by H. Jerome Chapman
If you mention the phrase “social media” today, a number of applications come to mind. Facebook, certainly, is the foremost name people think of, along with Twitter and several others. Most people regard the “Social Media” as a new arena that did not previously exist. The fact is, I got into “social media” in the mid ‘60’s.
The US and most countries around the world, made some space available on the radio spectrum for something called “Citizen Band Radio”. This was intended to allow anyone who wanted to own a two- way radio for local personal and business communications.
In the early stages there was a license issued by the FCC to each individual who requested one and there was a license fee of $20. Radios were fairly expensive for the time. A mobile radio for the car could go for $200 and a base station for use at home could go up to close to $400. Radios were limited in range for direct communication as they were limited by the FCC to 5 Watts in to the final stage of the radio. 20 Miles was very good for most sets on a fairly quiet day. (Many will tell you about the time they talked 50 miles, and in some rare cases that was possible, depending on terrain). In town the range was cut down.
The basic technology was the same as Amateur (Ham) Radio and the frequencies that were assigned to CB (Citizens Band), 27 MC, was taken out of the 11 meter band. Antennas could not be over 20 foot higher than the existing structure they were mounted to according to the FCC. And, the CB operator, unlike the Ham operator, was not allowed to “talk skip”. Skip was radio waves that were originated in some other part of the country, say Indiana, that had bounced off of the atmosphere and was being received in, say, Jacksonville. Ham radio operators love these “skip” transmissions because it allowed them to talk to Russia and England, etc. In most cases, it was not possible to have a conversation with the other party on CB because there were hundreds of thousands of signals being transmitted on the same channel at the same time. But late at night, under the right conditions it was possible to talk long distances.
But, in my area at the time I decided to get a CB, there were probably less than 100 people with the units and the channels locally were pretty clear. Although time was limited to a single conversation by FCC rules that was largely ignored. Group conversations, also not allowed under FCC rules, would take place on one of the original 23 channels (later 40) and the participants would talk about the events of the day, the weather, fishing, or just plain non-sense. Just a “social” group on the radio. Often, someone would key their mike and call “Breaker”. That would be someone wanting to say something by “breaking in” the conversation or use the channel.
Names like Browning, Johnson, Pierce Simpson, Cobra and Demco were manufacturing radios. Antennas became more sophisticated and directional beams were introduced to CB. And they went up on towers much higher than the 20 foot rule. Power was increased on the sets beyond the FCC 5 watt limit. Some sets could be easily increased with a piece of wire and other CB’ers just bought ham radio linear power amplifiers and hooked them up! 100 watts, 200 watts, and more. Now people were talking for super long distances and skip talking went on at night after the channel traffic went down. Phrases like “What’s your 20”, “10-4, Good Buddy” came into common use. Everybody had a CB “Handle”. The name they were known by on the CB. Social media was in full swing! Everybody was getting a call sign. Mine was KMM6217. CB radio now does not require a license or a call sign.
The Arab Oil embargo of 1973 and the 55 MPH speed limit made CB’s very popular with truckers who used them to try and avoid speed traps and the “smokey’s” trying to stop speeders. Motorists increased their usage as a way to do the same and to piggyback on the trucker’s info. Terms like “Front Door” and “Back Door” came into usage. More “Social Media”. People were talking to people they had never met and likely never would. Channel 19 was the truckers channel and most motorists came to use that channel when on the road.
The $20 license fee was dropped and low cost imported radios started flooding the market and it wasn’t long before there were millions of CB’s in cars and homes. This was the beginning of the end for the CB Social Media. And the cell phone was the last nail in the coffin.
I was winding up a visit to Valdosta, Ga. on business when I got on I-75 North to go home toward Sandy Point. As customary at that time, I turned on my CB and put it on channel 19. I would often have on my car radio and have the CB “monitoring” road conditions just in case there was a wreck or a “smokey” up ahead. No cell phone back then to distract me!
As soon as I got on the road I noticed that two truck drivers, obviously headed north also, were carrying on a very obscene conversation. While the use of foul language was not unheard of on CB, it was rare to hear this degree of obscenity and the length of the barrage that went on. The two drivers were obviously using linear amplifiers to boost their power and were talking over everyone. I turned my radio down to almost off hoping they would eventually shut up. The conversation continued for several miles before they finally stopped long enough for someone else to get a chance to speak.
When they did stop talking, a voice came on the radio. It was the kind of voice that made me reach down and turn up the volume on my CB. It is hard to describe in words but mesmerizing does come to mind.
The male voice was calm, direct, even and authoritative. Attention getting. He said, “Fellows, I am speaking to the two truckers that just stopped talking. I am shocked that you would be talking on this channel and using the kind of language that you have been using. There are a lot of women and children and others who should not have to hear that type of vulgarity. I have my wife and children in my car. I don’t understand why you would talk that way at all and I certainly think you could have gone to another less used channel if you had to talk that way.”
Then he said what really set the stage: “As a minister of the gospel, I feel I am compelled to say something about your language and the rudeness of your behavior and to ask you to please consider doing differently in the future.” He un-keyed the mike and for a moment or two there was silence. All of the members of the CB Social Media on I-75 were listening.
One of the drivers came back on. He made several unkind comments in reply to the preacher and then the other driver did the same. They told the preacher, in no uncertain terms, what he could do with his radio, his religion, his preaching and his wife and kids! Then one of them said, “Now what do you think about that language, preacher?”
Before there was “cyber bullying”, we had “CB bullying”!
By this time, my CB radio volume is on high and I expect everyone in our Social Media group driving up I-75 had theirs up, too. What would the preacher say, if anything, to the two crude and rude and tough talking truckers? Quote some Scripture, maybe?
The preacher did come back on. There was no change in his voice. He was not yelling. He did not even sound mad. But the way he said what he said had my attention. And he was not quoting Scripture!
“Fellows, I have been a lot of places, met a lot of people, and seen a lot of things. Some of which I am not proud of. I have not always been a preacher. I have been from Canada to Mexico. From the East coast to the West coast and other places around the world. I have met a lot of truckers. Most are fine people and I have several in my church. But I can tell you this for a fact, I have never met a truck driver that I could not whip. If you two fellows will pull your trucks over right here, I’ll be glad to give you both a demonstration. I think God will forgive me if I gave you fellows a whipping right here along I-75. Just pull over and let me know where you are.”
He un-keyed his mike. I was anxiously awaiting the truckers’ reply. There was none. This was a response they had not anticipated. No one spoke for several minutes as we drove along. Finally, another trucker came on and said something like,
“Hey Big Jim, did you hear those drivers come back to that preacher fellow and tell him where they were going to stop? I sure wanted to stop and watch that.”
Big Jim replied, “No, I did not! Do you think something happened to their radios? What do you think, Pecan Man?”
Pecan Man said, “I think they knew that preacher meant business and they believed him when he said he ain’t never met a trucker he couldn’t whip. I am pretty sure they won’t be stopping to find out. ”
I know I believed him. And, I feel sure, so did everyone that was listening!
There was something about how he said what he said. He “had not always been a preacher”, he said.
He had been down this road before, cleaned out a few bars in bar fights, and had whipped a few truckers along the way and, one day, “got religion”! At least that day, he shut up two big talking truck drivers on “social media” driving on I-75 in South Georgia. That’s a “big 10-4”. And now I am, “10-7”.