|June 11, 2015||Posted by admin under Bardstown, Nelson County, News In General||
Thursday, June 11, 2015 — Boy howdy, it has been a very LONG time since I last wrote in this space. I’ve even moved this blog to a newer, robust server (not by choice, but the company that was doing my hosting for several of my sites decided in their infinite wisdom to get of the website hosting business and focus solely on domain registrations).
The simple truth is that website hosting is so inexpensive now that there’s not that fantastic a margin for a smallish outfit. But for you and me, it means we can put up a blog for nearly nothing (or actually nothing if you use a free blogging site like Google’s Blogger, LiveJournal, etc.).
Let me warn you this post has nothing — absolutely nothing! — to do with local news. It is simply a rambling post about a portion of my past. So there, you’ve been warned.
About a year ago, I was doing some goofy searches on eBay. For those who don’t know me, eBay is to me what Wal-Mart is to a value-conscious shopper — I just about live on eBay (with the exception of the time I’m busy with the Nelson County Gazette). I have purchased thousands of dollars of stuff via eBay the past 15-plus years. If I don’t need an item immediately, I buy it on eBay if its a better deal (plus shipping).
BLAST FROM THE PAST. And during my search for eBay for items with a Nelson County connection, I stumbled upon a part of my history — the CB radio QSL card I designed when I was 12 years old.
I was stunned, to be honest. I hadn’t seen one of the cards for 30 years or more. But beginning when I was 10, I got involved with CB radio after my sister’s father-in-law to be gave my parents an old Hallicrafters CB-3A CB transceiver. I actually used it while the antenna — a HyGain CLR-2 ground plane — was laying across a bench in the basement.
By radio, the first person I talked to was Wathen Bottom, a man of many talents and interests beyond that of watches and jewelry he sold at his store on North Third Street. My father bought my mother her engagement ring from Wathen Bottom, and 40 years later, so did I.
But CB radio was to me and my generation what Facebook and social media are to today’s kids. For the first time, you could easily break free of the physical constraints of your home and neighborhood (and in my case, my parents restrictions on riding your bike past My Old Kentucky Home Motel) and travel the area.
My CB name (or “handle”) was “Bourbon Boy.” My father, who soon had a CB in his car, took the name “Barrel Stave.” After a couple of years, I got involved in CB radio clubs, locally and then regionally. They had regular meetings and then “coffee breaks” — which usually were a form of flea market/picnic that usually included a fundraiser of some sort.
My best friend at the time, Scott Gordon and I — with the support of his mom, Garda Gordon — started the first local CB radio club in Bardstown. Scott and I were ahead of our time with our suggested name — we supported “Bourbon Capital CB Club” but we were overruled by the adult teetotalers who wanted the club name to be “Town & Country CB Club” (this was long before Farmers Bank & Trust co. changed their name to Town & Country).
Scott — whose handle was “Cricket” — and I also got into QSL cards — the postcard-sized cars that CB’ers traded among themselves, kind of a calling card with your name, address, callsign and CB handle. Many CB’ers spent considerable time and money creating unique QSL cards with original artwork and four-color printing.
ART NOT MY STRONG SUIT. Despite my limited drawing skills, I decided to make my own QSL card that would include me and my Dad, our handles and KFQ-0935 call letters, and some sort of graphics — humorous, of course. After lots of time doodling, I settled on a design — a figure of a smiling young man dropping an empty bourbon bottle into a trash can and holding up a fresh cup of booze with the other hand for Bourbon Boy; for Barrel Stave, I drew a bourbon barrel with a CB antenna on top it.
My Dad approved of the design, and after careful proofreading and re-proofreading, we set out looking for a printer. We ended up going to Hub City Printing in Elizabethtown, where we order a couple of hundred postcard-size cards, one-sided in black and white.
So you can imagine my surprise when I ran across the eBay listing and seeing my artwork looking back at me from my computer screen.
Scott and I gave out our QSL cards to all our CB contacts, and we even mailed them to the people we talked to (the truth is that the card were originally intended to confirm your contact with another radio operator; they were never intended to be traded, sold or collected).
The popularity of CB QSL cards gave rise to clubs whose only purpose was to allow members to swap and trade QSL cards without having to actually contact other operators. For a small fee — $2 or $3 — you sent the club 25 or 50 of your cards; in return, they sent a nice membership certificate and 25 or 50 different cards from their membership roster. Oh, and every member received a unique membership number, which in CB lingo, was referred to as a “unit number.”
For example, Scott and I joined a number of QSL swap clubs … I joined the Honey Bee QSL Swap Club based in Louisiana; the Michigan QSL Swap Club, the Wiggly Worm QSL Swap Club of Michigan, and others that I don’t remember. We each acquired a great many cards, and sent out our cards to these clubs. I also purchased a rubber stamp with the club’s logo, and the big thing was to stamp your card with the logo of clubs to which you belonged.
The popularity of the clubs didn’t go unnoticed by Scott and I; once you were a member of a couple, you were on their membership roster, and other members wanting your card would send you a dozen or so different cards to get yours and some others of your collection, sight unseen. It was a lot of fun, but Scott and I also wondered if it could also be profitable.
I put pencil to paper, and reasoned that if we charged $3 for a membership, we could give a nice membership certificate and pocket the rest of the funds left over (minus return postage). We traded memberships with half a dozen or more QSL clubs, building our club stash of cards, then began soliciting membership. We agreed to go beyond the $3 fee for 25 cards; for those wanting more cards, you could go for 50 or even 100 — as long as you paid the appropriate fee. We set a much-discounted rate for repeat customers.
There was damn little overhead to the business beyond membership certificates, envelopes and postage. We expected to make out ok, and once we got our club logo stamp going, we could promote the club on all of our cards we sent out, as well as to other QSL clubs. This was going to be big!
Or so we thought.
We rented a post office box for the club mail. The response was slow, since we depended our memberships with other QSL clubs to promote our QSL club. We received several applications and money orders, but then realized we didn’t have a bank account or other accomodations for deposting money or cashing checks. We setup a checking account and deposited the funds. It was slow going. Very, very slow. I paid to have a club stamp created — the Central Kentucky QSL Swap Club. I still have the stamp somewhere, it was the only one of its kind. It was expensive to have made, and we weren’t going to be able to offer anyone a decent rate to purchase one.
Then one day Scott brought me a letter he received from a fellow QSL collector. He basically read us the Riot Act because of our pricing structure, which he recognized as a way to make some money. He called us greedy bastards or something like that (among other things). Scott was visibly shaken, and it was a very bitter pill to swallow.
We DID go into the QSL club buisness to try to make some money. Neither of us thought it might offend anyone, and in retrospect, it was probably the fees we asked of our members who wanted swap additional cards with the club that set the guy off. It soured our view on the whole QSL swap club idea. I probably still have in storage somewhere a couple of applications and money orders from members who joined and got their cards — and I felt guilty about depositing the money after getting ripped about making money from the club. I never deposited those money order.
Mowing yards was easier money to make and left me with no guilty feelings about charging for my services. I still have a shoebox or two filled with CB QSL cards somewhere … and thanks to eBay, I also have in my possession one of my original QSL cards that was traded around by collectors and survived to return to its home after nearly 40 years.
Ironically, I can’t put my hands on it to scan it and post it here, but I will.
“.. 10-4, this is the Bourbon Boy clear and gone … “