Breaker, Breaker – Laugh, The CB Radio

Today we all need a break from the endless news cycle so I thought it may be a great idea to write this temporary distraction piece to spur a laugh or two. So, here it goes. 

If I want to head back in time a bit it only takes a second or two for me. You only need to mention the “CB” Radio. That is the Citizen’s Band (CB) Radio for those who may not have been a user or even around in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The CB preceded most all other mobile communication and it was a method our “Big Rig Drivers”, local Pick up owners, volunteer firemen and just about anyone (who was cool) would use to talk to others from their vehicle. They would mount it under their dash and it would open up their world of public conversation at a distance. It was not secure communication by any means and everything you said to a friend through your microphone could be listened to by anyone on that channel. 

Those connected had large “Whip” antennas on their cars or trucks and replicated the same with bigger antennas on their homes. The mobile whip antenna was a thing of beauty symbolizing the muscle under the hood (or dash in this case). You were a connected member of society who likely could respond faster than anyone else to any chaos known to man or beast. This could be a car accident, a fire or simply an overlooked get together that you had only stumbled upon by hearing it on the CB. A “Home base station” was recognizable by the huge triangular shaped frame antenna that seemed like it could reach out to another planet. I’m not sure, but this could be a variant theory of where the phrase “Bigger is better” came from. It seemed like the big and bad CB operators had antenna’s on poles that extended hundreds of feet into the sky and dwarfed their homes. Sadly, I do not think the antenna range was ever tested so it’s likely that bigger might have only represented a more obnoxious disruption to the horizon. 

There was a wave of television shows that spurred the popularity of CBs including Movin’ On, BJ and the Bear or the big screen movies entitled, Smokey and the Bandit, Breaker – Breaker and Convoy to name a few. A new language was born where Smokies were the police, Billy Goat meant Old Timer and 10-4 was a resounding understanding and agreement of the facts you just stated. These influences were deep for a young kid looking for an adventurous life where the good guys always won and everyone was just “Cool.” To participate, you must understand that every CB user needed a handle. That handle was his or her name to be known by when speaking into the handheld microphone for the airwaves. I recall the day I was listening to hear some “Big Rig” talk and I picked up a skipping signal from the stratosphere echoing a southern drawl voice all the way from Louisiana. It was not what the trucker said, it was the fact that I could hear it. I lived in upstate New York so you might be able to imagine the glee of a 10-year-old equal to discovering a precious gem in the backyard or contacting aliens. The man on the other end of the CB was “Snake Eyes.” I thought that was the best handle I had ever heard and thought it clearly represented a serpent able to strike with a potent venom at any moment. Little did I know at my age it likely represented rolling two die with a single mark on each. At that moment I created my name and took on my handle, “Puny Eyes.” 

Puny Eyes sounded almost as cool as Snake Eyes. After all, it included “Eyes” and that in itself would catch random listeners attention. I am not sure where I got the “Puny” part of the handle, but the definitions I retrieved in later years betrayed “Cool.” Puny is small or sickly. Wow, small, sickly eyes! That description does not represent someone who you would want to talk to on the CB radio or how I wanted to be described. I didn’t have a deep voice at that age and community trust was better, but that name should have likely been adjusted. Besides, my eyes were normal sized and I was not unusually small or sickly. Parents who let their kids use the CB might have restricted its use these days with the thought of “Puny Eyes” being at the other side of the conversation. Today, most kids would be restricted from going to “that internet site” if they had a desire to chat. 

During my CB-years I had a childhood friend whose handle was Red Fox. He had chosen his name modifying his dad’s handle, Gray Fox. I appreciated that, but his handle was not unique or interesting enough and did not come close to my Snake Eyes inspiration. My handle rolled off the tongue. Not considering my thoughtful reflections of today I stuck with Puny Eyes! Red Fox and I chatted about “stuff” probably twice per week for a year or two. It was a great outlet and likely entertained the open airwaves with our innocent topics. It is interesting to compare then and now. What if the phone of today was open communication? I’m pretty sure that the privacy police would be on us pretty quick, but what an interesting conscience keeper. Although the CB radio created only a false sense of anonymity, users kept a sense of honesty and cleanliness in their conversation. Obviously, I listened with my untarnished youthful ears and may have saw the world rosier than it was, but that is the memory that stuck in my head. The reach of my CB radio seemed continental and maybe limitless, but no fear was ever produced by its use. It was just pure joy. 

Breaker, breaker, this is Puny Eyes signing off with some lessons of fearlessness, decency, courtesy and respect taught to me through my CB radio in the good ol’ days! Thanks for listening in and hope this “Break” took you away from the stress of today for a bit! 

“Reflect and Laugh to Refresh your Spirit” 

and then …

“Do Your Job” the best way you can 

Jim Laterza