Visiting your site sure
brought back some
memories. Often i wished that i could point
to some ancient Key or dusty Collins or
carefully crafted breadboard 6L6 rig and say
"That's where i got my start", but no, it was
not to be.
I got my start being the
new kid on the block
in a not-too-nice area of Philadelphia, newly
arrived from Germany, 1968. My father had
just retired from military service and we were
trying out our civilian legs. Well, at least, I
was, being chased by one street gang or
another, and getting my share of gang
I was turning 14 years
old, and my parents
had already noticed how interested i was in
broadcast DX. Perhaps a pair of walkie talkies
might get this kid off the street and making
So, for my 14th
birthday i got a pair of Lloyds
4 transistor walkie talkies that got me . . .
well . . . about half a block.
receiver types, i could hear the whole CB band
and then some all at once. I was determined to
be able to cover the block. But how ? Better
antenna? Well, i stuck a coat-hangar out my
second floor bedroom window in our apartment.
That just got me more noise, but no better range.
So . . . more power! Yeah, snap on another 9v
Battery! Hmmm, almost got the block, now.
Snap on another. Hmmm . . . i definately have
the block covered. The kid in 'H' building across
the street can hear me on his DX-150 short-wave.
Well, more must be better,
snap on a fourth ( 36
v into a 9v circuit!) then a 5th! I hit the PTT and
said "Is anybody there?" and a loud voice returned
and said "Did you say 'Yellow Bear'?"
"No" i said,
half stunned that a real radio responded.
PHZZZZZzzzzzz (pop). Walky
But "Yellow Bear"
It was Christmas, now, and
with the passing of
those Lloyds walky-talkies ( i broke the other one.)
mom and dad thought they might just try me out
with something that would go a little further. So
on Christmas Eve i opened up a box containing
a Genuine 1.5 watt Sears Walkie Talkie, with a
warranty that covered everything but acts of God.
Man! It had 2 channels. 9 and 11. By new years
day i made my first real contact with a fellow named
"Texas Traveller", who lived at the other end of our
apartment complex in Devon, PA. Harry was his
name, and he invited me over. When i arrived, i
was greeted by one of his neighbors, a kid with
whom i had also talked to on that Sears Walkie
Talkie. He had a Midland 1 watt, given to him by
Harry. That Midland was his world. This boy was
wheel-chair bound with MS, and was not in good
shape. Harry, the "Texas Traveler" opened up his
little world with that Midland. The first impression
i had with Radio in general, and CB in particular
was formed that day: Radio was a way of making
friends and opening up your world. That's what
communication is all about.
To this 14 year old kid,
Harry's station was tremendous.
He had a beautiful, brand new Lafayette Comstat 25b,
black with brushed aluminum, and his antenna was up
some 85 feet on the 4th floor roof. It was a Super Mag.
Harry's mic was a Turner +2 desk model, and the image
of that arrangement burned in my mind for years to follow.
Harry could talk anywhere
in the Delaware Valley he
wanted, or so it seemed. Even into Jersey. Harry
made it a point to talk to us kids on the walkie talkies,
a habit i carry on to this day. Christmas was his
favourite time, because all the kids got a walkie of some
sort, and it was a thrill for them to be formally addressed
over their new present!
But the DX bug had bitten
me. The sears walkie talky
did open my vista, and Harry had given me a Lafayette
Tiger-tail base-loaded antenna to bolt onto my window
frame. Well sir, that 1 and a half watt talkie and that
whip on the second floor would do me just about 3 miles.
That covered our apartment complex, the Main Line Drive-
In where i would talk to the projectionist who kept a
portable HB-625 Lafayette mobile at hand, and part of
the adjacent neighborhood. But it was quite apparent
that if i was gonna break that 3 mile barrier, i was going
to need a real antenna . . . on the roof!
Birthday time rolled around
again, and i turned 15. The
year was 1970, and Lafayette, in King of Prussia "Plaza"
(nowadays it's called a MALL) sent us their new catalogue.
Dad, ever aware of my endeavous, yet not letting on that
he was, decided to spring for . . . ( hold on! ) . . . yup,
a REAL radio! A genuine Comstat of my very own!
It was a Comstat 23 mark 6, a fully synthesised 23 channel
rig, just one notch under Harry's radio, or so Harry told me.
Harry was very proud of me, not for the radio, but for what
i did with it. As a teen-ager, it was really kinda fun to keep
regular scheds with the apartment kids who were still
mystified at the voices coming over their walkie talkies,
which would talk to THEM! Maybe i remembered that
wheel-chair bound kid, i forget his name. He was gone
by 1971. His brother got his walkie talkie, but never
Dad also got me a "Droopy-drawer"
ground-plane, and i secured permission to bolt it
on the 3d floor balcony above ours. DX, here i come!
Now, what could one do
with a Comstat and a
ground plane up over 60 ft.? Well, grab your map
of South East Pennsylvania and lets look:
From Devon/Wayne on route 30, i could talk into
Berwyn, Radnor, Valley Forge, King of Prussia,
Downingtown, Norristown, Paoli, Newtown Square,
and when conditions were right, Pottstown, Boyertown,
and Phoenixville, out to the west, and into Bryn Mawr,
Bala Cynwyd, Winnemissett, St Davids, and almost
into City Line Avenue to the east. Almost to the
state line to the south (Media). Nearly 35 miles
in all directions!
There were a group of
us kids that went to Conestoga
High School in 1970-71, about 20 of us. We would
stay up doing our homework with each other regularly,
and on weekends we would just round-table till midnite.
You could do that back
then, and folks would alternately
join us or leave when they got tired. 3 highschool groups
would meet and chat, and i remember only a few real
arguement. Radio was cool, and too cool to spew
over. Funny, the adults would get into it sometimes,
but we high-school kids tended to get along. And
all the while my dad was happy just to keep me off
the streets. Better on the roof, i guess, constantly
adding another 5 foot section of mast to get my antenna
up as high as Harry, who by that time, 1971, had to
move away into retirement.
From my first "Yellow-Bear"
incident, i changed my
"handle" 3 times, finally staying with "Ringo",
for the Cushcraft antenna bearing the name. My
call, as issued in 1970 when i got the Sears Talkie,
was KDU-0979. The license cost 8 dollars. Our
"Home" channel was 9. The truckers used 10.
Our antennas were not allowed to be higher than
20 ft. over the supporting structure, and that included
any mast or tower. Mast or tower was considered
part of the antenna, then! You could talk no more
than 5 minutes, then you had to qrt for 5. Or, so
the FCC said. We were limited to 150 miles. You
had to give your call with each transmission! Or,
so the rules said. In fact, techically, you could only
call spontaneously your own units, and any contact
with another base was supposed to be by direct call
and response. You were not supposed to give a general
"CQ" or "QRZ" or "Breaker". That
was hobby talk,
and that was illegal. Sooooo . . . if you're inclined
to do hobby talk, you were not inclined to be found
out, so you . . uh . . didn't use your call, and you
SURE didn't give a traceable ID, so you invented
Seemed that everybody
used Lafayettes back then
in the Philadelphia suburbs. Lafayette Radio Electronics
was, for a while, the only place close to get CBs.
And by far, they had the most entertaining catalogues.
After a time, i began
to have trouble with that Comstat,
particularly with the mic. The output was falling off, too,
so by the summer of 1971 we traded the Comstat back
at Lafayette for a Telsat 23. That was a solid state rig,
one that was to last me until i got my Ham ticket in
By the July 4, 1971 we
moved to Winter Park, Florida.
CB was not as populated as it was in Philly, and i soon
made more friends, mostly from Winter Park High School,
where i helped found the Amateur-CB club. I was still
Ringo, and the hang-out channel was 11. I kept a
log back then, and here is a list of folks you would
find in the Orlando-Winter Park area in 1971-2:
Joker (Mark's dad sponsored
our high-school club)
Golden Knight (later WB4WLM)
Cherokee (WB4QPC, founder of the FTU ARC, and the
"OJ" SSB-CB group. Co-founder of the Sunshine-State
Sidebanders. Banker was the founder.)
Gold-Coach ( WPHS guidance counselor)
Pochahontas ( Golden Knight's daugher.)
Toad Stool (Altamonte Springs)
Several of these folks,
have gone on to Amateur Radio.
By 1974, much of what
held me to CB
had erroded, as did conditions on CB itself,
with the onslaught of the "Good-buddy"
thing, Smokey and the Bandit, Cledus
Maggard and the Citizen's Band, and
eventually, through meeting Ham Radio
operators, and listening to them on
my own HF receiver, i myself realised
that what i wanted: to make friends,
and really communicate, existed in Ham
Radio. The old days of CB had gone,
and it was time to move on.
In November, 1977 i passed
test,and became WD4NKA, and with
that started a whole new volume of radio
fun and excitement. It hasn't abated yet.
Still, CB occupies a special
place in my
heart, and those first kids i talked to,
Harry, and the CB world of 1968-70
will always remain a fond memory. And
i still keep a Comstat 25b in line with
everything else, in memory of the "Texas
Traveler", who showed me from the beginning
what radio communication was all about.
Today you will find me
on cw, 7030 - 7050,
or on 10m. ssb, 28300 - 28500, or operating
some old tube-type CB on the AM window
Step on up to the Microphone!
Good Providence in all your endeavours.
gary // wd4nka