It is hard to find a teenager or adult walking around these days without a cellphone. Most teens can text message faster than they can print and it has now become obsessive behavior. People exchange photos, videos and now even music. While it may seem excessive to some, I have to say I’m sure I would have done the same. The following story will explain why.
One of the most memorable Christmas mornings I ever experienced was in 1967 when I was thirteen years old. At that age the enjoyment of the holiday still depends on what was found under the tree and that year seemed exceptional to me.
First, let me set the stage. I grew up in a new suburban neighborhood with one Aunt living across the street and an Uncle living three doors down. That meant I had one cousin Tony and another cousin Mike living just a stones throw away. Plus, my best friend Mike lived right next door, so I had a pretty close group of pals.
On Christmas Eve, Tony’s family would always join us for a big traditional Italian dinner, along with other Aunts and Uncles. Of course the traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner was meatless with plenty of fish. Today I really look forward to that meal, but back then I raced through dinner thinking only about what I might find the next morning under the tree.
Even at the age of thirteen and with the identity of Santa Claus revealed, I still eagerly awaited Christmas morning. So, I was not disappointed in the least in 1967 when I discovered a mother-load of gifts under the tree with my name on them.
The haul included a 10-gallon aquarium, ice skates and an Aurora slot car racer controller, but the most memorable gift was a Lafayette Electronics Army fieldphone walkie talkie! I remember that I had asked for an aquarium and the slot car controller, but the walkie talkie was never anticipated. I opened the box and to my surprise found it had already been equiped with a nine volt transistor battery. That meant it was ready to operate right out of the box.
I turned on that realistic army modeled device and was shocked to hear my cousins Tony and Mike already conversing on the air. I eagerly jumped into the conversation only to be joined by my buddy Mike and his brothers next door. It was a conversation that lasted all day and into the night.
Now a little backstory, Mike’s Dad owned a Lafayette Electronics store which was more or less what a Radio Shack would be today. Looking back and I never asked, I’d guess that Mike’s Dad gave everyone a deal on the walkie talkies which is why all four families had them under the tree. It ended up being a great present for everyone, Mothers, Fathers, Aunts, Uncles, friends, whoever happened to stop by for a Christmas day visit. No one could resist the lure of talking over all that static every time they pushed the button.
Now, I later discovered that the reason the battery was already installed was because all of the parents had test driven the toys late on Christmas Eve. Apparently after we had gone to bed the various Mom’s and Dad’s put in the batteries and had a good old time talking back and forth before wrapping them up to put under the tree.
Today you can find relatively inexpensive walkie talkies that transmit for miles and miles, but back in the 60’s our plastic toys barely transmitted over 100 yards. We were lucky to reach each other’s house up and down the street and reception was scratchy to say the least, but despite all that these green plastic devices seemed magical. We could have just as easily picked up the phone and call each other, but it just wasn’t the same.
We also took turns on Christmas day using what quickly became the stale stunt of having one of our Uncles get on the walkie talkie and act like he was a cop, demanding that everyone get off the air. It worked the first time on my buddy Mike as my Uncle Joe used his best “cop” voice to scare him and his younger brothers off the air for about five minutes, but anyone trying that routine later in the day just got laughed at.
Those walkie talkies provided all of us with months of enjoyment, which iin hindsight was a long time for any Christmas present. Many a night I would ly in bed, under the covers, quietly trying to carry on a conversation with Mike next door. Usually my Mom would eventually detect the screeching coming from my room, no matter how low I had the volume, but it was always worth the risk.
I also recall just lying there listening to unknown voices emanating from various police agency’s or the Air Force base near by. Wondering who these people were and just thrilled with the ability to ease drop in on their conversation.
So today I understand the fascination people have with cell phones and text messaging. If we had them back in the day we would have been just as transfixed. However, those green walkie talkies of 1967 will always hold a special place in my heart. One that today’s mobile cell phones will never replace.