In my last column, I did a little car hopping down memory lane back to the magic time of Buddy Holley, Red Robinson on CKWX, Drive-In Movies, Restaurants, Like the White Spot, and the more or less carefree days of being young and naïve (this is important for later).
Consider the word embarrassed, the state of being self-conscious and ashamed of some activity, in this case where a little fore-thought could have avoided the whole event. Then again I wouldn’t have this delicious adventure to share with you, from the twilight zone at 17th and Cambie.
Picture a summer evening, actually early morning. Early morning! As I wrote last week concerning my adventures of being a White Spot Car Hop, it was part of the work routine after the restaurant closed, at one or two in the morning, that the crew cleaned up the place so that it was spic and span for the following day.
As soon as one’s chores were complete, we’d change from our work clothes, dark green uniforms, white shirts and hats and – what else – go to an all-night restaurant for coffee and a little social time with colleagues.
Now I must confess to an intense interest in electronics, specifically radios. Later in my life I actually had a career at CBC Radio, as well as becoming a HAM (Amateur Radio Operator – VE5ADK was my Saskatchewan license) but that came much later.
I had acquired a very early model Citizens Band Transceiver, the stuff of Big Rig Truckers. It was portable, with a three to four foot telescoping antenna and it was seriously cool. I didn’t have a licence yet but who cares? Everybody wanted to try it out.
One of my fellow car hops said he had a multi band radio and was certain that it would receive transmissions on the CB Band. So we decided that after coffee we would drop him at home, drive a little way from his house and try to communicate with him. His radio was a receiver with no capacity to send a signal but we weren’t going to let that stop us.
It was about three in the morning, having dropped my friend at home I drove a couple of blocks to 17th and Cambie, and with a couple of other car hop friends, pulled to the side of the road and proceeded to start transmitting.
I’m sitting in my 1949 Austin A40, with a couple of buddies, four-foot chrome antenna sticking out of the car window calling our friend on the radio. It still amazes me that we went ahead even though he couldn’t answer back. We were growing tired of the game, when a beige Studebaker Lark came down the block, slowed dramatically then drove on. Moments later the Studebaker was back, with five or six other police cars and a canine unit. We were surrounded.
Red lights flashing, a half dozen of Vancouver’s finest interrogated us, separately. My radio was confiscated, the dog was barking like a hound of the Baskervilles, and they were giving us the third degree about who we were and what were we doing. I got a skeptical response when I told him we were broadcasting to a friend a couple of blocks away with a radio that couldn’t call back.
Finally after an hour, we were able to convince them we were car hops from the White Spot, had verified our identities through our parents (who were now no longer asleep, and not amused), and rousted out our friend who was the recipient our radio transmitting exploit. We also had an audience of the neighbours who were out wondering what half of the VPD, with flashing lights and barking dogs, had going on.
They decided we weren’t mobsters and sent us home. They said that since I didn’t have a licence they’d keep the radio until the next day when I could pick it up.
So, what was all the fuss? Here were three young men, at three in the morning, in a car with no lights on, on a quiet side street just off Cambie, with a portable radio antenna sticking out of the window. It turned out that because we were parked just back from Cambie on 17th, we had no way of knowing that the building we were parked beside was a branch of the Toronto Dominion Bank. There is a lot that You Don’t Say, but I certainly dramatically understood the definition of embarrassed! And you can take that to the bank!