If you’re planning a reunion of old CB buddies, shouldn’t you have it in a large convention room separated into a hundred cubicles — with each participant talking into his radio?
Not necessarily so, say the members of the one-time thriving group in eastern New Mexico called the Goober Gulch Gabbers.
The Gabbers say they knew plenty of the faces behind the voices and nicknames when the group was in its hey-day in the mid-1970s.
Now, one last time, some of those Citizen Band radio operators would like to get together for a face-to-face reunion.
“We’re trying to find out if enough people are interested in doing it,” says Portales’ Lowery Hill, who went by the handle “Yogi Bear” on his CB. “A lot of them are dying off. That’s why we’re trying to find as many of them that are still alive and have a get-together.”
Back in early 1976, when C.W. McCall’s “Convoy” ruled the pop and country music charts, an estimated 3.5 million CB operators were transmitting messages to each other — and not just truck drivers.
The Goober Gulch Gabbers, in fact, mostly had non-mobile jobs and included over 300 members.
“I’d come in from work, we’d have supper, then we’d sit around with the boys for awhile,” Hill said. “Then we got on it probably a couple hours a night after they (his sons) would go off to bed.
“I’d talk on it or my wife would talk on it — she was known as ‘Lady X-Ray.’”
Hill remembers many of the handles of his fellow CB cohorts, names like Raggedy Ann, Bluebonnet, String Bean and Hacksaw.
“Those were the good ol’ days. We had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends,” says Marion Chambers of the radios that allowed multiple participants. “Oh, if you didn’t have a CB back then, you didn’t know nothing — you had to have those to be able to talk to anybody.”
Chambers, or “Raggedy Ann,” said the Goober Gulch Gabbers were an actual club with a certificate of membership and annual dues, though she can’t remember now how much it cost per year to be part of it.
“My husband worked at night, so that’s when I would talk on it; that, or early in the mornings,” says Chambers, also a Portales resident who adds that she still remembers all the unique lingo that was used between CB-adherents. “I got real good at it. Of course, I’m really friendly and I’ve lived here all my life, but you learned the language real well — like how to break-in.”
In this case, breaking in means having a turn at talking.
As for the normal turn of that phrase, Hill had an unfortunate first-hand experience in Arkansas — one that took away the last remnants of his CB-talking days.
Of course, that happened long after the craze had died down.
“CB popularity kind of waned, you know, and I don’t really know when the last meetings were,” Hill said.
The Gabbers frequently held fundraisers for needy families when it was a functioning entity.
“Then someone broke in and stole a bunch of my stuff. They got my guns and my CBs in Little Rock, but a lot of my friends still have theirs.”
Chambers also recalls when her CB days came crashing to an end.
“About 18 years ago, we heard a bang and my husband comes in and says, ‘Guess what that was?’ It was our CB antenna that had blown down from the roof,” Chambers said. “We didn’t put it back up. By then, everybody had just kind of lost interest.”
Hill, though, still fondly remembers the days when talking on the CB could mean either talking to your neighbors or transmitting signals, albeit illegally, to much further distances.
“What they called ‘skip’ is when we bounced from one continent over to another,” Hill says. “I talked to France and Germany, back when we were shooting skip — which wasn’t allowed, but we did it.”