When Twitter got so popular I kept remembering back in the day in Chicago when I accidentally came acroos the ‘beep line’ when I called in to request a song for a boy I had a crush on. Odd thing, which many youngsters won’t understand, but the beep line, which was originally a request line, became something strange. We had no ‘call waiting’ back then. The beep line ‘was’ our call waiting. We however did get to meet people through the beep line. Matter of fact I met a ‘new’ boyfriend on it. It was great because he was the first one I knew to have a battery operated record player, where we could play 45’s at the beach. It was awesome and we definitely appreciated what we had then as opposed to kids being spoiled today with all these gadgets.
In doing research for this post, I came across, ironically in Huntsville, being Alabama is now my adopted state. So cool they had the beep-line here too! I got all excited
Class of ’65
Saw this on Huntsville Revisited on Facebook. I bet I am not the only one who remembers this! Mentioned this to my granddaughter only last week, tried to explain how it worked, this is a better explanation than mine. Sort of hard for her to believe in the day of instant communication!
Dick Biondi, 77, may have actually launched a social networking platform — accidently — during his extraordinarily popular 1960-63 stint on WLS-AM. Back then, the coolest thing that could happen to teens was getting Biondi to mention their name, school or club on his nightly show. If you weren’t around Chicago in those days, it’s hard to convey just how big Biondi was. His rating was better than a 50 percent share, meaning more than half of all Chicago-area radios in use were tuned to his show between 9 p.m. and midnight. To put that in perspective, a radio personality today who could command a 10 percent share would be No. 1 by a long shot, and could write his or her own multimillion dollar contract.
Btw Dick Biondi is still around! Dick Biondi, known as the “Wild I-tralian,” “Big Mouth,” and “The Screamer,” is back on the air at Chicago’s 94.7 FM, Chicago’s Classic Hits, weeknights from 8p to Midnight. Join him on Facebook
In those days, word spread that Biondi arrived at WLS an hour or so before his show, and if you called the main number of the station and asked for him, he’d speak to you personally — if you could wait on hold for about a half-hour. Of course, that’s if you were lucky enough to get through in the first place. Most nights all you’d get if you dialed “STATE 2-2002″ between 7:30 and 9 p.m. was a busy signal. Yes kidlings, we did not have but ONE line in the day. And this is where and when the fun came in
Here is the best explanation I found from the Chicago Tribune:
So many kids were simultaneously calling to talk to Biondi to request some sort of dedication — a “shout-out” — that a strange phenomenon occurred. The circuits overloaded, and between busy signal beeps other callers could be heard talking. The voices were on top of one another and audible only between the beeps, but occasionally you could communicate with another caller waiting to talk to Biondi. Before long, kids discovered this was a great way to talk to the opposite sex, and some who weren’t as innocent as I was made arrangements to meet callers in person.
It wasn’t easy having a conversation when a loud beep and hundreds of other voices were interrupting you every few seconds, but “the beep line,” as it came to be known (in Chicago and in other cities around the county where similar networking was taking place), became a red-hot, although short-lived, phenomenon.
My heart was broken when it stopped but I did become a master of the ‘Beep Line’ I am proud to say. It was sad because all good things from the 60s started closing and it was the very best time to be a teenager! I lost Riverview amusement park in 1967. Do you know how cool it was to walk there, in the heart of the city, a mere mile or so from me. But nooo they had to put Devry there and the Central CPD Headquarters, taking yet another social media away.
Then they took away Skips Drive Thru in Maywood, Il. OUR ‘American Graffitti! Where kids from the city, suburbs and even kids from Wisconsin and Indiana would come. Soon to follow were the sock-hops, concert venues and my beloved Holiday Ballroom, where I met and danced to the Buckinghams. (See 1969) I even won the ‘Battle of the Bands’ one Friday Night. Cute, I had no band, lol.
Looking back on it, it’s hard to imagine that the discovery of the beep line was so exciting to a teen. But in those times, we were still communicating by writing letters, using walkie-talkies and reading the personal ads in newspapers.
Silly? Sure, but no more so than telling strangers what you’re doing in 140 characters or fewer. Bob Sirott is a Tribune special contributor and a former WGN radio host
People don’t get why so many of us are nostalgic and pine for the 60s. I’m here to tell you, what a time to be a teenager. What a time to Dance, Dance, Dance! What a time for innocence and Fun, Fun, Fun. and I know you are all dying to know, I never did get through to Dick Biondi. ~ JP