CB radio was one of my favourite crazes of the 1980s. To be sure, it was a decade packed full of crazes, but CB stands out as one of my fondest memories.
CB had been invented in America by a man called Al Gross way back in the 1940s, and it had been up and running there since the 1950s. In England, CB usage had been known on a very small scale since the mid-1960s, but it was illegal. Films and songs like Convoy heightened interest in CB in the late 1970s, and in 1980 an illegal craze went spiralling out of control.
In 1981, the illegal CB craze had grown so huge it was wreaking havoc in some quarters, with a hospital claiming it was interfering with heart monitoring machines, and a fire brigade desperate to track down a chattering CB'er who kept "fanning out" onto their frequency via a faulty CB. The Conservative government decided to legalise CB during 1980, but it took until 2 November 1981 for this to happen. Then, shops sold out of CB's and the craze went wide. It was at its peak in 1983, with 300,000 licences sold.
In 1982, the craze went to Coronation Street where Eddie Yeats (Geoffrey Hughes), former lovable bad lad turned binman, met the love of his life over the airwaves... over to the TV Times, 2-8/10/1982:
CB slang and the language of love
Actress Veronica Doran has a problem with some of her fans - she can't understand a word they say.
It all started a few months back when, as Marion Willis in Coronation Street, she was driving a florist's van for a living which was fitted with a Citizens' Band radio.
Under the romantic call-sign of 'Stardust Lil' she made contact with another CB fan, the far from skinny 'Slim Jim', alias Eddie Yeats. And as every fan of the Street now knows, the language of the airways became the language of love as they met, fell for each other and became engaged.
"I still get a lot of mail from CB users,' says Veronica, 'and lots of invitations to their get-togethers.'
But Veronica is the first to admit that before the Coronation Street part she had never used a CB radio and the esoteric language of CB fanatics was a total mystery to her. Most of it still is.
'I had to tell one person on the phone that I hadn't the faintest idea what they were talking about," she says.
This article dovetails neatly in with an e-mail I received asking me about "nuisance" CB users, out to make trouble. I rarely came across anybody like that, but they were a feature of both the illegal and legal CB eras, sadly. One occasion stands out in my memory.
I was out one evening with my mate Pete in his car, circa 1984. We were on the CB, looking for nice ladies to chat up, sorry, I mean chat TO, when Pete got into a discussion with a male breaker who became increasingly hostile.
Not known for backing down from confrontations (despite the white legwarmers he often wore), Pete got pretty steamed up, too. "Yeah? Well come on, I'm in the car park opposite St George's Church. Get down 'ere - I'll take you on!"
Mr Not-So-Good-Buddy assured us, in no uncertain terms, that he was on his way. By the sound of him, he wouldn't stop at an eyeball - he'd tear us limb from limb.
Pete sat silently behind the steering wheel, face grim and set, staring at the entrance to the car park.
"See you, Pete!" I firmly believed (and still do) that discretion is the better part of valour, and prepared to get out of the car.
Pete grinned at me, delighted that he'd made me sweat: "Where'd ya think you're goin'? You didn't think I was serious, did you?" and he started the car and away we went. Phew! Curious though I was to see if the breaker was as fierce as his voice, I could live with it!
Things were usually much lighter than that, and Pete had a speaker under his bonnet, attached to the rig, so we could make public announcements as we went along the road: "Kill that cat. Would you PLEASE kill that cat?" was a fave.
That ties in with another recent e-mail I had, asking:
Don't you think the 1980's were mad?
Of course not, mateyboots! They were perfectly sane!