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Ya got your ears on?

May 23, 2012 - Rob Weaver
I’m old enough to remember the citizens’ band radio craze of the early 1970s. Well before the development of cellular telephones, CB radios allowed people in automobiles to communicate with each other ... as long as they weren’t more than a few miles apart.

Several events contributed to the craze, which itself was part of a chain reaction of events. It started with the oil embargo/energy crisis in 1973. In response, the federal government decided a nationwide 55 mph speed limit would conserve gasoline.

Truck drivers used CB radios to notify other drivers of speed traps and locations of mobile radar units, as well as organize blockades and convoys to protest the new speed limit. Other motorists quickly caught on to the radio’s usefulness in avoiding speeding tickets. For some reason, use of the radios did not cause a significant increase in distracted driving.

The radios became so ubiquitous that the craze influenced popular culture. CB radios, truckers and the speed limit became the topic of a No. 1 song. C.W. McCall’s “Convoy” topped the pop and country charts in 1975; think “Red Solo Cup,” only much more annoying (I wonder why no one wrote a song about folding camp chairs). Movies such as “Smokey and the Bandit” followed. By the time Sammy Hagar recorded “I Can’t Drive 55” in 1984, cell phones were beginning to replace CB radios.

Anyway, the reason all this came to mind now is because smokey and the truckers apparently plan to work together, beginning this summer. The following two paragraphs come from a news release received today:

The Ohio State Highway Patrol, in conjunction with Ohio Trucking Association, has developed Truck Shield, a training program designed specifically for truck drivers. A kick-off event is set for 9 a.m. Thursday at a Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Grove City. The program is to be conducted by Col. John Born, patrol superintendent, along with Larry Davis, president of the trucking association and James Murphy, fleet safety manager for Wal-Mart.

During a scheduled safety meeting with Wal-Mart truck drivers and dispatchers, patrol officers are to provide instruction in impaired driver detection, criminal patrol, homeland security and human trafficking. The training program aims to train these drivers to assist law enforcement while they are on the road as extra sets of eyes and ears.

That sounds reasonable, as long as the increased scrutiny doesn’t result in innocent drivers being subjected to traffic stops. In fact, truckers could be enlisted to once again help drivers of four-wheeled vehicles. In addition to being extra sets of eyes and ears, truck drivers could assist fellow motorists by functioning as extra noses and palates. Travelers might appreciate reviews of rest stops, travel centers and diners along major highways.

Of course, this would require use of more modern technology; I envision a website linking motorists to travel-related information -- perhaps “” Readers of a certain age would understand.

I’ll conclude with a list of CB slang found on the Internet:

"Advertising" a police car with its lights on.

"Astronaut" police plane or helicopter

"Bear" a police officer. The terms "Smokey" & "Bear" are both direct references to Smokey Bear, a character image commonly seen along U.S. highways, as part of warnings not to cause wildfires. He wears a campaign hat very similar to that included in many highway patrol uniforms in the U.S. It also refers to their attitude toward most law enforcement officers in general.

"Baby Bear / Cub" a rookie (or at least a very young) officer.

"Bear Cave" / "Bear's Den" / "Bear's Lair" a police station.

"Bear / Smokey in a plain brown wrapper" a law officer in an unmarked police car. The term "plain white wrapper" is sometimes used, depending on the color of the vehicle.

"Bear In the Air" / "Fly in the sky" / "Spy in the sky" a police aircraft. While state police often use fixed-wing airplanes to monitor highway traffic, "fly" refers specifically to a helicopter.

"Bear In the Grass" / "Smokey in the bush" a speed trap.

"Bear Taking Pictures" police with radar.

"Bear With Ears" a police officer listening to others on the CB

"Blue Bear" a Michigan State Police Trooper

"Black and White" Highway Patrol.

"Blue Light" / "Blue Light Special" a law enforcement vehicle, especially with a stopped motorist.

"Boy Scouts" State Police.

"Camera" police radar unit.

"Care Bear" Police car located within a construction zone.

"Catch Car" police car past radar set-up.

"Checkpoint Charlie" Old CB slang for a police checkpoint placed to look for drunk drivers, etc. This looks like a roadblock.

"City Kitty" / "City Bear" Refers to local law enforcement monitoring a particular stretch of interstate which runs through their jurisdiction.

"Cocaine Cowboy" Drug Enforcement Police, usually used when a car is pulled over and being searched.

"Cop Shop" Police station

"County Mountie" a Sheriff's deputy car.

"Cub Scouts" Sheriffs' Deputies.

"Diesel Cop" / "Diesel Bear" / "D.O.T. Bear" / "The Man"

State department of transportation personnel, usually enforcing weight limits and safety rules (brakes & tires).

"Disco Lights" the flashing emergency lights of a law enforcement vehicle.

"Evel Knievel" a police officer on a motorcycle.

"Dudley Do Right" a trooper with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

"Feed The Bear" pay a traffic fine.

"Full-Grown" / "Full Grown Bear" a state policeman/trooper.

"Got Bit By A Bear" Received A Ticket.

"Green Stamps" used to express a toll road

"John Law" police officer, especially a city cop or a local sheriff's deputy.

"Gum ball machine" / "bubble gum machine" refers to a popular style of rotating mirror light used by many state police and some other law enforcement agencies at the time, however the term can refer to any law enforcement vehicle. It looked somewhat like the round style of 'penny' gumball machines. It was basically a clear cylinder, like an upside down jar, with lights and a spinning mirror system inside. It was usually mounted on the center of the roof.

"Leo" short for Law Enforcement Officer

"Little Bears" a police officer belonging to a city or township police department

"Local Yokel" / "City Kitty" a law officer with a city or township police force, seldom encountered on interstate highways.

"Mama Bear" / "Honey bear" a female law enforcement officer.

"Papa Bear" A police supervisor.

"Paper Hanger" police giving speeding ticket.

"Picture-taker" / "Smokey taking pictures" / "Smokey bear is taking a picture" / "Kojak with a Kodak"

a law officer monitoring traffic with a radar gun. Today, this can also refer to an automated speed camera.

"Polar Bear" an all-white highway patrol car

"Plain Brown / White Wrapper" Unmarked police car (Often referred to by the car's actual color)

"Protecting and serving" / "With a customer" Officer with a car pulled over

"Radio Car" / "Super Trooper" Either a marked or unmarked state trooper vehicle sporting additional antenna on the trunk or sides of the vehicle.

"Red Wheel" police patrol car with single rotating red roof light, such as those used by the Michigan State Police.

"Safe Driving Award" Traffic Ticket While Being Pulled Over by Police or the DOT.

"Sex Lights" Got pulled over.

"Sky Bear" / "Spy in the sky" / "Eye in the sky police helicopter.

"Smokey" a law officer, particularly one from a state police or highway Patrol force. A "smokey report" is what CB users say when they have information on a law officer, such as location or current activities.

"Smokey on Four Legs" Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

"Snake In the Grass" police car radar usually hidden amongst tall cat tails.

"Sunoco Special" New York State Police patrol car

"Super Trucker" Truck Driver Ignoring The Speed Limit / Traffic Laws.

"Tijuana Taxi" A marked police car.


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