Saturday, March 16, 2013

Before Cell Phones CB Radio and groups like REACT where there

In the 1950's the FCC- Federal Communications Commission  set a side a small section of the 27 MHz band used by Amateur Radio Operators ( Ham )   which was approx. 23 channels plus 23 upper and 23 lower  side band channels    and 4 watts of power for use by the general public which did not require taking a test and filing out long hard to do license forms . Known  as CB short for  Citizens Band  it allowed any one citizen to communicate with another by filing out a simple one page  license form it was expanded in late 70's to 40 channels and no license    and away you went thou there where rules that where to be followed.

This band was little used  until the late1960s' when it became a popular  means for Truck drivers to communicate using channel 19  on Interstate highways and its use boomed  during the fuel shortages of the Carter Administration and after the song Convoy made it to the top of the charts .  One of the rules of CB radio was Channel 9 was to only be used for emergency's and to obtain  travel help for lost motorists. This lead to the formation of organizations like REACT, CB Rangers , ALERT and West Penn Emergency Communications. Groups of people who would monitor and respond to requests for help from motorists on Channel 9. It wasn't perfect as many calls went unanswered but it was better than nothing which is what you had back then.   I was a member for over a 15 year period with Allegheny Valley React. REACT Stands for Radio Emergency Associated Citizens Team During that period I helped to save many lives by taking emergency calls and notifying the police and emergency depts of the problems going on from fires to accidents to criminal activity .
 I had a large list of numbers I kept from all over to contact various agency's as one could not transfer you to the other  unlike today with one call to 911 handing things . 3 of the most memorable times I either had  or picked up and relayed emergency calls  where the time I stopped to get coffee at a local doughnut shop   and got a call for help from  the Pa. Turnpike a truck carrying refuse overturned and many where injured one was dead. Thank God sitting in the lot was a Penn Dot truck who was able to to get to  call turnpike on his state 2 way radio   and advise them of the wreck after I showed him my REACT ID card . The other was a deadly accident at Pa Route 8 & 228 in Butler county I took while listening from my home base radio one early morning .  The most disturbing is when I called for help on channel 19  and citizens answered when I witnessed a young boy being raped behind an antiques building off Pa 88  in Castle Shannon Pa. and people came running and one stopped a police officer and pointed him to us.   While CB radios boom was over in late 70's as it became known as the Children's Band as the removal of having to have a license made for all kinds of kooks and foul language and noises  to ruin the CB band .
  CB radios are still used by many in rural areas today where cell phones do not work and  by truckers and  construction contractors  and seeing an upswing  here in the Tri State by the Marcellus Gas Drilling  Company's as a way to keep in contact with crews and  to let them know when deliveries are arriving  on remote job sites etc.  There are also still those hard core CB users who like to DX with there radios as well trying to make long distance  contacts with them but many do so illegally with amplifiers which if you are caught by the FCC can lead to fines imprisonment and confiscation of gear.  Most can be found operating on the upper or lower side band channels .

But the days of monitoring CB radio channel  9  are pretty much over except for a few hard core volunteers and while some CB monitoring groups have gone away completely  REACT is still hanging on only 2 group exists here in western Pa.  when there where more than 30 at one time and
its mission has changed to providing emergency communications, parking assistance etc. at  all types of events except instead of using CB radios they use GMRS or General Mobile Radio Service Band Radios which are of a professional type quality  which allows communication with out all the nonsense you encounter on CB  but even GMRS is not what it once was.
There evolved from GMRS  radio a service known as  FRS or Family Radio Service  which is a series of low power itinerant  channels which require no license  in between  the GMRS channels  which is license free but manufacturers started including the regular License required  GMRS channels on these cheap FRS radios and GMRS in some area has in its self become another children's band with bad behavior on it.
I finally had enough of REACT in late 90's as I became a district leader and all it was any more was dealing with failing teams who had there money and equipment absconded with because too many of the teams started losing caring members and those left where not officer material and in many case's where just out right thieves looking to rip off  these teams as they could easily manipulate these teams as unfortunately many of the dedicated volunteers  where plain hard working people with out much education . I use to call and ask teams did they need help  with there books etc.and send out quarterly news letters with info for them only to find out after the teams disbanded there file cabinets full of all the letters etc I sent them never opened ,that they always told me they never got.  This and always being the same people always  being stuck at events having to do everything  which every memorial day , July 4th and labor day weekends we did  24/7 coffee breaks at rest stops  where we assisted travelers and I always had to end up doing extra shits when people did not show up  etc. and so many ungrateful organizations we helped with communications who where putting self interest above public safety I said enough was enough  after a Hot Air  Balloon fair event  for Make A Wish and I had a mother come up to me desperate her child was missing and all I hear on the radio was what happened to the volunteers shirts etc instead of people looking for this child and answering me .
We told Make a Wish along with several Bike  trip organizations and Muscular Dystrophy  all to no longer call us for help . Its a shame what the state of volunteering has gone into this country and I never see an organization like REACT ever coming around again. in such a big way as it did. CB radio will be around for ever as well but just like REACT never what it was.
I still have my Cobra 148 GTL CB radio like in the above picture  hooked up in my truck and use it on the road  occasionally to find out whats going on  and  at construction sites   but its off more than its on due to all the noise the foul language and other horse manure that goes on what a shame. 

1 comment:

  1. There is a lot of good information and history in this article. I recently found out the CB radios still exist! You just have to go to the right place to find them.