down a street and as I continued on, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed this grumpy looking guy in a '65 or '66 Chevy with a 102" steel whip on the back heading the opposite way. He gave me a long hard look as I passed by and turned around and started to follow me. When he caught up to me, he hollered for me to stop, and when I did, he then proceeded to give me the third degree. Had I known what the Spanish Inquisition was back then, I'm sure I would have felt like an unwilling participant in it at that point. Among other things, this guy demanded to know if my walkie-talkie had Channel 3 in it, which I replied that it did not (I had 7, 11, and 14). He then wanted to see it (I guess he didn't believe me) so that he could see for himself. Some of you out there may wonder why I didn't just tell the guy to "F" off and ride away. Indeed, in today's atmosphere of pedophiles and other predatory sociopathic deviants, that might have been the prudent choice. But back then kids were taught to respect adults, and not to "backtalk" (My parent's word) them. So I obligingly allowed him to satisfy his curiosity, and when he handed the radio back to me, I then rode off, but I made sure he didn't follow me, as he did give me the creeps. At that point, I didn't know who he was or why he was interested in me, but the answers to these questions became clearer, when I heard him telling the tale later that night when I was at home listening on my Sears 100 mW Base Station with the Super-Regenerative "all channels" receiver. It seems that Zipper was out searching for a carrier thrower, and thought that "the kid on the bike" was it. He never did find who the real carrier thrower was, but Steve's name was eventually mentioned and Zipper pretty much figured that he was behind it (A typical default assumption, when no facts were forthcoming). This budding conflict piqued my interest and, a day or so later, I rode down to the local Radio Shack store and purchased a set of crystals for Channel 3, so that I could better listen to what all the fuss was about and, truth be told, to "payback" Zipper for his arrogance. Once I installed the new crystals in my Midland, I would occasionally send out call signal beep tones on Channel 3. My small walkie-talkie was not powerful enough to totally blank Zipper's receive, much less be heard by the majority of the other people on the channel, who were beyond the usable range of a 100 mW walkie-talkie. But it was enough to irritate him, and that was all I needed for a little revenge-style satisfaction.
Things got worse from there, when our mostly kids group started to obtain 4 watt radios, base antennas and, worst of all, amplified mics in 1974. No less than 4 or 5 of us were close enough to Zipper that we started to bleed him over on a fairly regular basis. I guess that top-of-the-line Pearce Simpson Simba that he had, didn't have the greatest adjacent channel rejection. He bled some of us over too (especially when he would fire up his 150 watt amplifier). While it was annoying, it didn't really affect us all that much since we all lived close to each other. But the bleed from us bothered Zipper to the point where he started coming up to Channel 11 to lambaste us for talking. He would tell us that kids didn't belong on the radio, and that we should use the telephone instead. He couldn't give us an answer when we asked how we were supposed to have a 6 or 8 way conversation over the phone, but to him it didn't matter. The fact that we didn't give him the respect he felt that he deserved by not listening to him, only drove him to complain even more. His ire grew to the point where he started trying to deliberately interfere with our conversations. Predictably, we weren't angels in this situation either. We would go down to Channel 3 with our walkie-talkies and send call signal beep tones, or play music just to annoy him. We would do it while we continued to talk with our "big" CB's on Channel 11 at the same time, so that he wouldn't think that we were the ones doing it. Some of us would also go to Channel 2, so that we'd bleed him worse. In our minds we were just paying him back for giving us grief, even if 2 wrongs don't make a right. Needless to say, Zipper's bleed over anguish became the topic of many a night's chatter on Channel 3, and that prompted some of the other people there to dial up to 11 themselves to see what the fuss was all about. Then we had even more people making subjective value judgments about the things that we said and did over the radio. We then started having to deal with occasional carrier throwers ourselves (What was it I said before about adult maturity and setting an example?). Fortunately, most of our group lived close enough together, that we weren't affected by most of the carriers. This petty nonsense continued until Zipper finally had enough and he went and bought an Avanti Astro Beam antenna, just so that he could point it away from us. That lessened the bleed over, and consequently his wrath. Then, a year or so later, he moved away. Problem solved.
Blue Dragon: Blue Dragon was a bit of an enigma, as I never found out who he was or why he did what he did. Blue Dragon was another teen who lived probably 6 or 7 miles away from me as the crow flies. This was during the time when I was running my Midland 13-700 1 watt walkie-talkie, in early 1974, so I'm sure that he was at the limit of my range. Anyway, for whatever reason, this guy, right out of the blue, just started announcing my full name over the radio. This was considered a big taboo back then, and those who did it, did so only to aggravate the other person. Naturally, I wondered who this guy was and, more importantly, how he had found out my name, and why he was announcing it. I never did anything to him that I knew of, that would warrant such actions. Suspiciously, this guy somehow knew Big Al, one of our Channel 11 locals, yet Big Al swore up and down that he didn't tell him. I did my best to bust back on this guy when he started in on me, but I was short on information about him. I figured that if I could find out his name, we would be even and that would end it. But I never found out. At 14 years of age, I wasn't in the position to track him down, and I lacked many other resources. I'm not sure what finally ended the conflict, but Blue Dragon eventually just sort of faded away.
Channel 15/Bed Bug: This situation was very similar to the Channel 3/Zipper conflict, as it started over bleed over. The time was 1975 and, as a result of the increasing popularity of the "CB craze", one of my neighbors about 7 or 8 doors down the street decided to get into CB. He had gone to the local Radio Shack and purchased a Realistic TRC-52, along with a combination AM/FM/CB antenna for his car (No doubt picked thanks to the wonderful "advice" of the Radio Shack salespeople). When he first hooked it up, he talked with us, as we were the strongest signals that he could hear. Once I figured out who he was, I even helped him tune his antenna's SWR, and gave him a host of helpful pointers. After a few weeks, he dumped the combo mobile antenna for a "real" dedicated mobile CB antenna and picked the handle "Bed Bug" as his own. A month or so later, he also bought an A/S "Starduster" base antenna, a power supply, and a D-104 Microphone (which I wired for him) so that he could run the radio from inside his house. Since he was many years older than we were (His kids were only a few years younger than me), he didn't have much in common with us and didn't really want to hang with the teenagers. So he hooked up with some of the guys that he worked with and they all started hanging out on Channel 15. And that's when things began to turn ugly. It seemed that whenever I would key up on Channel 11, I would completely shut down (desense) Bed Bug's receive, to the point where he couldn't hear anyone farther than 1/2 mile away. Other neighboring people on the channel, like Uncle Albert, and Channel Master, also bled him as well. But since I was the closest to him, mine was by far the worst. The TRC-52 was not noted for having the greatest adjacent channel rejection. At first he took an "I guess that's the nature of the beast" attitude, and understood that this is to be expected when you are that close to other people on different channels. But eventually he got tired of it. I know that if the shoe was on the other foot, I'd have been upset about it as well. I didn't help matters much, as I was ALWAYS on the radio, from the time school let out until bed time, so the only break that he got was late night and a 2 hour window on Thursday nights when our Explorer post 621 was having its weekly meeting, and Channel 11 was virtually quiet, at least in my neighborhood. I'm sure that he was also a bit upset that he didn't seem to affect me all that much. Having a tube rig (The Lafayette Comstat 25), with superior front end overload immunity allowed me to operate with only minor scratch from him, while I'd completely shut his receive down. I tried to be accommodating at first. I tried dropping the power switch on the back of the radio, down to the 100 mW position. That reduced the bleed to a steady "S" 9 signal on his end rather than complete desense. But when I'd run my rig on such low power, it invited clowns, like my other neighbor Uncle Albert, to take advantage of my weakness to step on me when I tried talking. Once that happened, the switch would get thrown back to 5 watts and the bleed over problem returned to it's former level.
Like in the situation with Zipper, some of Bed Bug's friends started coming down to our channel and began critiquing our operating habits and the subjects that we talked about. So again, in a bad case of Deja-Vu all over again, like the people on channel 3, these guys came to the conclusion that we didn't have a right to talk on the radio based on the "useless garbage" that we talked about (Judge, Jury and Executioner all in one!). Overcoming my earlier humble respect of adults (My experiences with many of them on the radio played a big part in that), I started challenging the subjectivity of their opinions, and compared the things we talked about with the "garbage" that they talked about. I asked them straight up, what makes complaining about the poor performance of the home team during the previous night's hockey game any more of an "acceptable" topic to discuss over the CB than the things we talked about? Not being able to counter my logic, with anything more than their opinions, only infuriated them more, and they called me a "smart ass". We also felt that since our group had been "in CB" for a few years before these guys got on 15, we pretty much held a "we were here first" attitude. That attitude didn't sit well with the 15'ers and, predictably, the carriers started shortly thereafter. Like before, most of those guys were not close enough to seriously disrupt most of us. My neighbor Bed Bug, wisely, did not partake in the carrier throwing, as I would have known immediately if it were him. The escalating friction between our two channel groups also likely hastened the ending of the relationship I had been having with my current girlfriend. As luck would have it, she was the daughter of one of the guys who hung on 15, and she often used his base radio to talk to us. But the channel feud caused him to forbid her from talking on Channel 11 with us (And I'm sure that included going out with me). The realization of this pissed me off to the point where I made, likely, my very first "Bush Boogie" out of my pretty well cannibalized Realistic Rover 1500 Walkie-Talkie, and set it up to jam Channel 15. It gave Bed Bug better than a +10db over S9 signal, but few other people on 15 could hear it. I almost got caught using it when he went out in his mobile and drove down the street in order to track it down. I came outside and left the jammer on, and he then thought it was Uncle Albert who was doing it. But I then quickly turned it off before he could positively determine who was really doing it.
Bed Bug eventually upgraded his base radio to a 23 channel Pace Sidetalk SSB base station and had a Siltronix VFO installed. Their group would then move up to the freeband on SSB to talk. But despite the improvement in radio equipment, I still was giving him some bleed over problems, especially if I was running my Contex amplifier. One night, while he was drunk, I caught him monologing to nobody on RC channel "11A", just to bleed us over. We moved to Channel 10 that fall, but the extra channel between us, didn't help the bleed problem all that much.
Eventually, Bed Bug bought Wildcat's Moonraker 4 in order to point it away from me. Coincidently, not long after that, I got a 3 Element Beam of my own and I had also moved to Channel 6 in late 1976. The combination of the additional 5 channels between us, and the fact that I was now pointing my beam away from him for the new group on Channel 6, made a major improvement in the bleed situation. Bed Bug commented that if he had known that my having a beam would have made that much difference, he would have bought me one a year prior. Not long after that, Bed Bug bought a Kenwood TS-520 ham rig and his group gave up talking on AM Channel 15 completely and moved permanently up to 27.365 LSB, which would become legal Channel 36 a year later. And that pretty much ended a nearly 2 year feud.
Friendly Neighborhood Collegeville Smacks (FNCS): As if the problems with Channel 15 weren't enough, we soon found ourselves involved in yet another conflict. This one came about as a result of our moving from Channel 11, to Channel 10 in late 1975, when the truckers left it to move to Channel 19. The details of this conflict were pretty much covered in this story, and when we were all fired up battling these guys, it exacerbated the bleed over problems with the guys on Channel 15, so we found ourselves between a proverbial rock and a hard place. This conflict, fortunately, didn't last a real long time. I don't know if these guys just decided to find another channel, or just found a way to deal with us "sharing" the channel with them.
Wildcat/Channel 18: I guess it's true what they say about bad things happening in threes. Once again, during the same relative time period in 1975, we found ourselves at odds with yet another group of people, this time it was the gang on Channel 18. This time it wasn't bleed over that was responsible for the conflict, as those guys were at least 4 to 8 miles (and 10 channels) away from us. I really don't remember exactly what it was that first set them off. The best I can recall was that they were getting plagued by bleed over from the trucker's recent move up to Channel 19. The guys from 18 kept trying to send the truckers back down to 10, where they used to be. Meanwhile our group had moved down to 10 and were sending the stray truckers up to 19. When the 18'ers found out we were sending the truckers up to 19, they took that as a personal affront, and came down to give us crap about it. As usual, we told them which end of the horse to kiss and that pretty much got the ball rolling. For the most part though, these guys were little threat to us, as they were too far away to affect our relatively close together stations. When they realized they couldn't bother us (Even when Wildcat pointed his Moonraker 4 up our way and ran his amplifier full tilt) from their base stations, they then resorted to driving around our local area. The situation escalated when people started jamming them, and they blamed us for it. We figured that if we were going to get blamed for it, we might as well do it, and so several of our people rode down their way and returned the favor. There was some behind the scenes spying going on as well, and certain peoples full names were found out (and summarily broadcast). Things came to a head one night when three of their guys paid me a visit, and I remember being shocked to find that the guy with the biggest signal from that group, was also about 6 or so inches shorter than me (And I was only 15 at the time and had not quite reached my full grown 6' height). No fights occurred, but we did reach a mutual understanding, and things improved after that. Mitch even became fairly friendly with them and they used to meet for coffee at a local donut shop at least once a week.
The Belfry Gang: The FNCS, and Channel 18 weren't the only problems we ran into as result of moving from Channel 11 onto Channel 10. About 3 months after we had made Channel 10 our new home, we started hearing a semi-local group squatting on the channel. Anyone who was looking for a clear channel to talk on, and took the time to listen, would have found out in short order that channel 10 was occupied. It wouldn't have taken much effort, since we were on every day. However, I guess having a clear channel didn't matter to this small group of 3 or maybe 4 people. They weren't looking to interact with outsiders. They just wanted to talk amongst themselves in-between (and in some cases over top of) our members. Since they did their best to ignore us, we figured we return the favor, and just started talking over them. Mitch cranked up his mic, and I flipped on my amplifier and we just quick keyed back and forth. We figured that after a day or so of this abuse and they would move off to another channel. But they didn't. I didn't know if they were being deliberately stubborn, or whether there was another reason. One possible alternative reason may have had something to do with the main character's radio. It was noticeably off-frequency, and sounded a little weak in the modulation department. Most likely it was a less-than-23 channel tube radio, so they may have had a limited number of channels they could use. Whatever the case, it didn't look like this problem was going to solve itself anytime soon. At first, we had no idea where they were, but somehow Steve found out (he was the best signal tracker in the area back then), and let us know. Seems they were located in Whitpain township, about 2.5 miles to the northeast of me, on Belfry Road. This probably explains their "interesting" choice of handles (Belfry Man, and Belfry Pop). The conflict naturally escalated from there, once we started announcing their location. This was accompanied with the typical radio chest thumping, usual verbal insults and predictable jamming. The crowning jewel, was those guys threatening to call the FCC (HA!). In the end, I guess we bothered them far more than they bothered us, and they eventually disappeared. A segment of this conflict was caught on this audio clip recorded in January of 1976.
Storm Queen/Channel 5: For a short time in late '76 during my association with the Channel 6 group, I became embroiled in a short-lived channel conflict with the neighboring group on Channel 5. As one might expect, it was caused by bleedover. What do you expect when two channel groups a little over 2 miles apart talk on adjacent channels? Well, it started innocently enough one day when I was talking to a good friend (Blond Beauty), in her mobile and had swung my 3 element beam around from it's normal easterly direction, to the southwest so I could hear her better. Well that also happened to be the direction which was right down the middle of the Channel 5 people. The de-facto leader/head spokesperson/most arrogant person of the group was a woman by the handle of Storm Queen. Her base station was loud enough that she often bled the channel 6 people over. The channel 6 folks were usually good about it, but when they were trying to hear more distant mobiles, someone would go down and politely ask Storm Queen to back it down a bit. Her usual response was something along the lines of "If you had better radios, you wouldn't hear that much bleed". Clearly, she thought that she was "all that and a bag of chips". So it was with a ironic case of the shoe being on the other foot, that I found myself in a role reversal situation with my beam pointed down her throat and hearing her not-so-polite demand for me to stop bleeding her over. When I told her that if she had a better radio, she wouldn't hear the bleedover, she hit the roof. Evidently things are a little different when she was on the receiving end of the bleedover. To be fair, I was running my Midland 13-885, which was known to splatter, and had she not been a crotchety S.O.B. about it, I would have backed it down, switched to a "less offensive" radio, and/or moved the beam away. But instead, I decided to make it a point to aim the antenna her way fairly regularly. The rest of her cronies on the channel gave her all sorts of support and tried to make their own cases toward me. Accusations started flying about illegal amplifiers and there was even talk of the FCC (That's the real irony) getting called in. Some of my fellow channel 6'ers got in on the act and did their part to give Storm Queen a major dose of payback. One such incident in this little "war" was caught by my trusty tape recorder and preserved for posterity in this audio clip. I don't remember what finally ended it. I guess I finally figured that I had made my point, eventually grew tired of torturing her, and decided that she had gotten enough payback. Interestingly, Storm Queen got out of CB a few months later and that was the last I ever heard of her.
The Green Dragon: Starting in 1978, when I was a member of the Channel 13 group, we started having problems with a guy by the handle of Green Dragon. He didn't want to share the channel with a bunch of "young punk kids" and wanted to keep it clear so that he might catch one of his old cronies in there some day. So when we would get in there to talk, he would lock his mike and play his police scanner on SSB for minutes at a time in order to jam us. Thus started a feud that lasted for a few years. During the time that we were "at war", several people would regularly prank call his phone, drive by his house and shoot off firecrackers, as well as bust on him over the air. The problem eventually solved itself when Green Dragon found a new bunch of "Chronologically Advanced" people to talk to on Channel 33. A couple of years after that, he moved to Clearwater Florida, and that was the last I heard from him.
Channel 11: Ironic that I would find myself involved in a conflict with a channel that used to be my home in years past. In this case the channel was the same, but the group which now occupied it were worlds different than the groups I chose to fraternize with. This was during the Channel 13 days in the 1978-1981 timeframe, and the original Channel 11 group, which I had been a part of, was long gone. The problem between this new group on 11 and us started over (once again) bleed over. The current group on Channel 11 were right smack dab in the middle of the path between the two biggest concentrations of Channel 13 people. A few of us had beam antennas at the time and we naturally pointed them at each other. We also had D-104 microphones and some had amplifiers. When we were cranked up, we would bleed over 11 unmercifully. We also had a habit of ducking down to RC Channel "11A", (Which we referred to as "the other one") when we wanted a little more privacy, or when jammers would occasionally appear. The people on 11 thought that we were doing it to deliberately bleed them more, which was not the case (At least not before they started giving us grief). As a result we began to be subjected to regular carrier throwers. The jammers were not too bright though, as they did it from their base stations and some were easy to identify by the unique sound of their key ups, as well as signal level. This made tracking them down fairly easy. But being caught jamming, only made them more belligerent. I mean, if you're going to do something, and you're caught doing it, just be a man and fess up to what you did, especially when the evidence was provided. But no, spineless weasels that they were, they continued to deny it and were actually incensed that we had the "nerve" to accuse them (What was that about "thou doth protest too much"?). This situation eventually solved itself when both Channel 11 and 13 pretty much broke up in the early 80's.
This pretty much concludes the list of the most intense conflicts that I was involved with over the years. There were other smaller conflicts that may have lasted less than a week, or were so sporadic, that they didn't rate any special consideration. It's funny how a constant source of irritation brings out the worst behavior in people. People who are normally mature adults regress to child-like playground attitudes when they feel somehow wronged. It's especially pronounced, when they feel that they have a greater "right" to operate their radio than the other guy does. The fact that we were "kids" at the time drove many of these people to deny us any due respect, that we might have otherwise deserved had we too been adults. Such value judgments and rationalizations only worked to justify and re-enforce their blunt rudeness. When we failed to "obey", or worse, challenged the adults, we were considered "miscreant children", and even further vilified. I believe that on the radio, everyone deserves equal initial respect and consideration. It's a two-way street. You respect me, and I'll respect you right back. You jam my station, and you'll get jammed right back. It's a simple action/reaction concept, yet many people just didn't seem understand that. They would lambaste, criticize, and harass us and when we responded with sarcasm, satire, and criticisms of our own, they had the nerve to act shocked and surprised, and then would drone on about how the youth today have no respect (huh?). Or they would dump a carrier on us, and then when we did it back to them, they'd act as if they were the undeserving victim. A perfect example of the hypocritical "do as I say, not as I do attitude". For our part, we didn't help the situation all that much. Our natural tendency to become unswervingly defensive did more to throw gasoline on the fire than water. Had we been a little more accommodating initially, we might have defused many conflicts. But our attitude at the time was that we were minding our business, now you mind yours and leave us alone. Any confrontation was a direct affront to our "Channel sovereignty", which had to be defended "to the death". Losing was not an option. Maybe it's a guy thing, when that post pubescent testosterone brings out that relentless competitive drive which makes backing down something only for wimps and losers. Maybe it's simple pride. And, truth be told again, many of us enjoyed a small degree of drama and conflict on occasion, as it broke up the usual monotony on the channel, and it also gave us an outlet for stress relief. In that respect, CB radio very much reflects and mirrors similar real life social situations.
Most of us managed to grow and survive in this atmosphere, and I learned a lot about human nature and psychology from my experiences on the radio. I'd say it has enriched my perspective and insight. So I guess there's a silver lining to this cloud after all.........