2/7/09

Fads #6: When Truckers Were Cool

Ask some kids what they want to be when they grow up, chances are none of them will say a "trucker". Back in the 70s it was a different story - truckers were idolized by adults and kids alike. The Boomers had found that life in the work force wasn't exactly living up to their freewheelin' hippie expectations. However, the truckers still weren't tied down and roamed free on the highways like a drifter who didn't have to answer to "the man". Truckers were the last anti-establishment figure who didn't even have to answer to the government - no roadblock was big enough to stop a convoy!

While trucking epitomized that free bird lifestyle for adults, they were like cowboys to 70s kids. Best of all was the CB radio, where you could pretend you were just as cool the truckers. The slang was awesome.



Antler Alley = Deer crossing
Beaver Fever = A trucker who misses his girlfriend or wife
Colorado Kool Aid = Beer
Don’t Feed The Bears = Don’t get any tickets
Etc.

If you really want to learn some CB lingo read The B.J. and the Bear Annual (1981) which lists them out with illustrations here. Believe it or not, it was actually written by famed comic book writer/illustrator Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Watchmen, From Hell)!

My parents didn't have a CB, but my uncle did, and on one wonderful day as we were traveling to the mall in his station wagon, we spotted a semi leaking oil. My uncle and cousin knew the slang and even had a "handle". This is basically how it went down:

Uncle: "This is Tic-Tac to the Big Mack headin' eastbound to Astrodome City at mile marker 18. Do you read?"
(There was a brief pause, then...)
Trucker: "Yeah"
(It was like I was in a friggin' movie. I couldn't believe there was actually a response from a real live trucker!)
Uncle: "Yer leakin' diesel juice on the blacktop. Do you copy?"
Trucker: "That's not gas. It's water."
Uncle: "10-4. Keep the shiny side up and the greasy side down. Truck 'em easy."
Trucker: Whatever.

I'm guessing these truckers got sick of station wagons constantly calling in on their CBs. They were probably grateful when the trucker craze passed so they could get a little peace.

My favorite trucker song is of course "Convoy" by C.W. McCall.



The song became the basis for a trucker movie starring Kris Kristofferson and Ali McGraw (1978). Other trucker films include Flatbed Annie & Sweetie Pie (1979), Steel Cowboy (1978) starring James Brolin, and The Great Smokey Roadblock (1977) starring Henry Fonda and Susan Sarandon. Of course, there was the great ones: Smokey & the Bandit and White Line Fever.

There was also Coast to Coast (1980) starring Dyan Cannon and Robert Blake. You can tell truckers were idolized simply by the film's description: "Blake plays a scrappy truck driver who becomes Cannon's reluctant rescuer- a down to earth knight riding a 30-ton, 13-gear charger."

A great article on trucker movies at WFMU's Beware of Blog can be found here.

Here's a couple pages I scanned from a 1979 issue of Cracked that I think demonstrates pretty well how out of hand the CB craze had become. (click to enlarge)

8 comments:

  1. Once on a school field trip (ca. 1990), I was riding in a van that had a CB in it. Us kids turned it on, and listened to the apparently desperately lonely truckers chatting to one another. Then we got the brilliant idea that one of us should pretend to be a lonely woman and set up a date with some trucker at a local restaurant. So I said I was Daisy and really liked truckers and would one of those guys passing through like to meet me at the Pizza Hut on Tylersville?

    Sadly, I couldn't convince my parents to go to Pizza Hut that night so I could see if there was a trucker there. (If I'd told them the actual reason I wanted to go, instead of just alleging a pizza craving, I would have been in a world of hurt.) I still wonder if that lonely, sad man sat at Pizza Hut for hours wondering why that dumb bitch stood him up...

    Now that I'm grown up and have my own car, I do have a CB radio -- but use it for listening only, on long road trips when I want to eavesdrop on truckers' traffic advice (and Smokie warnings).

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  2. Dr. Monkey - Correction - ruleS!

    Erica- You might've got more than you bargained for at that Pizza Hut... probably best you stayed home. A lonely trucker hopped up on Vivarin and BC Powder most likely wouldn't have made good company.

    Wasn't "Joyride" the movie where they tease a trucker and get hell for it? That could've been you.

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  3. We had a CB. My dad would switch it from the station wagon to the pickup, whichever he was driving that day. Had those really long antennas.

    I remember Coast to Coast. Someone came on the CB and said something about a "blond beaver." Dyan Cannon wasn't supposed to know that was her and Robert Blake had to say something like "Oh yes, that's a rare beaver only found around here" or something like that. Anyway, I thought it was hilarious at the time.

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  4. Hey Gil. Wow! Cool post. I had a huge fascination with truckers when I was growing up. It started because of B.J. and the Bear. I wanted to be just like him. It expanded as I saw a lot of trucker movies. That the type of life I wanted to live. Of course, it never happened. Oh well.

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  5. My dad had a CB radio back in the '70s. His handle was "The Hunter" because he like to hunt.

    When my friends and I played "CB/Truckers" on our bikes, my handle was "Four-Eyes" because I wore glasses.

    In the '80s, my dad and I both received creativity injections, and things improved from there.

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  6. gilligan -- Good lord, I didn't want to actually talk to the creepy trucker, just see if he followed through on showing up!! I was not that stupid :)

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  7. Trucking is still cool, still get kids wanting to hear a trucks horn.

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