Breaker, breaker one-nine. How ‘bout ya, Good Buddy? Got your ears on? What’s your handle? Where’s your 20? Over.
Those were phrases heard around our house back in the early 60s. They were slang terms used by people that owned a Citizens’ Band radio, or CB radio for short. Yes, my dad had had a CB base unit in our kitchen as well as a mobile unit in his car. Yup! We had cutting-edge technology in our remote rural area near Chatt.
The CB radio was invented in 1945 for short distance communication between people. Owners were initially required to have a license but that law was eventually dropped. By the late 1960s CB radios were popular with motorists and particularly popular with truckers. I don’t know if many truckers still use CB radios. I imagine cell phones have pretty much taken their place.
The mobile CB unit could be considered the bulky equivalent of today’s cell phone, with a few other differences. A cord was attached to the mike so you were physically connected to the mobile unit while talking. There was a talking range of a few miles. An antenna had to be affixed to the car. My dad had a long whip antenna that gave his car a look that was not appealing to me. CB transmissions were noisy and difficult for me to understand. What could be deciphered was not private and everyone within range on that particular channel could hear and join in on the conversation. But that could be part of the fun. Despite all of this, it was a way to talk to others while driving. And that was pretty cool back then.
When you got your CB license back in the 60s you received your own call letters. Our call letters were KNM-2696. My dad even had postcards that gave our CB information. You get an idea of his wacky sense of humor from the little cartoon on the postcard. My mom’s name is on the postcard but I don’t think she ever talked on the CB radio. I think my dad also had a bumper sticker with his call letters. He had an hour-long commute to work every day and I’m sure he used his CB a lot while going to and from.
The “handle” was the CB user’s nickname. After all, you wouldn’t want to use your given name. My dad’s handle was The Railsplitter, chosen because of his WWII service in the 84th Infantry Division, aka The Railsplitters.
Joe put a CB radio in my car not long after we were married. My CB radio was mainly to call for help in case I ever had car trouble, and I rarely used it. My handle was Tooth Fairy, a good nickname considering my profession.
CBers have their own long list of slang terms. Many of the terms were used to warn of upcoming traffic conditions or problems but they were mainly used to warn of police cars up ahead. A few slang terms that I remember:
Back door—area behind a vehicle
I got your back door—I’m watching your back
Bear/Smokey Bear—police officer or highway patrol
Bear in the air—police in aircraft
Bear in the grass—speed trap
Bear taking pictures—police with radar
Bear with ears—police officer listening to others on CB
Blinders—high beam headlights
Breaker—letting others know you would like to start talking
Breaker One-nine—you would like to start talking on channel 19, a widely used channel
Clean & Green—no police ahead
Convoy—group of 3 or more truckers in a line
Double nickel—55 mph speed limit
Four-wheeler—car or truck with only 4 wheels
Good Buddy—friend or acquaintance on CB radio
Got your ears on?—asking someone if they are on the air and listening
I’m gone/We gone—end of transmission
Picture-taker—police with radar gun
Pony Express–mail carrier
Put the hammer down—flooring the accelerator
Ratchetjaw—person talking non-stop
Ten-twenty, or Twenty—a location
Well, I’m done ratchetjawing. We gone, Good Buddy. Ten-four. Over and out.