A while back I was in Florida. That state has more different license plates for their vehicles then any other state I know but all the while I was there I did not see one ham radio license plate. Does Florida have call sign plates? Maybe someone could leave a comment and tell me the answer to that question.
Contemplating this and searching for call plates reminded me of the days gone by.
In 1962 when I got my first car there were no vanity license plates and the California Highway Patrol used a frequency somewhere near the 160 meter band. There were only the standard format for license plates and when anyone saw a big antenna on a vehicle not marked CHP they thought it must be some type of government vehicle.
It was fun then because service stations were “service” stations not just a place to get gas (Oregon residents know what I mean because they still have service stations). After the attendant filled up the tank and checked the oil and water they would take the credit card and fill out the information. Part of that information included the license plate number. The look on their faces when they would see that plate number and then look at the big antenna was a site to see. Frequently they would ask if I was FBI or something. I finally found it was easier to say, “that’s classified information” rather then try to explain and it was more fun too.
The best one I can remember though was when I applied for my call letter plates. I was in the Coast Guard then and stationed in Brownsville, Texas. My car was in Colusa, California so after I got married my bride and I went to California to take our car to Texas. When it came time I had to leave my new license plates had not arrived and the old ones had been turned into the DMV so the car only had a small red sticker showing it was registered.
We were driving along a long straight section of road through south eastern Colorado doing an excess of 80 miles per hour. My big old Webster Bandspander leaning back at quite an angle behind me when I saw a state police car come on from a side road and follow me. There were two officers in the vehicle and they followed me for a mile or two looking me over. Then they passed me, I looked at them and they looked at me all the while I kept my speed because I knew they knew how fast I was going and if I showed fear I would have been had. Then they drove in front of me with the officer on the passenger side turned around looking us over. They took the next side road and that was the last I saw of them.
Oh to have been the proverbial fly on the wall inside that police car! I can only imagine what might have been said. It may have gone something like this; after seeing that 59 Ford Fairlane 500 flying down the road with that big antenna, no license plate, and no apparent concern at their presence one officer asked the other, “what are they?” The other officer answered, “I don’t know and I don’t want to find out.”
Maybe they didn’t say that I don’t know but I do know I was a fast driver in those days even after I got my plates and the only time I was stopped was when I drove by a parked police car (I was not speeding) after I had installed a Heathkit Twoer. They followed me for a short while then pulled me over. One officer came up on one side of the car and the other came up the other side of the car. Both had a hand on their holstered firearm and the other hand on our vehicle door. They questioned me at length about who we were and what those radios were. It took me years to finally figure out why they stopped me. The Twoer has a supper regenerative receiver which radiates over a wide band. When I passed by and while they following close behind me it would open the squelch on their VHF police radio. That was one time when it was not fun.
There are other interesting stories told to me by hams from a few years earlier. They were pulled over by the police for having radio equipment in their vehicle and some ended up in jail until the local authorities found out about ham radio operators.