Steve (a.k.a. Rattlesnake,(1971-1976),Bolt of Lightning (1977-)) was a member of our local radio crowd, and someone who seemed to have been there since CB took its first breath, at least in our area. From as early as 1970 (possibly even sooner), up until the early 90's, Steveís radio presence was pretty much a fixture in the greater Norristown area. Steve was about 4 years older than me and, also like me, he had lost his father at a young age. The death of her husband affected Steve's mother psychologically and, as a result, she became withdrawn and somewhat depressed and didnít keep after Steve (or herself either). As a consequence of his mother's inattentiveness, Steve didnít have a good role model for things like personal hygiene, or advice on how to cultivate and maintain lasting relationships with other people. In fact, he had a hard time interacting with people in person. When he would visit someone, he would often make inappropriate comments spoken, not with malice, but purely from ignorance, as he truly didn't know better. He also never knew when to leave. He was oblivious to subtle hints, and many people, (Including my mother) after overcoming their initial politeness, had to literally push him out of the door. His physical appearance didn't help him much either as he was short, overweight, with wild bright red hair, and a bad case of acne. These facts would lead many people to conclude that he was socially challenged. This apparent shortcoming, combined with his not-so-flattering physical features, caused him to endure the lion's share of abuse at the hands of his school aged peers. This is probably one reason why he gravitated to radio as a hobby. Radio was the ideal place, where he could escape from the consequences of his physical appearance, and the worst aspects of his personality. On the plus side, Steve was highly intelligent and had a strong aptitude for electronics. He would then use these talents to repair and modify radios for the locals. There wasn't a problem he couldn't fix, or a mod that he couldn't do. He was the quintessential "radio wiz", to quote another local. By leveraging his expertise at radio, he was able to network his way into the local CB "in crowd", many of whom were willing to put up with his personality quirks, so long as he would work on their stuff for free or very cheap. But these tenuous "friendships" would usually not last long as his ineptness at social interactions would eventually trip him up, and he would end up alienating many of those same people. While most people tolerated Steve, largely due to the things which he could do for them, very few would use the term "friend", to describe him. He also had a dark side, which brought him the most trouble. It manifested itself as a "Jekyll and Hyde" persona developed, no doubt, from his underlying bitterness in response to the abuse that he was forced to endure, which I'm sure he felt no personal responsibility for. He would put on a smile and talk friendly to a group of people one day, and then the next day, he would ride around in his car and surreptitiously dump carriers, play sound effects, or disguise his voice in order to agitate and disrupt them. Sometimes, he did it just to liven things up, or to stir up the hornetís nest on an otherwise orderly, but "boring" (to him) channel. Other times, he did it to "get back" at someone who made a derogatory comment about him. One of his regular partners in crime was Jimmy, who also enjoyed agitating people, usually those on the "adult" channels. Outwardly, Steve would try to play the victim role, and complain about all the trouble that seemed to follow him. Yet secretly, it seemed that he wasn't truly in his element unless there was some form of strife occurring on the channel, which he was never far away from. During the occasional channel disputes, Steve also liked to publicly project an air of neutrality, while secretly playing both sides against each other. But like burning a candle from both ends, sometimes Steve would get burned in the middle. He would often come to our aid during disputes with other channel groups, but then we'd come to find out later that he had "double crossed" us, by divulging personal information about us to the "enemy". I guess Steve felt that he could buy friendship by being the hero. I guess he never figured that either side would eventually find out who told them what. But the biggest point, which he didn't seem to understand, was that no one had any deep respect for someone who would sell out their friends at the drop of a hat for future considerations. Steve truly was a person who desperately wanted the respect and admiration of his radio peers, but just couldn't figure out the proper way to earn it, so he tried taking shortcuts, which ultimately came back to bite him. And that frustration is what drove him to act out in the ways that he did.
I first ran across Steve when I made contact with the local teenagers CB group which I had stumbled on in 1972. Steve lived about a half mile away from me, at the upper end of my neighborhood. When we first met, he didnít care too much for me as, I guess, he viewed me as an up and coming "threat" to his monopolistic stranglehold on radio knowledge within our group, based on my intense interest in all things electronic. But his fear and contempt were not warranted, as I was still a long way off from being in a position to challenge his level of expertise. But something must have made him feel threatened because when our fledgling kids group started to obtain 5 watt CB's, he actually sabotaged one of them, by turning the transmit power down to under 1 watt. Some time later, he softened in his viewpoint and looked to me as a sort of "kindred spirit" (minus the acne). He would often call me on the phone to complain about some injustice that he was forced to endure at the hands of a radio adversary, or to talk about some radio related project. I can also remember visiting his house and marveling at the various haphazard piles of radio parts, and other electronic flotsam, that he had littered all over his bedroom. It's anyone's guess where he got it all from. Once in a while, he would give me some trinket of junk to play with, including the chassis which I used to build my first amplifier. He once gave me his 5/8th wave ground plane antenna right off of his roof, which he had just smoked after a long on-air battle with the big gun operators on Channel 4, with amplifiers blazing. He even had piles of stuff, including his current station radio, spread out on his bed. I donít know how (or where) he slept at night. Steve was always wheeling and dealing in radio gear, and he never kept the same radio for long. Over the years, he had owned more rigs, amplifiers, mics, and antennas, than anyone could have imagined. If it was a popular radio, Steve had probably owned one at some point. Helping him feed this habit, was a job which he held for a time at a local radio swap store called "The Electronic Exchange", where people could buy, sell, or trade used electronic gear. Many of Steve's project radios came from there. Steve was also the original owner in our local group (I have no idea who owned it before), of what would eventually become my Midland 13-885. Steve also ran a multitude of H.F. ham rigs on CB, including a Tempo One, a Yaesu FT-101B (and "E"), a Tempo 2020, a Drake TR-7, and an Icom IC-720.
In the late 70ís, Steve passed the test and got his ham license. He would then vacillate back and forth between CB and ham radio. Heíd buy up a whole bunch of stuff for one service, then sell it all off in a few months, and then buy a bunch of stuff for the other. He was truly someone caught between the social politics of the two services. He didn't quite fit in, or feel comfortable with the stiff lipped, serious decorum on ham radio, but felt he was a notch above the backbiting and inane chatter on CB. Hence his continual vacillation. At one time, he even had an operational 2 meter repeater (WA3RQO/R 145.210) nestled among the piles of stuff in his room. Also around that time, Steve's mother passed away, and he inherited the house. He wasted no time before purchasing a 70' tilt-over tower, and outfitted it with various ham antennas and topped it with a Avanti Sigma 5/8th wave CB antenna. This would give Steve the biggest signal in our general area for a long while to come, which had been a goal of his from the very beginning. His piles of electronic "junque" spread from his room to practically the whole house. In 1981, after a little prodding, Steve administered the Novice ham test to me (along with Cactus and Uncle Chuckie). Shortly afterward would begin the slow decline of Steve's CB activity. Steve got involved with another serious commercial radio guy and they played around on GMRS and private business frequencies for a spell. I didn't see too much of Steve after the mid 80's, as he made the fatal mistake of insulting my wife, (He didn't even realize what he had said) during one of his frequent impromptu visits, and she threw him out of the house on his tail and told him to never come back. But I used to bump into him on the air and at hamfests from time to time. He eventually got a decent full-time job repairing and maintaining the radios for CONRAIL in Allentown, which was a bit of a commute for him. While the job paid well, it severely bit into his radio time. So it was understandable that Steve became pretty much a part timer on CB by the mid 90's. He would soon suffer a decline in health which would finally end his radio career.
Always controversial, sometimes fun, and always striving for that perfection in signal, Steve was one of the most colorful characters in the local area back in the day.
Steve, unfortunately, passed away a few years back, due to complications from an earlier stroke. His house was cleaned out, sold and remodeled, the weeds and overgrowth cleared away. Youíd never know, except for that large concrete slab where his 70' tower base once was, that this was the place where the "Bolt of Lightning" once lived. RIP Steve, hopefully you finally got the respect you wanted.