My Days on Citizen Band Radio
During the 1980s I was a keen CB'er; my tag or 'handle' was Delta
The Citizen Band radio started well before the 1980s, using the AM (Alfa Mike), but this was illegal as it interfered with other radio users: BBC, emergency services, etc. In 1982, the FM wavelength (Foxtrot Mike) launched channel 40, just for that purpose.
CB Radio was a serious business. There was a lot of money to be spent on their 'rigs'. There was the Comtrom, Maxcom, Midland. There was also the top of the line with Audioline, and Uniden. Of course you had to have an aerial, too. Those likely to have been fitted to the roof of your property would have been either the 18" Diapole or a Starduster. Magmounts were used for vehicles.
I soon made a lot of friends in my area, particularly with the town taxi drivers – one day this was to be a life-saver.
It was around 1985 when I came home to find the house full of smoke. My sister Annie had put the chip pan on, and, having forgotten it, gone out to the local shop. Having sorted out the chip pan, I then found my younger sister Joan in the front room. She was overcome by the acrid smoke. Not having a telephone in the house, I ran upstairs, got onto the CB and tuned into the taxi drivers' channel and asked for help.
I hadn't a penny to my name, but a 'Big T', a man called Mick, came on the channel saying he was on his way to collect us!
On the way to the hospital my sister passed out. In the distance an ambulance came into view, so Mick set off after it, even though a police car was behind us. Without the CB my sister could have been dead before an ambulance got to the house. Sadly, Joan died the following Christmas after a massive heart attack; she was only 44 years old.
Mick was to become a hero of the Bradford City Football fire: he saved both his nephews, one at a time. Two years later he died without warning.
For two years, or more, I was the chairman of the Blackbull CB Club
in Little Horton Lane, Bradford, Yorkshire.
One day we were asked to help find a little girl missing in the Leeds area, so more than 200 hundred members of my club – with at least twelve hand-held CBs – went to search the fields.
Because of the hand-held CBs we could let the police in our group know, should anything turn up, where in our line it could be found. The little girl was not in our search area.
It was much later that the body of Sarah Harper was discovered.
On a much lighter note, maybe the most significant use for the CB came when, one Christmas, it had snowed heavily all over the UK. Women were trying to find out if their husbands and sons stranded from London
to Scotland, were safe and under cover.
As most were likely to be out of the range of their house-based sets (in the immediate areas), my group set up ten or so channels to relay information of the drivers stranded up and down in England. Within a few hours the relay from London to Scotland was complete. By 4am, those stranded in their vehicles had been able to pass on messages to their worried loved ones.
I was only a small cog in the larger machine. Without CB some would almost certainly have perished, having been lost on the outskirts. We even started an emergency on channel nine, this helped many people over the years.
So as you see the CB was useful, if used properly.
Sadly, there are always those who have to spoil the fun for others. CB began to wane when users found their conversations being overrun by fools jamming them out, or playing their music (pirate radio) over our channels.
You could say the CB was a forerunner of the mobile phone, it could be used in a house, car, or even in the street with a hand-held unit.
The CB was a lifeline to many, and some people are still using it today, here, and in other countries.