CB lingo a bit smokey

The other day, my 13-year-old son Sloan was listening to the 1975 radio classic Convoy by C.W. McCall. I never had a citizens’ band radio installed in my car, but growing up during the associated craze, there wasn’t a speck of CB lingo in that song I couldn’t understand. My son, on the other hand, had no reference for smokies and puttin’ the hammer down.

Rather than make a dull lesson of this important cultural artifact, I engaged my son in an enlightened form of education, playing the CB Radio Game issued in 1976 by Parker Brothers. Purchased at a church sale for a dollar, it would have been a bargain at twice the price.

Inside the box: a pack of “Mike” cards; a “CB Radio Slanguage” sheet; a “CB rig” with game spinners; a series of flimsy plastic truck markers; two smokies (police cars); and a “Bear in the Air” (police helicopter) missing its rotor.

Let the fun begin — please? — because the convoluted instructions required the better part of an hour to master.

The game starts with all players at the beginning of their respective roadways. Three police vehicles are placed in a station called Yellowstone Park.

“This is the starting point for these vehicles,” barks the instruction sheet, imperiously. “Once they move off the Park, they may not return and no action takes place here.”

Players attempt to drive a length of roadway faster than each other while evading smokies who hide in “Bear Traps” behind billboards. Game markers advance on the instruction of the Mike cards. Players flip the spinners on a cheaply constructed CB radio, either “hi” or “lo” band as the cards dictate.

Players who draw a special “Break One Nine” card can manipulate the smokies to the detriment of other players. Smokies must always move 10 spots ahead — unless they want to move into a “Bear Trap” located behind a billboard. Smokies can make a player lose a turn when they catch them for speeding by either landing on their spot or one spot away from them. But, wait. You also get caught for speeding if you land on or near the smokey.

Police helicopters may only move from one “Bear in the Air” station to another. Players who advance more than seven spaces in the presence of a smokey lose a turn for speeding. However, if the smokey enters a Bear Trap after you arrive, you are free to go.

The winning player is the first to complete an assigned route.

Have you got that, Good Buddy? Because I sure didn’t.

Sloan begins the game, dutifully reading his Mike cards. In addition to providing game piece instructions, each card includes a message written in CB slang, and it requires the use of the CB Slanguage tip sheet to decipher.

“I have a Smokey report,” he reads. “There’s honey all over the road. Threes and eights.” Translation: “I have a police location report, and there are a lot of police on the road. Sign off and best wishes.”

Although the game is bilingual (“Jeu Radiophonique BC”), no efforts are made to include francophones in the merriment generated by the universal language of Citizens Band.

“Hey, road jockey, blow my doors in and shake my tires for a while,” says the next card. By the time he reads his third CB message involving “two big dogs double-nickling down the slab,” Sloan has had enough. “These CB messages don’t have any effect on the outcome of the game,” he says. “Why am I even bothering with that Slanguage sheet?”

He has a point, but I force him to translate anyway, for his own good. The game proceeds briskly, but in staccato fashion as rules, both vague and dictatorial, are interpreted on the fly. I pull ahead, Sloan pulls ahead and the Bear in the Air pulls ahead. I’m stopped several times for speeding and Sloan’s truck rushes to a solid win.

“I drove right off the board,” he announces. “The big prize is that the winner gets to stop playing first!”

Angus, my bull terrier, wants to bite a chunk off the corner of the CB radio spinner module. I let him.

“What are you going to do with the game now?” Sloan asks.

I offer to give it to him, so he can play it with his friends.

“What I meant is that, if you want to give it to a family with a kid who likes it better than me, that would be fine,” he offers charitably.

The CB Radio Game is described as a delight for young and old. But not, apparently, for teenagers.

Sloan Kenter with the vintage CB game.
Photograph by: Peter Kenter, Potmedia News