It’s fun to re-visit the past from time to time and recall not just the events but the people who contributed to where we are now in terms of the hobby. Here is the story of a woman who contributed to my interest in radio and perhaps saved me from a juvenile arrest in the process.
A year before Murderin’ Mike’s Morse Message, my buddy and I almost got shot by police officers of the Tyler Texas Police Department. Well, maybe. Instead, I became the recipient of a police scanner thanks to the mother of a childhood friend.
Thank you, Mrs. W!
I was 13 years old at the time and my best friend was a neighborhood kid named Steve. He’s the same guy referred to as Nutsack in the above-linked story, but I’ll just call him Steve here – the poor feller’s been through enough with that nickname.
In 1974, various subdivisions around our neighborhood surrounded 8-10 acres of wooded area. Those woods were our playground – within them, we had bike trails, “forts”, one or two stashed Playboy magazines and plenty of birds and tin cans that became the targets of our Daisy BB guns.
One day, Steve showed up with some firecrackers his older brother had given him. Naturally, we went in search of matches and then rode into the woods, BB guns slung across our handlebars. We spent the next hour or so lighting the firecrackers and “blowing things up” with them – to the extent such a small thing can blow anything up. But they did make a loud noise and therein lay our upcoming problem.
Evidently, at least one responsible adult had seen us go into the woods with what appeared to be rifles. Loud bangs soon followed – what’s a silly housewife to think…? The police get called with reports of several people in the woods shooting rifles – eyewitnesses have seen them! Send in the hounds!
The police showed up in force. Guns drawn (and not just their sidearms), lights flashing, multiple cars and numerous officers – the works.
All this for BB guns? This was Texas in the 70’s – we’re expected to have guns and didn’t know what all the commotion could be about but we knew those cops weren’t there to present us an award for our marksmanship. They hadn’t seen us but were calling for us to come out unarmed, like something from a movie, and we darn sure weren’t going to do it.
Instead, we hid our BB guns and what remained of our fireworks in some brush and then walked to the other side of the woods to make our exit there. As we approached, we heard more police on loudspeakers repeating what the other cops had been saying – to come out unarmed.
It was easy to see the cops long before they could possibly see us since their cars were parked right at the edge of the woods with their lights flashing like Capone himself was out and about.
In a future post I may write more about Steve, but for now, let me say this about him:
A bit earlier that year, Steve drove his father’s El Camino over to my house after school with a grin on his face from ear to ear. His parents wouldn’t be home for two hours, he said – let’s go ride. I’m telling you that so you’ll understand a bit about how much of a hell-raiser (and how early in life) Steve was. So surrender to these cops who thought we were maniacs with high-calibre rifles was not an option as long as Steve was in the picture.
We turned again to go looking for another exit, and we found one, through someone’s backyard. Evidently the cops didn’t stop to think that a couple of criminals with guns would actually tresspass to get out of the woods and instead only positioned themselves at entry points that abutted a street.
Soon, we’re out of the woods and well on our way home.
You can imagine the talk the next day at school. Steve and I were strangely silent for the most part but to certain friends, we could no more keep quiet about it than you can prevent thunder from following lightning. A few days later, Gretchen, my little love interest, told me her mother wanted to talk with me. They lived just down the street and we always played together, along with all the other neighborhood kids.
Gretchen’s mother – Mrs. W. – asked me if it was me in the woods that day. I told her yes, and then rushed to explain about the firecrackers and BB guns, but she cut me off and wouldn’t let me finish. She had learned from Gretchen that it was us.
She told me she heard everything on a radio she had – a police scanner. I’d never heard of such an object before and couldn’t believe that ordinary people could listen to the police. She showed me the scanner and, sure enough, we heard the police talking. She went on to further amaze me by telling me that she could also listen to the fire department and ambulances if she wanted to.
Then she asked me if I’d like to have the radio – that she never really used it and only turned it on that day when all the police were out and about. Of course I wanted it but I’d have to see if my parents would “loan” me the money. Then she told me she was only interested in a trade – my BB gun for her scanner.
It struck me as odd that a middle-aged housewife wanted a BB gun and it wasn’t until I’d grown up that I realized the real reason for this trade – to save me from future trouble.
Gunless, I enjoyed that police scanner for a while. Thanks, in part I believe, to having it, Steve and I both developed an interest in radio going from the scanner to CB’s and finally to our ham tickets – and meeting some very interesting characters along the way.
I wonder if Mrs. W still has my old Daisy…