Opinion: Holiday trips not the same without CB radios

Louise Graydon
Louise Graydon

I have always thought the best part of any holiday is the excitement and anticipation of the start journey.

In the seventies we loved to go camping in Cornwall, but the 10-hour drive was always a chore.

CB radios - used to make holidays fun!

CB radios - used to make holidays fun!

However we had something called CB radio (Citizen Band). Owning and transmitting on a CB radio was illegal but that didn’t stop people getting hold of one from the USA.

It was a cheap and useful tool especially on long journeys, this in the days before mobile phones, or irritating travel news breaking into your favourite programme every few seconds, giving details of chaos on a road nowhere near your actual position on the planet.

A whole culture and language grew up around CB radio, made more popular by the films Convoy and Smokey and the Bandit. Everyone had a handle ( nickname) we were The Walrus and Radium Lady. Smokey Bear ( police) Eye in the sky (helicopter) Breaker one nine (truckers’ channel) One Four ( for a copy) Ten Four ( yes) and so on. All the towns and villages had a handle and it was a test of your brainpower to remember them all.

CB clubs sprung up all over the country and became great social gatherings. Some people using various handles would transmit comedy sketches over the airwaves that would rival any play on Radio 4. So there we were travelling south in our purple Beetle (hand-painted with gloss paint from Woolworths) when a call came out from a lorry driver several miles ahead informing us of a suitcase in the central carriageway. We racked our brains trying to remember what suitcase was a handle for, only to discover in due course that it was an actual suitcase fallen off a roof rack with all the contents strewn across the motorway, you see how useful it was.

Information and conversation would continue throughout the journey, if you over took someone or vice versa there would be a friendly wave like old pals, or even a meet up at the next service station. Having turned off the motorway, the radio suddenly crackled into life.

Eyeball, eyeball (means the aerial has been spotted) Mr Rusty here I’m in my digger. We were puzzled as there didn’t seem to be anyone around, however as we approached the next bend a yellow earth mover came into view and sitting in his cab was Mr Rusty. We pulled over and had a lovely long chat, he invited us to the local CB club who were having a party that night in the next village. We had a great time and hadn’t even pitched our tent.

In 1981 all this fun on the road came to an end when the government legalised CB radio, people then started drifting away from the craze.

For me, holiday journeys have never been the same since.