Player Broken? Try Barry’s 8 Track Repair Center

April 9, 2020

If you have a classic car with a stock stereo, you know the quandry. Put up with crappy sound or upgrade and lose the originality & value of the vehicle.

Barry Fone repairs and upgrades factory car stereos. He specializes in 8-track players. Being a former top level avionics tech, he really knows his stuff. Over 350 videos of his work are available online.

What’s REALLY cool is that he not only does repairs, he makes these units better than when they were new:

– Upgrades the amplifier
– Adds modern Bluetooth and USB functionality
– Adds FM to AM-only units

Best of all, he can do every one of these modifications (or all of them) without altering the outward appearance of the radio!

I’ve never met Barry and have no affiliation with him. I just happened to find his site while surfing and thought what he does is pretty amazing. Check it out if you so be inclined:

Barry’s 8 Track Repair Center

UCF Tailgate Hamfest & Swap Meet

April 9, 2020

If you’re in the Orlando area this week, don’t forget about the biannual hamfest and swap meet at the University of Central Florida. This event has been happening for as long as I can remember. The UCF Tailgate is a great opportunity to buy, sell, and trade electronics equipment of all types. Ham radios, old CB radios, computers, and other electronic items are available. Back when I was living in Florida and selling on eBay, I always attended this hamfest. I was never disappointed. Next to Orlando HamCation in February, it is the most well-attended amateur radio event in Central Florida.

The key to the UCF Tailgate is to GET THERE EARLY! People arrive well before sunrise. All the “good stuff” is gone by 9AM. By 10, it becomes a social event. By 11, it’s over until next time. People will leave early if the weather is bad and stay late if it is an exceptionally nice day. Admission is FREE. There is no cost to buy or sell items. You do NOT need to be a licensed amateur radio operator to attend or participate.

Date for the summer UCF Tailgate is Saturday, June 8, 2019. Talk-in on the UCF ham club’s repeater: 443.375 Mhz. PL tone is 103.5. Besides being free, this event is a lot of fun. I used to attend every January and every June. If you’re in the area, be sure to check out the UCF Tailgate & Hamfest!

The 94 Days of Summer Starts Today!

April 9, 2020

When I was at KKEZ in Fort Dodge, Iowa, we did an annual promotion called “The 94 Days of Summer.” It coincided with our dial position (94.5) and our moniker (Z94.) Start date was exactly 93 days before Labor Day, making Labor Day the 94th and final day of summer. Other stations held similar events. The duration of summer varied from 92 to 108 days, depending on the station’s frequency!

Even though it wasn’t exactly original, I always thought it was a memorable promotion. 30 years later, I can still hear the sweepers in my mind. Our listeners sure seemed to enjoy the prizes. When you live in a northern state like Iowa with brutal winters, everyone loves summer. Those days between Memorial Day and Labor Day go by way too quickly!

R.I.P., 95.5 PLJ: WPLJ New York City 1971-2019

April 9, 2020

As I write this, I am listening to the final hours of PLJ. At 7:00PM local time, this institution of New York radio will fall silent. Over the past 48 years, it has been known under many different monikers to millions of listeners: 95 WPLJ, 95.5 WPLJ, WPLJ 95.5, Power 95, and of course, “Mojo Radio.”

Because I’m not a New Yorker, it is not possible for me to appreciate PLJ as I would if I were a local. However, as a 16 year radio broadcaster, I certainly feel a great loss as this heritage station goes dark. I felt the same way on May 10, 1982 when WABC Musicradio 77 stopped the music and transitioned to a Talk format. Ironically, WPLJ is WABC’s AM station. From 1953 until 1971, 95.5 was WABC-FM.

Tomorrow, this frequency will become New York City’s home to Educational Media Foundation’s K-Love, a contemporary Christian station. As the final hours wind down on 95.5, be sure to give them a listen. This is truly radio history in the making. Enjoy it while it lasts.

R.I.P., PLJ. It was good knowin’ ya.

Radios Included in Florida Sales Tax Holiday

April 9, 2020

The Florida Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday will be held May 31-June 6, 2019. This tax free weekend gives you the chance to save money on a variety of hurricane and storm preparedness supplies. Of special interest to us here at Drew’s Radio Site is the provision applying to radios and batteries. According to the Florida Department of Revenue, radios up to $50 that are powered by battery, solar, or hand-crank are included in the sales tax holiday. In addition, two-way and weather band radios also qualify for the tax break. Batteries up to $30 in sizes “D”, “C”, “AA”, “AAA”, 6-volt, and 9-volt are also included.

If you live in or are visiting Florida during this time, it would be a great opportunity to update your radio equipment. FRS and GMRS walkie-talkies are included. Amateur (ham) and CB radios, too. Inexpensive handheld 2-meter and 70cm radios are available from Baofeng and other manufacturers for under $50.00.

Don’t miss the 2019 Florida Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday. Stock up on batteries, get some new radios, and enjoy a tax break on your purchases!

Rewound Radio WABC Memorial Day Weekend Special

April 9, 2020

Looking for something to listen to this holiday weekend? Check out Rewound Radio’s “WABC Rewound 2019”, now through Memorial Day. Enjoy original Musicradio 77 WABC Shows with everything that was included when they aired the first time: the DJ’s, the commercials, the jingles, AND the music!

Allan Sniffen and his friends did a GREAT job with this! In cases where the original airchecks were scoped, the music has been restored. Not only was the music added back in, but it was compressed and processed correctly to give that authentic AM radio sound that we all knew and loved back in the day. I have been listening on my smartphone via the small built-in speaker. This sounds almost exactly like the pocket transistor radios on which these Musicradio 77 shows were heard in the 1960s and 70s!

Dan Ingram, Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow), Harry Harrison, Ron Lundy, Roby Yonge, George Michael, Johnny Donovan, Herb Oscar Anderson, Scott Muni, Bob Dayton, Bob-a-Loo (Bob Lewis) Charlie Greer, Frank Kingston Smith, and many more. They’re all on Rewound Radio this weekend. Give it a listen!

20 Years Ago Today: My Last Radio Show

April 9, 2020

On Friday, May 21, 1999, I performed my final radio show. When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I never thought this day would come. I lived, ate, and breathed radio. I wanted to be one of those guys who never retired, who literally spoke his final words behind a live microphone.

Industries change. Economies change. Priorities change. That’s life. The roaming radio gypsy merry-go-round was a damn fun ride. It lasted for 16 years. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything on Earth. But as Kenny Rogers once said “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” I did, and I did. No regrets.

Even now, people ask me at least once per week “Do you miss radio?” My answer is always the same: “Yes, I miss being on the radio. No, I don’t miss working in radio.”

Are Memorial Day Radio Specials Still a Thing?

April 9, 2020

When I was a kid, holiday weekends meant special radio programs! Not syndicated shows, but genuine, live and locally-produced specials. In Minneapolis, KDWB had “The Memorial Day 500 Countdown.” This was an obvious play on the Indy 500 which also took place over Memorial Day Weekend. Starting at 3:00PM on Friday, KDWB would count down what they determined to be the Top 500 songs of all time. #1 was always “Stairway to Heaven.” Also in the Top 10 were “Free Bird”, “Layla”, “Roundabout”, and “Hey Jude.” The usual suspects. After number one was played, the jock would start over with number 500.

There was nothing magical about this. Several markets did it. But it WAS an annual event that we looked forward to. Most importantly, it was live and local radio. The song list in Minneapolis was different from the song list on WLS in Chicago. Which was different still from WABC’s list in New York City or KHJ’s in Los Angeles. Just as their weekly countdowns were different. That’s what made radio fun and interesting.

Do you know of any stations which still do local holiday programming? Or does it all come via downloaded .mp3 files from a national syndicator? I strongly suspect the latter. Please tell me that I am wrong.

Disc Jockey vs The Silence Sense Alarm

April 9, 2020

How many of you worked at an automated station which utilized the old Carousel system? The one with music on reels and the spots on rotating “wheels” of carts. These were common in the 1970s and 80s. Most began their lives when an established AM station built a new FM. The FM usually ran a Beautiful Music or similar format which didn’t require the personality and energy of a live jock. In order to save money, the FM utilized this machinery instead of an airstaff.

When FM achieved dominance, the roles reversed. By the late 1980s, it was the FM station that was live. The AM had been relegated to the dark halls of mechanical automation. In 1988-89, I worked for such an operation in Bend, Oregon. Our FM (KXIQ 94.1) was live CHR. Our AM (KGRL 940) was automated Classic Gold aka “Oldies.” It was here that I became acquainted with that nifty little device known as the “silence sense alarm.” When KGRL’s automation malfunctioned (a daily occurrence), the alarm would go off. There is nothing more annoying than being in the middle of a break and hearing that high pitched noise in your headphones. Instantly, your entire train of thought disappears. Your break is ruined. As in completely.

After this happened several times, “someone” decided to stop it by disconnecting the alarm speaker. It was one of those small piezo tweeters from Radio Shack. A few weeks later, the corporate engineer came down from Portland. Upon discovering this, he reconnected the speaker. “Someone” promptly disconnected it again.

The next time the engineer came down, he installed a plexiglass box over the speaker. It was one of those things that office managers put over thermostats during the Jimmy Carter “dial down” era to keep people from turning up the heat. Attached to the wall with multiple screws, it could not easily be removed.

About a week later, I’m on the air. A coworker comes into the studio and says “Hey, the AM has been dead for about 15 minutes!” I said “That’s strange. The alarm didn’t go off.”

Upon examination, I immediately realized why. Someone stuck an ice pick through the slots of the plexiglass cover and punctured the speaker! The poor thing had been stabbed multiple times. Apparently, it succumbed to its wounds and died immediately. No, it wasn’t me who did it this time!

Video may have killed the radio star, but a frustrated DJ killed our silence sense alarm!

Apple Valley Minnesota CB Radio Tapes 1976-83

April 9, 2020

Not only did I spend a lot of time talking on the CB radio as a kid, I also spent a lot of time (and money) tape recording the antics of myself and others who happened to be on the channel.  Whereas most normal people would have erased and/or discarded these cassettes years ago, I kept all of mine.  I have at least 100 hours of CB conversations and probably more.

The “Kids’ Channel” in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul was Channel 14.  This is where we hung out most of the time.  Occasionally, a channel jammer or agitator would force us onto another frequency.  Sometimes, *I* was the channel jammer/agitator in question.  Many times, CB Channel 14 was complete chaos!  But for the most part, it was good clean fun.  It kept us home, instead of being out and getting into real trouble, as many other teenagers did.

From Drew’s Basement CB Archives, here are some real gems.  If you think these tapes are the greatest thing you’ve ever heard, keep checking back.  I’ll be adding more on this page as time allows.  If you think these are crass, crude, and a complete waste of bandwidth, you’re in agreement with at least 95% of the civilized world!

Exhibit #1 – Drew vs Lissa. Lissa was a girl who liked me.  But since I was a big 9th grader and she was only in 7th, I had no time for her.  I also had this bad habit of harassing her on the CB.  Especially when she was trying to talk to her boyfriend Brian, which was the case on this particular day in February, 1979.

I was using a Sears RoadTalker 40 AM/SSB base with a Hy-Gain Super Penetrator 500 at 66 feet above ground.  Since I had a more powerful base station than Lissa did, I had no problem getting in between the young couple.  This made the poor girl very angry, as you will hear. 

Lissa, if you’re listening to this 31 years later, I’m sorry.  Kids do stupid things sometimes!


Exhibit #2 – The Dog Record.  This is a great example of how CB agitators tend to multiply.  Someone had either the record or tape of “Jingle Bells” by the Singing Dogs.  They decided it would be a good idea to play this over the CB radio.  So of course, another CB’er hears this, decides to record it, and then he plays it.  Others do the same in a daisy-chain procession.  Those who aren’t recording are trying to jam the ones who are playing music, as you will hear.  Result?  Pure anarchy!  This was back when the FCC still required CB licenses and attempted to enforce the rules.  Playing music was a big no-no!  I’m surprised none of us ever got caught because of our antics.  I was only 14 years old at the time, so I would have just claimed ignorance. This aired in April, 1980.

By this time, I no longer had my Sears RoadTalker 40 SSB.  The reason was because I attempted one too many “power mods” and the radio went *poof!*  So, I was back on my original radio which I always kept for a standby: a 23 channel Midland 13-882C mobile on a power supply.  The Super Penetrator was lost to a windstorm the previous spring.  (I was doing great, wasn’t I?)  I replaced the Hy-Gain with an Antenna Specialists Starduster M400 at the same height, adding 10 feet of masting to offset the Starduster’s center feed and mounting point. Performance was about the same locally.  The Starduster was definitely a better skip-talking antenna, though!

Doesn’t this make you want to go out, find, and strangle the guy who keeps playing that %$#@!! DOG RECORD??!!


Exhibit #3 – FROGGY!  This guy was the original CB Rambo in the south Twin Cities metropolitan area.  He would show up on Channel 14 suddenly and unpredictably.  As soon as he did, the frequency would immediately descend into chaos.  Using a healthy dose of profanities (the worst of which have been edited out of these clips), he was the Don Rickles of the CB radio: an equal opportunity insulter and antagonist. 

The most famous Froggyisms were “take a dive!”, “ya little puny turd!”, “stoolface!”, and “ya dumb little bastard!”  At one time, more than 60 CB’ers were out attempting to triangulate and locate this rebel without a cause.  Over a 2 year period, there were countless attempts to find him and learn his identity.  No one ever did.  42 years later, I still have no idea who Froggy was.  It was the ultimate unsolved mystery of CB Channel 14 in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Though Froggy’s identity was never learned, it was a pretty good guess he was either an electronics engineer or technician of some sort.  His signal was always strong and his audio was extremely clean.  He claimed to run 1,000 watts in his car.  Doesn’t sound like much by today’s standards, but this was a HUGE amount of power in 1977.  This would explain why nobody could find him despite having an S9+ meter reading on his signal.  Very likely, Froggy was transmitting from a remote location and the hunters weren’t even close.  His technical expertise would explain why the audio was so clean at such a high wattage.  Also, it was assumed he altered his voice electronically to create the “frog in the throat” effect.  There were times when he would transmit for an hour or two.  If he tried to do the “Froggy voice” manually, his throat would be sore after several minutes.  The voice was always consistent.  Finally, the guy knows his equipment, as you will hear in these recordings.  I’ve always guessed that Froggy was either an engineer for one of the local radio/TV stations or a commercial radio technician.  Messing around on the CB with big power was what he did in his spare time.  Of course, the world will never know for sure.

The following 3 audio clips were recorded on Friday, November 25, 1977 from my residence in Apple Valley, MN.  At that time, my base station consisted of a 40 channel AM Midland 77-882 mobile radio, Micronta 2.5 amp power supply, and a HyGain Super Penetrator 500 omnidirectional base antenna which reached 66 feet above ground level.  Mounted on 20′ of masting atop our 2 story house, that Penetrator was my pride and joy. WARNING: Some of Froggy’s language is not suitable for kids!

Froggy vs Goldilocks, MN Gopher, El Lobo, and Cave Bear: CB_Froggy_November_25_1977_Part_1

Froggy vs Minnesota Gopher: CB_Froggy_November_25_1977_Part_2

Froggy vs KW Kid: CB_Froggy_November_25_1977_Part_3 

Exhibit #4: More CB “tough talk” with Scorpion vs Rob. This is your typical CB argument: two teenage guys fighting over a girl. The first one makes threats, the second says “come on over and do it!” I didn’t know these guys personally. They were from Bloomington (about 10 miles north of me) and hung out on Channel 11. I just happened to be scanning the channels, caught the argument, and turned on my recorder. By this time, I had become sophisticated enough to patch the CB audio directly into my stereo system and use TDK tape instead of the cheap “bag” cassettes. There’s nothing better than a CB argument in high fidelity! This aired during the summer of 1983:


Exhibit #5 – KADF-6895 Rhinestone Cowboy and KAUX-9819 Gumball – Here I am, playing to the tape recorder. My CB buddy Gumball is recording on this day, so I can hear what I sound like over the air. “Everybody be quiet for 5 seconds, I wish to enjoy my power. Starting now!” From August, 1977:


Exhibit #6 – Mark vs _______’s Lawn! – This guy didn’t have a handle, he just went by “Mark.” He lived near Burnsville Parkway (then Burnsville Crosstown) and I-35W. Drove a gold 1972 Buick Skylark 350. On this day, however, he was piloting his dad’s 1976 Buick Electra 455. Mark decides to test the horsepower and torque of his father’s car by doing a LAWN DEED, broadcast live on CB Channel 14! For those not familiar with these nasty pranks, a lawn deed is when you purposely drive your car over someone’s lawn, spinning the tires in order to cause maximum damage to the grass. I won’t divulge the lucky recipient of this lawn deed. Has the statute of limitations expired yet? From the spring of 1981:


Exhibit #7 – KABZ-1645 Scooter Rabbit vs Unidentified Enemy – In September, 1976, Scooter Rabbit had one of the stronger base stations in Apple Valley. He lived on the hill, near the old water tower. Scooter was 17 at the time, so he usually operated on Channel 14. Occasionally, however, he would go down to Channel 4 which was “the adults’ channel.” Several Lakeville CB’ers in their 30s and 40s frequented Channel 4. Whenever Scooter Rabbit showed up there, an argument immediately ensued.


Exhibit #8 – KLW-6032 Half Breed & Her Friends – Half Breed lived in Prior Lake. Because of the distance between us, I couldn’t hear her very well. But I liked her, so I always tried to pick her out of the noise and engage her in conversation. Also heard here are fellow Prior Lake CB’ers Mud Puppy and Little Bugger. Along with KAIS-2978 Cockroach from Apple Valley and KZA-0039 Goldilocks in Lakeville. A typical day on the CB in December, 1977:


Exhibit #9 – KAUX-9819 Gumball, KWE-9270 Cannonball, KAJB-5272 Space Trucker, and KGU-3859 Minnesota Gopher. August, 1977.


Exhibit #10 – KAUX-9819 Gumball, KABI-2511 Disco Kid, KWE-9270 Cannonball, KWE-9270 Little Fry, KAJB-5272 Space Trucker, and KADF-6895 Rhinestone Cowboy. August, 1977.


Exhibit #11 – Dave’s Phone Prank – Another guy with no handle was “Dave” from West Bloomington. Here, he’s attempting a crank phone call on live CB radio. But he has a bit of a problem getting everything to work properly between the telephone and his base station microphone. This aired in the summer of 1982:


Exhibit #12 – KKH-5848 Cotton Picker, KAUX-9819 Crispy Critter, and Sugar Cookie. August, 1977.


Exhibit #13 – KABY-3339 KW Kid, KADF-6895 Rhinestone Cowboy, and Minnesota Sweetheart. KW Kid loved to play his guitar over the CB radio. Since he wasn’t able to afford a locking desk microphone, he custom-designed a wine bottle by cutting off the top. This allowed him to place the CB hand mic in the bottle and keep it keyed while he played. It actually worked very well, as you will hear in this clip from June, 1978:


Exhibit #14 – A second clip from June 28, 1978. Here, we are joined by KLW-4092 Winchester and an unidentified young kid who keeps dropping perverted comments into the conversation!


Exhibit #15 – KZA-0039 Goldilocks and KAHO-1877 Grey Fox vs FESTER! – Froggy (see above) had a “cousin!” At first, we thought it was the same ‘ol agitator. Then, we listened carefully and realized the voice was slightly different. We called him ‘Fester.’ An imitator, but a good one. This aired in January, 1978:


Exhibit #16 – Black Max Plays His Jaw Harp – Black Max aka “Bob in Bloomington” was a pretty proficient jaw harp player. He played it often on CB Channel 14, along with his electronic organ. In this clip from the summer of 1982, he performs “You are a Randy”, a cyborg-like slam against one of his CB enemies.


Exhibit #17 – KABA-6010 Kid Flash and KADF-6895 Rhinestone Cowboy meet “Jesus” – This is my earliest and first CB tape. I recorded it in September, 1976, just a few weeks after getting my first CB radio. As my friend Kid Flash signs off, an unidentified guy who calls himself “Jesus” appears. I was 12 and as you can hear, this was recorded before my voice changed!


Classic CB Base Station Antennas

April 9, 2020

The best CB base antennas were manufactured in the 1970s and early 80s. Reason? They were made out of metal. In the early 1980s (1984, I believe), the Consumer Products Safety Commission began requiring that omnidirectional antennas meet certain standards. This was due to the large number of people who had been electrocuted while installing base antennas. Most of the “good” antennas were discontinued since they could not meet the new standards. The new antennas were of fiberglass construction. As everyone knows, aluminum is a much better radiator of RF energy vs a wire encased in fiberglass.

Interestingly enough, the new rules only applied to “omnidirectional CB radio antennas.” It did not apply to directional beams. A simple 9 foot quarterwave ground plane was now banned because it was “dangerous.” Yet, manufacture and sale of a Wilson Super Laser 500 beam with 8 vertical + 8 horizontal elements was still permitted by the federal government.

The new law also did not apply to antennas which were not specifically designed and designated as CB antennas. A few years later, “10 meter amateur radio verticals” and “25-30Mhz commercial band” antennas began appearing. Strangely enough, many of them bore a remarkable resemblance to the old CB antennas of the 1970s. Sometimes, a duck isn’t legally a duck, even if it quacks like a duck.

Here are some of the vintage base antennas we used “back in the day.” I will add more as time permits. If you have photos you’d like to share, I’d love to post them and give you credit!

The famous Hy-Gain Super Penetrator! Also known as Super CLR or Penetrator 500, it was the best omnidirectional CB base antenna ever made! That’s just my opinion, of course, but it’s based on personal experience.

I used practically every omni on the market at one time or another and found that NOTHING could outtalk my Penetrator. Extremely solid construction using aircraft grade aluminum tubing and clamps. The last genuine Hy-Gain Super Penetrator came off the assembly line in 1980. Yet, you still see these antennas on roofs and towers in complete, undamaged condition.

If you couldn’t afford a Super Penetrator, this was considered the next best thing by many: the Hy-Gain CLR 2. Known more commonly as the “Hy-Gain 5/8 wave”, “5/8 wave ground plane”, or simply “5/8 wave.” It was a very popular antenna which provided good gain, solid construction, and was relatively easy to install. There were several “knockoff” versions of this antenna, sold by Radio Shack (Archer), Royce, and others. As always, you get what you pay for. Hy-Gain antennas were made of aircraft grade aluminum and used quality clamps to attach the sections. The Radio Shack version used a cheaper grade of aluminum with sheet metal screws connecting the radiator and radial sections.

The quality difference between these two antennas became readily apparent in the first major wind or ice storm. The Hy-Gain CLR 2 didn’t bend, break, or shake apart. The Radio Shack 5/8 wave would almost always either bend in the middle or the screws would strip out, causing one or more of the radiator sections to slide down. When this happened, your SWR would go through the roof, rendering the antenna worthless until repairs could be made. In Minnesota, this usually meant waiting until spring when the snow melted off the roof. I know, since I owned both versions. Even so, the Radio Shack 5/8 wave was a big seller. The reason was it’s price: $34.95 in 1976. Frequently on sale for $24.95. By comparison, the Hy-Gain CLR 2 sold for $45-50. Again, you get what you pay for.


This was the “dream antenna” for all of us kids who were running vertical ground planes! Avanti’s Moonraker. Somtimes called the “Moonraker 4” since a 6 element version was also available. Truth be told, we dreamed about the Moonraker 6 or the grandaddy of ’em all, the Wilson Super Laser 500 (8 vertical + 8 horizontal elements.) But even at 13, I was realistic in my dreaming. I knew those two required a tower which my parents would never allow. The Moonraker 4 was small enough to be mounted on a telescoping push up mast (which my parents might allow.) Never happened, though. The closest I got was a basic 3 element vertical beam, turned by a TV antenna rotor.

The Moonraker 4 provided excellent directional lobes and nulls. Before the rampant inflation of the late 1970s kicked in, it could be had for about $125. Add a rotor and you’re still around $200. Hard to beat the cost-to-performance ratio on this antenna.

Technically, this is an Antenna Specialists M400. But we all knew it as the “Starduster.” There was a never-ending debate as to what type of antenna this actually was. Some considered it to be a 1/2 wave dipole, center fed, with the single vertical being 1/4 wave and the bottom elements comprising the other 1/4 wave. Others said it was just a 1/4 wave ground plane with the radials angled down rather than extending at a 90 degree angle from the base. In any case, it was a strong performer. The manufacturer claimed “5dB gain” which was certainly an inflated figure. Nevertheless, the antenna got out very well. I owned two of these at different times. They outperformed every other omnidirectional antenna I had except for one: the Hy-Gain Super Penetrator 500.

One big advantage of the Starduster is that it did not use a tuning or loading coil. This meant you could run substantially more than the legal 4 watts if you so desired.  I personally knew a guy who ran about 1,300 watts into a Starduster for several years with no problems. By comparison, the coil in a standard 5/8 wave ground plane would “cook” if you attempted to push more than about 200 watts into it. The other advantage was that it was practically invisible to the wind, due to it’s thin-walled construction and the fact that it only extended 9 feet above the mast that it was mounted on. In a 60MPH gust, the Starduster would barely move. It did have one weak point in it’s construction, however: the plastic “spreader” element which positioned the lower elements next to the supporting mast. These cracked very easily, especially after being exposed to sunlight for a few years. Then, the elements would flap in the wind until the threads stripped out and they fell away from the center hub. Aside from this minor drawback, the ‘Duster was a great antenna. Price in the late 1970s was $39.95-49.95, depending on the retailer.

The Antenna Specialists Super Scanner was a very unique base station antenna. Was it an omnidirectional or was it a beam? Answer: it was both! You could use it as an omni and achieve 5.75db gain. Flip it to “beam” mode and it would deliver 8.75db gain in the desired direction. A control box at the base unit was used to select the desired pattern. Since no rotor was required, you could switch patterns instantly without having to wait for the antenna to rotate and change direction. Technically, the Super Scanner was classified as an electronically-phased antenna. Retail price in 1974 was $99.99. By 1977, Jimmy Carter-era inflation had pushed the price of a ‘Scanner to $139.99.

Other classic antennas included the Mighty Magnum and Super Magnum. Both of these were also made by Antenna Specialists. In addition to the legendary Moonrakers, Avanti manufactured the Astro Plane, Astro Beam, PDL 2, Sigma 5/8, and the strange-looking but incredibly potent Sigma 4. Radio Shack’s offerings consisted of 1/4 wave, 1/2 wave, and 5/8 wave Archer ground planes. In 1978, the .64 wave was added to their lineup. The Shack also sold a small 3 element beam which could be configured for either vertical or horizontal polarization. Cushcraft’s famous line of “Ringo” antennas featured models for CB as well as several ham radio bands. There was the “Golden Hawk”, a knockoff of the Starduster. Shakespeare gave us the Big Stick which is still around today. And didn’t Turner/Telex make an omnidirectional base antenna during the late 1970s? This was before Telex bought Hy-Gain and began manufacturing the redesigned (cheapened) Super Penetrator 500s.

If YOU have photos of classic CB radios and/or antennas from “back in the day”, send ’em to me! I’ll post them here for the world to see!

Happy Kansas Real Beer in Grocery Stores Day!

April 9, 2020

Today, the state of Kansas makes history. On April 1, 2019, for the first time ever, you are able to purchase real beer in Kansas grocery and convenience stores. I have christened this day “Kansas Real Beer in Grocery Stores Day.” Seriously, it should be a statewide holiday. If you’ve ever lived in Kansas, or even visited for any length of time, you most certainly understand why.

Out of all the states I’ve been to, Kansas has the most archaic and restrictive liquor laws. Part of the madness is this strange formulation known as “3.2 beer.” Sometimes called “near beer”, 3.2 is basically beer that has been watered down to lower the alcohol content. Maximum potency is 3.2% alcohol by weight, or 4.0% by volume. Now WHY would anyone want to do this, you ask? From what I understand, it goes back to the days immediately after Prohibition. Kansas wasn’t ready to legalize booze on the state level. As a compromise, “Cereal Malt Beverage” was introduced. This is the legal term for 3.2 brew in Kansas, abbreviated as CMB. I’ve never heard it used anywhere else. Basically, it created a loophole in the law. Because, you see, it wasn’t really beer. It was Cereal Malt Beverage.

Since 3.2 isn’t legally “beer”, it’s subject to different, more lenient laws vs those which apply to other alcoholic beverages. Before July 1, 1985, 18-year-olds were allowed to purchase and consume CMB. The drinking age for all other forms of liquor was and is 21. Arriving in Kansas as a 20-year-old in 1984, this was somewhat confusing to me. Legally, I couldn’t walk into a liquor store and buy a 6 pack of Coors. Yet, I could walk into the convenience store across the street and do so. Upon asking the locals “why?”, I was told that grocery and convenience stores only sell “weak beer” so that 18-20 year olds can buy it. But how much weaker? “Regular” beers produced by the majors (Bud, Coors, Miller) run around 5.0% alcohol content by volume. Sounds quite a bit stronger than 3.2, right? Ah, but remember, that’s 3.2% by weight. Measured by volume, that becomes 4.0%. Quick math told me that five 3.2 beers equals four “regular” beers. So, I’d just drink one or two more. Problem solved!

The other big difference that no longer exists was that only 3.2 bars were open to the public. Anything stronger required a private club membership. You see, Kansas never passed liquor by the drink after Prohibition. “Open saloons” were strictly prohibited. This relic of a law was finally repealed by voters in 1986. Private clubs could stay open until 3AM whereas 3.2 taverns had to close at midnight. You can guess what happened at midnight: after drinking CMB all evening, those who were 21+ would drive to a private club to imbibe in more potent spirits. Instead of driving drunk just once to get home, they would do it twice. Brilliant!

The one remaining vestige of the Kansas 3.2 beer laws was the prohibition on grocery or convenience store sales. Only liquor stores could sell “strong beer” for off-premises consumption. This all changed on Monday, April 1st. Any retail establishment with a CMB license is now allowed to sell beer up to 6% alcohol content by volume. Kansas becomes the third state in the past year to do away with 3.2 brew. Colorado and Oklahoma changed their laws last year. The only 2 remaining states are Minnesota and Utah. Efforts have been underway in both of those states, but I’m not holding my breath. Having grown up in Minnesota, I know they are notoriously slow to change liquor laws. Just last year, they made it legal for liquor stores to open on Sunday. As for Utah, I really wouldn’t hold my breath.

While gas station owners and grocers are ecstatic, liquor store owners are concerned about the impact this will have on their bottom line. Time will tell. My personal opinion is that this change is WAY overdue. It should have been part of the 1985 law, in order to compensate grocery and convenience stores who would no longer be able to sell beer to 18-20 year olds. In any case, I’m glad Kansas is finally (albeit slowly) modernizing their liquor laws, making them similar to surrounding states. You still can’t buy wine with your steak. You still can’t buy beer on Sunday in many parts of the state. I’m guessing those issues will be taken up in future legislative sessions. In the meantime, Happy Real Beer in Grocery Stores Day, Kansas!

Jesse “The Body” Ventura Liquor Store Commercial

April 9, 2020

This is great! Jesse “The Body” Ventura, doing a TV commercial for Chicago Lake Liquors in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Back in those days, Jesse was a wrestler. As many of you know, he went on to become the 38th governor of Minnesota, serving from 1999 to 2003.

This commercial aired in 1984. I’m not sure of the origin. Many of these “gems” are found when people uncover an old box of VCR tapes in their garage or basement and start going through them. My guess is that someone was recording a television program and just happened to tape the commercial by accident.

In any case, it’s a great flashback to Minnesota as it was in the mid-1980s. The legal drinking age was 19, Jesse was big stuff, and you could still advertise drinking an entire keg of beer!

List of CB Radio “Ten Codes” from the 1970s

April 9, 2020

My friend Kathy found this and sent it to me on Facebook. If you just so happened to live in the western Minneapolis suburbs and were active on CB radio during the late 1970s and early 80s, you probably heard her. Kathy’s handle was “Tonka Teddy Bear.” She had a base station and could usually be found on Channel 8.

These were the infamous “Ten Codes” or “10 Codes” that CBers used to communicate among themselves. Interestingly enough, two of the most used codes by our local CB group do not appear here. One was “10-7” which meant “out of service” or “signing off.” The other was “10-100”, a very useful synonym for “I gotta go to the bathroom!”

40 years ago, these lists were everywhere. You could find them at any truck stop or CB store. Today, most have been destroyed. Kathy saved hers, and we’re glad she did!

Shopko in Bankruptcy All Stores Closing

April 9, 2020

Shopko will soon be a thing of the past. This is sad news, especially if you happen to live in a place where Shopko or Shopko Hometown is the only department store for miles around. Way back in 1962, Shopko began life with one Green Bay, Wisconsin store.

Typically, they have located in towns too small to have a Walmart. Over the years, they have grown by purchasing other similar chains. In 1997, Shopko purchased the Pamida chain of discount stores. They also acquired several ALCO stores which were then converted mostly to the smaller Shopko Hometown stores.

If you’re headed for Minnesota’s North Shore on vacation this summer, be sure to stop in Duluth to get whatever you’re going to need while you’re up north. The Shopko Hometown store that you’ve come to depend on in Two Harbors will no longer be there. Hate to see ’em go, but I guess it’s just a sign of the times. Like it or not, we live in an Amazon world. R.I.P. Shopko.

Eagan’s La Fonda de Los Lobos, 1976-2019

April 9, 2020

Just wanted to take a minute to pay my respects to the crew at La Fonda de Los Lobos. Octaviano “Otis” Trujillo started this Eagan, Minnesota restaurant back in 1976. After 43 years, tonight will be last call on Highway 13 in Eagan.

I first discovered this place when I was in high school, working at the local Kmart. After the store closed at 10PM, a group of us would make the short drive to “La Fonda’s” for Mexican dinner and drinks. Yes, I said drinks. La Fonda was one of the very few places that 17-year-old, baby-faced me could get served. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that everyone whom I was with were in their early 20s. Legal drinking age was 19 at the time. If you averaged us all together, we were legal 🙂

All good things must come to an end. For La Fonda de Los Lobos, that day was Thursday, February 28, 2019. No more looking forward to Loboritos when I come home. They will be missed.

Cobra 29 23 Channel AM Mobile CB Radio

April 9, 2020

Back in the pre-40 channel days, Dynascan’s Cobra 29 was quite possibly the best AM mobile CB radio you could buy. This radio was extremely well made. Audio was very strong, courtesy of Cobra’s exclusive DynaMike.

The Cobra 29 was a very nice looking radio with plenty of knobs, bells & whistles. Power/volume, DynaMike, squelch, RF gain, delta tune, automatic noise limiter, noise blanker, and CB/PA controls were provided on the Cobra 29’s front panel. Lights for transmit and modulation were also included. On the rear panel, the standard connections for 12 volt DC power, SO239 antenna connector, external speaker, and PA speaker. A 5 pin microphone connector is mounted on the left side of the radio. The Cobra 29 was a strong performer and a great seller in it’s day.

Cobra 85 23 Channel AM Base CB Radio

April 9, 2020

The Cobra 85 was Dynascan’s entry-level 23 channel base station. This is a very simple CB radio with only 3 controls: power/volume, squelch, and channel selector. It features a large S/RF meter and standard 4 pin Cobra microphone connector. Though simple, the Cobra 85 was also a good performer, priced right at $150-160 in the mid-1970s.

Cobra CAM 89 23 Channel AM Base CB Radio

April 9, 2020

This is the Dynascan Cobra CAM 89 base station. It looks like a Cobra 139, but doesn’t have SSB (single sideband.) Basically, it’s a Cobra 29 with the addition of a built-in power supply. That’s not a bad thing since the 29 was a great performer. When 40 channel CB radios became legal in 1977, the CAM 89 was upgraded from 23 to 40 channels and became the Cobra 89XLR.

Cobra 135 23 Channel AM/SSB Base CB Radio

April 9, 2020

The mighty Cobra 135! This deluxe base station was top of the Dynascan line in 1975 with a price to match ($400-450.) Features AM/SSB, digital clock and alarm, plus everything else that was available on a CB radio in the mid-1970s. Strangely enough, when 40 channel radios were introduced on January 1, 1977, there was no direct replacement for the Cobra 135. The new top banana was the Cobra 139XLR, an update of the 23 channel 139.