Vintage CB radios: Why everybody was talking ’bout ’em in the 1970s

Vintage CB radios

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In the late seventies, the public’s interest in CBs — citizen’s band radio — seemed to suddenly turn up to 10. Here’s what the Vintage CB radio craze was like in those days.

Vintage CB radios: “Get your ears on, good buddy” (1976)

Excerpted from The Tipton Times (Tipton, Missouri) February 5, 1976

Remember the days when Smokey was a bear, ‘negatory’ was considered poor English, and only good things came in plain brown wrappers?

That was before the days of the citizen band (CB) radio craze, that has swept Mid-America with more force than the hula hoop, the Beach Boys or the Beatles, bringing to Missouri an estimated 120,000 C.B. radios at the end of 1975.

Now “Smokey” is any policeman on the highway, particularly a state trooper; “negatory” has become a part of the large collection of CB jargon meaning simply, negative; and “plain brown wrapper” signifies an unmarked police car, not always a good thing for a speeding CBer.

Mura CB radio (1976)
Mura CB radio (1976)

“Those CB radios have put food on the table for the last month,” Don Hofstetter, Sears catalog merchandiser in Tipton, said.

“It seems like everyone was just waiting for this new catalog to come out. Sears never had CBs at a competitive price before, and I’m ordering two and three radios a day. I know I’m going to run about one month behind on the orders.” Hofstetter owns a CB and uses Catalog Man as his ‘handle.’

“I use the C.B. mainly as a toy and for demonstration purposes. But the farmers can really use them and for the people living out of town, it’s a good way to miss the long
distance phone bills.”

I got mine mostly for the entertainment of listening to it,” Art Nelson, Beechnut, said. Nelson has a portable unit that can be easily removed from his car, and converted to a base station for indoor use. “The conversion allows me to keep just one CB, and cuts down on the chances of it being stolen from my car.

“The C.B. is good to have when I’m on the road. If you have an accident or car trouble, you can call for help without waiting for someone to stop.”

Nelson loaned his CB to The Times office for the days prior to this article. Since last fall, the Conn Ambulance Service has found the growing numbers of C.B. a quick way to learn of accident injuries.

“We have had three CB calls in the last week that were called in before a phone could be reached. These C.13.’s mean quicker response to accident calls,” Richard Conn Sr. said. 

Royce Rough riders CB radio sets (1976)

Royce builds CBs that ride the roughest roads. Because one loose connection and your CB is 10-7 — out of service.

Building CBs that can hold up under the shock of road bumps and wide temperature extremes isn’t easy. It takes more than care in construction. It takes advanced engineering design.

That’s what Royce gives you. We developed the modular printed circuit for CBs. Our modular units eliminate most of the wires normally found in CBs. By eliminating these wires, we’ve eliminated a major source of repair problems.

Then, to make sure your Royce is working perfectly before you buy it, we electronically check every CB we build. And make sure each one is FCC-type accepted.

Granted, it takes more time and know-how to build a Royce CB. But we feel the problem of keeping a CB working should be ours, not yours. That’s why…

Everybody’s talking ’bout Royce CB radios

Royce CB radios

The CB radio phenomenon: People talking to people (1977)

By Richard E. Wiley, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission – Lansing State Journal (Michigan) August 14, 1977 

People like to talk to other people almost any time, about almost anything.

At the FCC, we think this is an important reason why CB radio is so popular today, and why it will continue to be popular in the future.

Every day, thousands of people join the millions of licensed CBers, discovering a world of enjoyable conversations and learning about the very important public service contributions of CB radio.

The CB Radio Service is your radio service. You do not need any technical training to operate a CB radio. You do not have to take any exams to become licensed in the CB radio service.

Almost anyone can get a CB license, and the temporary permit allows an applicant to get on the air immediately after he has filed a license application. The rules governing CB radio are minimal. and most of them are intended to make your communications easier and more enjoyable.

Cobra vintage CB radio (1976)

YOU CAN USE CB radio for almost all of your personal or business communications needs. We know that families often use CB radio to keep communications open between their houses and their automobiles.

Small businesses often use hand-held CB units to communicate among employees within an office building. Boats, especially small pleasure craft, are frequently equipped with CB radios to stay in contact with shore-based units in case of emergency.

Certainly CB radio is not without its difficulties. It seems that television interference, or TVI, is a problem that will not go away. We know some interference is caused by faulty home entertainment equipment and we are encouraging manufacturers to install proper filters.

We also know that a good deal of TVI is caused by CBers operating with illegal power, and we are dedicating a substantial proportion of our enforcement efforts to fighting the use of linear amplifiers at CB stations.

“Skip” is another problem we are concerned about, especially as we approach the peak of the solar cycle, which is due in 1980. FCC rules prohibit you from deliberately “working skip” because skip can cause interference to other CB stations.

But we know that unwanted distant signals will sometimes show up on your radio. While the FCC is studying this problem very carefully, the solution will not be an easy one to find.

ALSO SEE: Vintage portable radios from the ’50s to the ’80s

Colt CB 1978
Colt CB (1978)

For all of its problems, CB radio is an important component of our society’s communications system. We firmly believe that CB radio makes valuable public service contributions every day.

Highway monitoring patrols, for instance, have assisted many stranded motorists, reported countless accidents and helped homeward-bound travelers avoid sticky rush-hour traffic tie-ups. It certainly is nice to know that help, if you should need it, is only as far away as your CB microphone.

There is a nationwide effort to coordinate motorist calls on CB radio for emergency assistance. It is known as National Emergency Aid Radio — NEAR — and it is now being tested in several states. The program, which is being developed state by state, is sponsored by the Department of Transportation.

The goal of NEAR is to coordinate emergency aid teams, including CB volunteer monitors. Red Cross staffs, state and local police and medical personnel so that a CB-equipped motorist, anywhere in the United States, could always reach assistance in case of emergency.

Browning CB radio (1978)
Browning CB radio (1978)

Some communities have set up “citizen watch” programs. in which volunteer participants who happen to see a crime in progress can report its details to a volunteer monitor on CB Channel 9. Monitors immediately relay the report to the police.

The volunteers are trained to note license numbers and facial characteristics. They are also reminded regularly to keep away from the scene of the crime. One “citizen watch” program has been established in Washington, DC, and we believe that it is making a substantial contribution to the community.

ALSO SEE: Retro baby car seats from the ’60s, ’70s & ’80s: Forward- & rear-facing vintage auto safety seats for kids

Woolco CB Radio sale: Cobra - 40-channel CB radios (1977)

THE CB Radio Service is your radio service, and CB radio is what you make it.

If we work together, we can make CB radio even better than it is today. CB radio is for you — use it, enjoy it, and take care of it.

CB radio microphone (1978)
CB radio microphone (1978)


Introducing the Delco GM 8-track stereo you can talk on

Turn on this new Delco-GM stereo, and we’ve got you surrounded, good buddy.

Surrounded by the full, clear sound of music from the AM/FM stereo—or your favorite 8-Track tape. Or with a message from the 40-channel Citizens Band radio.

It’s our brand-new Delco AM/FM Stereo and CB with 8-Track, and it’s available on many of this year’s GM cars and trucks.

You’ll enjoy its special features. Like a mode selector that lets you listen to music and monitor CB at the same time. When a message arrives, it’s heard over the same quality speakers, temporarily interrupting radio or tape programming.

And, as with any Delco- GM stereo you order for your new GM car or truck, you know you’re getting General Motors quality.

You can hear the result of this special care at your Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Chevrolet or GMC dealer. Just tell your dealer “Delco.”

Delco car stereos with CB radio (1977)

Delco’s CB and stereo built in

Introducing the GM car stereo system that’s really a conversation piece

Now you can enjoy factory-installed two-way Citizens Band radio and AM/FM stereo in your new GM car. It’s Delco’s new 40-channel CB and stereo… built right into the dash. And that means greater theft resistance.

What a combination! You can enjoy the smooth sound of Delco Stereo and the world of CB.

Delco car stereos with CB radio (1979)

Introducing Delco GM stereo, now in concert with cassette

Tell your GM dealer you want a Delco AM/FM Stereo with Cassette, and we’ll have you up to your ears in music. You’ll hear the highs, the lows. You’ll be surrounded with sound that’s full and clear. Almost as if you were sitting front row center at your favorite concert.

That very special sound is a big reason for ordering your new GM car or truck with a Delco-GM factory sound system. That way, you know your new stereo was GM-designed for sound performance in your new vehicle.

MORE: See Classic Oldsmobile luxury sedans from the late ’70s, inside & out

And, depending on which car or truck you buy, you can choose from tape systems in a variety of combinations: 8-Track with AM radio, 8-Track with AM/FM stereo, 8-Track with AM/FM stereo and CB and AM/FM stereo with cassette.

See and hear them at your Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Chevrolet or GMC dealer. For the sound of GM, tell your dealer “Delco!”

Delco car stereos with CB radio (1978)

Straight answers about Citizen’s Band (1977)

Q. How much should I spend for a good CB set?

A. Cost will vary dependent upon brand, model and features. For example, you can buy a Browning for as little as $140 or as much as $750. Your decision — whatever the brand — should be based upon your intended use.

Q. With so many brands from which to choose, how can you know you are making a wise decision?

A. The best course is to ask the advice of knowledgeable CBers — your personal “survey” will be well worth the effort.

Q. Where should I go to purchase a CB radio?

A. The CB specialty store is built on electronics know-how and able to give sound advice, installation, service and a wide selection of antennas and accessories.

Browning may not be your first set, but — when you do get serious about CB and begin to discover Browning’s superior performance … you’ll begin to understand why CBers have relied upon the name Browning since Citizens Band began almost two decades ago.

See Browning’s entire line of products at your nearby CB specialty store.

MORE: See classic Ford LTD and LTD II cars from the late 1970s: Models for ’77, ’78 & ’79

Browning - Straight answers about Citizen's Band (1977)

Pace CB radios – 23 channels and 40 channels (1976)

Now you can buy a 23-channel CB radio that you can update to 40 channels next year

MORE: See 35 vintage car wrecks from the days before seat belts & airbags

Vintage CB radios - La Crosse Tribune Aug 29 1976

KMart CB radio sale (1976)

  • Johnson Messenger
  • Deluxe 23-channel
  • Messenger Radiophone CB
  • Johnson Deluxe 23-channel CB radio
  • 23-channel 2-way CB radio

Progress Bulletin (Pomona, California) 17 Nov 1976, Wed

MORE: See the vintage Toot-A-Loop & Panasonic’s other wacky portable radios from the ’70s

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Comments on this story

6 Responses

  1. Outstanding articles. I noticed the old writers skills were superior to modern ones. Far less Grammer errors and the communicative flow was much better..

    1. Brother, you ain’t kidding! I just read your response and I felt the need to respond myself.

      I’m a big fan of print advertising…..from back in the day. And, to me, the 1970s was/were as good as it gets.
      Whenever I spy an old issue of Life Magazine somewhere, from the early 1970s, I enjoy reading the ads more than I do the articles! ……but that’s just me. The 1970s was a terrific time for ads of all types…….be it print ads, TV ads…..and billboards.—-Even radio ads! Anyway…..I miss those days. I really do.

  2. Unless you were Amish, you and everyone you knew in the 1970s either had or wanted a CB radio. CB slang was everywhere (“That’s a big 10-4, good buddy!”), and you weren’t cool unless your car had one of those big whip antennas in the rear. I was a kid during the CB craze, and had a “base station” that was technically a toy, but could still send and receive CB transmissions (it wasn’t powerful enough to require a license). Because we lived near a major highway, I could hear all kinds of chatter from passing truckers and other motorists. Even to my kid ears, it quickly became clear that one popular use for CBs was for flirting and possible hookups. Some of the ads here clearly reflect the sex appeal used to market CBs.

    1. The “whip antenna”…..yeah, I sure remember those things……especially on those big mid-1970s station wagons with the “simulated wood paneling”…..and vinyl seats.

  3. Yep, those were the days when CB radio was king! I was a kid then and we had a Midland 23 channel CB installed in a 1973 super beetle (VW Bug), with a 102″ whip antenna. We could communicate in about a 5 mile radius. Lots of CBers and lots of meet ups at cafes (coffee breaks), what fun!

  4. I was thinking about the old days, and cb radios were a big part of my young teen life. I searched a couple of radios I had in the early to mid 70s, my favorite by far was the Cobra 29 base/ mobile. I LOVED that cb. I found your site, and scrolling though the page I saw my old friend once again- that I miss to this day. Thank you so much for your site!

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