Is it just me entering early curmudgeon-hood, or did anything good ever come out of the ‘70s?
Sadly, I find good things fade from memory but bad stuff latches on forever.
One will almost never remember the name of the guy who fixed your bicycle tire when you had a flat, miles from home, right before a huge thunderstorm hit. One will almost never forget the lyrics to “Seasons in the Sun” without the help of a lobotomy.
Other loony, silly, pathetic memories, such as the denim leisure suit, two-tone shoes, mood rings, and K-Tel Records will be forever etched, in living rayon, upon the collective psyche of that decade.
And of course, who could forget the promise of the open road, the secret language of road warriors and the mystic talisman that gave us a glimpse into that nomadic tribe. That’s right; I’m talking about the citizens band radio.
Ah, the CB! A whole new language and twenty-one channels upon which to speak it. You just weren’t somebody if you didn’t sport that fiberglass antenna whipping jauntily in the wind from the rear windshield of your ’75 Vega. If you didn’t have a “handle” – your radio code name, your call letters, if you didn’t answer even the simplest yes or no question with “That’s a Big 10-4, good buddy,” or “That’s a big negatory, good buddy,” you just weren’t with it. You were a nerd, a ‘zoid, a social donut of the lowest order. You might as well not even be alive as not own a CB radio, or failing that, at least be knowledgeable enough to pass as one who might.
Remember that record album – a K-Tel, of course — trucker songs like, “Won’t someone out there please come back and talk to Teddy Bear?” Instead of liner notes, the whole inside cover was a translation chart for all CB 10 codes, including, as the deep-voiced announcer would enthusiastically intone, “Hey, good buddy; I’ve got to 10-100” – which meant, “I have to go to the bathroom.”
This was the ultimate for sixth graders everywhere. Sixth grade teachers, however, would have yet one more reason to roll exasperated eyes into the backs of their heads every time a kid would raise his hand and say, “Hey Mrs. Blotchwartz; I have to 10-100. Can I have a pass?”
I remember one kid who was part of a cutting edge CB family. They not only had CBs in every vehicle they owned, even their bass boat, they had a home “base station” CB with which they could talk to each other, and all truckers within a 500 mile radius. The family had apparently chosen a waterfowl motif for their handles: Mom and Dad were Mama Duck and Papa Duck, I think they had a Brother and Sister Duck, and as the youngest, this kid was “Little Duck.”
He even had a denim jacket – probably from his denim leisure suit – upon the back of which Mama Duck had personally embroidered in genuine Rhinestones his handle, call letters, and base station: “Little Duck, Puddle Base, KCB-1963,” or some such.
I think most of the kids in his class thought he was a jerk, but they had to concede that at least he was a snappy dresser.
As with all things considered trendy, my parents steadfastly refused to join this aberration in pop culture. Dad’s reasons were pretty straightforward; his hatred of herd mentality was eclipsed only by his steadfast refusal to spend money on anything he considered wasteful or foolish – in other words nearly anything and everything I ever wanted.
I can still hear his response to my request to borrow fifty dollars.
“FORTY DOLLARS!” he thundered. “What do you need with THIRTY DOLLARS!”
It would have never, ever occurred to me to work for this money. As the great Pat McManus says, whining is the kid’s version of a credit card.
Of course, one big reason people wanted CBs, especially after movies like “White Line Fever” and “Smokey and the Bandit”, was so they could speed at will, all the while warning each other where the “Smokies” (state troopers) were lurking. I would often try this argument in the debate with my parents over the CB. In retrospect, it is ridiculous for a family with a ’72 Dodge Polara and a ’74 Pinto hatchback to need a CB for the purposes of terrorizing the nation’s highways at high speeds.
But, once, I did make my point.
It happened one rainy day while my mother and I were on our way to the family farm in Orangeburg County. Mom was running late, so throwing caution to the wind, she had that Pinto up to speeds exceeding well over 62 miles per hour in 55 MPH zones. As usual, I was yammering on about the need for a CB – if we had one, we could tell dad we were going to be late; if we had one, we would know where the cops were, yadda yadda. Finally, Mom had enough.
D&*!!!!! If I hear one more word about CB radios, I swear I’ll pull this car over and WEAR YOU OUT!”
And at that very moment, blue lights appeared, a siren wailed, and like that we were pinched.
“If you say one word about this, I’ll kill you,” mother growled before slipping into that Magnolia dripping brogue she always reserved for state troopers and senior military officers.
Later, like around 1983, we would all get a good laugh out of it. But that was it; we never did get a CB, although I think I did get a denim leisure suit.