My first scanner memory was back when I was maybe age 4 or 5. I am 27 now so it is an old memory, but the excitment and comfort of added situational awareness sticks out in my mind every time I turn my scanners on.
My grandfather was retired PD chief and his brother was retired FD chief, my family would be over to my great-uncles house along with my grandparents some evening for what would be a short visit. Of course other relatives and old friends of family would invariably pop-in to say hello and chat up a bit. Pipe and cigar smoke would hang in the air and a few drinks and refreshments would be served and conversation would flow easily amongst the adults, but always in a slow and thoughtfull manner with long pauses between statements or reccolections. Conversations would be about the simple agrarian pre-war life then shift to life during the war. Fighting in Africa or advising a devestated and defeted W. Germany get back on their feet, or their experiences with units from the allied and commonwealth nations were were favorite topics or wartime.
For myself, I was just a little kid and any excuse to stay up past my bedtime was, and still is valued time. This time therefore took a special meaning and loged itself in a nice warm spot in my memory. While listening to these stories of far off places, the adults would always pause and ponder to reflect, remember, or reminince, something that I have learned to do myself now. But during these breaks, excitement could easily happen! The big box with the chasing lights that gramps called "the monitor" would pause on one light and the voices would pop out of it. Police or fire dispatch would be called out and 10-codes given. Of course no one but my grandfater and granduncle knew what all the gibberish on the box meant. I am good at following codes and everything now, but to follow the clipped and layered conversations on a scanner takes a trained ear. These two old men were very well trained to follow it, and they were hard to excite, but boy I wasnt! After the PD dispatch was made, Grandpa would pause, bang his pipe on the heavy glass ashtray a few times and then casually motion with the pipe stem in the general direction of the call and quietly and confidently state that "old man Kimzzyk must be getting a whiping from his old lady again." then he would pack his pipe while his brother would nod in agreement. At this point either my grandmother or my grand aunt would add in about getting a nice recipie from Mrs. Kimzzyk once. And almost on-cue my grandfather would scowl and drawl out "...and it was Lousy!" and his brother would nod in agreement quietly. Grandma would say " well I liked it" and then her and her sister in law and my mother and whatver ladies would go chattering on about olive-loaf or gelatin-mold or something in the alcove between the living and dining rooms, while the men would go into storys of Mr. Kimzzyk managing to get into trouble over a 20 year timespan with burning his trash, not paying the milkman, or getting beat-up by his old lady. After a tale or two the older generation would pause again and then state with utmost conviction and actually some reccollective warmth that "Mr. Kimzzyk is an ok fella" and then while striking a match and lighting his pipe, my grandfater would lean a bit forward in his chair and point at his brother with the pipestem, and then add with the same scowl and tone normally reserved for my grandmother's experimental cuisine, "but its his goddamn kid thats got worms for brains!" he would sit back satisfied in his chair and pull on the pipe while his brother would nod in agreement. Now this is not verbatim example of what he would say, but whatever euphanism he chose, it was always a delight to my young kid-brain even though it would a few years until I got the jokes so to say. He didnt swear much when he made these remarks and he wasnt really trying to be funny, because he wasnt joking. The odd part was that He was right almost 100% of the time. The smoke rings would settle a bit now, and after a swig of brandy or a highball, the "moniter" would pause again and the responding officer would reply back to the station now speaking in a manner like he just was charged by a bull elephant and in protocol-breaking plain english "Their grown son was being chased around the neighborhood by his mother (Mrs. Kimzzy) kwith a broom, she told me to come back after she cut her sons woman-hair, and to bring an appetite, what should I do Captain?" Gramps would just slightly smile and his brother would nod in agreement. Dammit! The old man was RIGHT! He had some oddball intuitiveness that I somehow genetically inherited as I find myself doing the same thing right before info is passed over the radio. Anyways, after another customary short pause, my granduncle would add "that cop must be that new rookie with the facial hair!" a few pipe-puffs and granpa would shoot right back at him while pointing the pipe-stem "I would have shaved the beard right off that goddamn hippy or kicked him off the force!" And you know what? He would have.
These were great times for a kid that should have been in bed 3 hours before. I had an inside view of what was going on in the world around us not only of what the police were doing, but how the community was changing. It certaintly felt special to be able to "monitor" what the PD and FD were doing even though it required potentially drawn out tales from my grandfather or granduncle, he always managed to come full circle and be damn accurate, and also gave credit where credit was due. Their values on how public safety depts and how communities should act has rubbed off on me. I too often catch myself thinking to myself "I'd shave that hippybeard off his face" when I see a bearded cop and then I have a good laugh and thank my grandad for the good times and memories. Policework and scanners have come a long way since then. The old neighborhoods and flowerbeds have deteriorated and into shells and shadows. The memories still live with me and every time I turn on the scanner. Occasinally I will hear a call on a familiar street from my grandparent's past. Sometimes it is a crime that would have been unthinkable in the area when I was a kid, let alone when gramp's was on the force. I chalk these up to being a sign of the times. But sometimes the dispatch to that long-familiar street will be for an ambulance with a cold response, and then with my grandfather's intuition, I know what is coming next, and that is a dispatch for the medical examiner. One of the old neighborhood stalwarts would be gone on to the knitting circle in the sky. Thankfully in peace, but you sit and wonder and suprise that there may be a little bit more left of those memories and late nights and stories. Well there was, until Just Now. Just like that you can see them fade away like smoke rings from granpas pipe.
The "monitor" in this recolection I think was an old 10 crystal bearcat unit probably purchased from Sears or something. My grandfather had a 10 memory Regency on an end table at home. My first scanner was given to me for Christmas 1993 or 1994. A Uniden Sportcat 150B which was noteworty at the time for having 100 memories and the full 800mhz spectrum. I still use it. Great and strudy scanner. Never needed anything more until recently my interest in adjacent towns required more scanning firepower, and my fiance bought me the PSR300 for Christmas of 2007. To this day, one of my preffered ways to spend an evening is to let the scanner (or monitor if you will) run while I flip through magazines or maybe tinker with something while my fiance does whatever keeps her interest (tv, crosswords, SMS text gossiping) and hold a conversation in bits and pieces over and around the noise of the scanner and friends or family that call or drop by for a few minutes. I should have been in bed two hours ago, my fiance is sleeping on the couch like a baby, and my scanner is running while I idleley chat with scannerbuddie on RR.com. The calls tonite have people getting shot, cut out of cars, and contemplating suicide. I am safe and content and know how good I've got it. Trust me, I'm in heaven.