Licorice Sticks and Motorized Freckles


According to the North Carolina Museum of History that fun phrase was slang for “hello” in the 1940s.

Slang can also be used to describe or “name” new objects.  One such object created in the 1940s still holds mountains of fascination in our household.  Our six-year-old asked for a set for his birthday.  Instead of calling it a “portable, hand-held, two-way radio transceiver”, he called it by it’s slang term… walkie-talkie.  He wanted them so he would be able to communicate to his brothers – one in the bunk bed above him and the other about 6 feet away in another bed.  I can just imagine the conversations:

*Hey, psst… you sleeping yet?*  *over*

*no…  you?*  *over*

*Do you want to take a ride in my popsicle’s bathtub tomorrow?* (Because they will, of course, be on top of all 1940s slang and will know that popsicle=motorcycle and bathtub=sidecar 😉 )  *over*



And something new I learned – Roger comes from the radio alphabet used at the time for military and civilian aviation.  The radio alphabet was “…used to spell out words when speaking to someone not able to see the speaker.”  Roger was used for the letter R and in transmitting R stood for received.  Roger?

“The first radio receiver/transmitter to be widely nicknamed “Walkie-Talkie” was the backpacked Motorola SCR-300, created by an engineering team in 1940 at the Galvin Manufacturing Company (fore-runner of Motorola).”

It looked like this:

Try sleeping with that under your pillow.

“Motorola also produced the hand-held AM SCR-536 radio during World War II, and it was called the “Handie-Talkie” (HT).”

It looked like this:

And came with helpful instructions apparently.

“The terms are often confused today, but the original walkie talkie referred to the back mounted model, while the handie talkie was the device which could be held entirely in the hand (but had vastly reduced performance). Both devices ran on vacuum tubes and used high voltage dry cell batteries.”

Two others credited with working on the technology behind the walkie-talkie are radio engineer Alfred J. Gross and Canadian inventor Donald Hings.   They each developed and tested a device in the late 1930s.  Gross was recruited to help develop a “two-way, air-to-ground radio system for covert use by troops behind enemy lines during World War II” while Hings model was used in military service in 1942.  (

Here is a photo of a walkie-talkie (technically a handie-talkie) being used by a US soldier- July 1944 in the Dutch New Guinea:

If I had a walkie-talkie and you did too… I would let you know there are only 18 days until the 1940 census is available.  Can you feel the excitement?  Head over to the 1940 Census Project website to sign up as an indexer and get in on this killer-diller (good stuff).

Those slang terms in the title?  licorice stick = clarinet and motorized freckles = insects.  If you got those right, then you should flip your wig because you’re cookin’ with gas!

** One of those disclosure statements:  As part of ambassador program (theme this week:  transportation, science and technology of the 1940s) this blog post enters me into a drawing for one of four $50 Amazon gift cards.   That would buy a lot of presentation paper, a few books on my list, or handfuls of jelly beans.  Maybe all three.  Join me as an ambassador for a chance to win similar prizes.  🙂  Okay, so the last half wasn’t part of the disclosure description, but it’d fun, no?**

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  1. I LOVE your blog. I do not know why it has taken me so long to find it. I am also in love with the 1940 Census. True Confession: I am totally an indexing junkie. I love it! Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Rita!! I am so happy to hear you love indexing too. 🙂 p.s. Love Reuben already – simply because he has cuff links for him and Rita. 🙂 Another reason might be because he takes the trash out. And perhaps because he makes you so very happy. Yes – I think that one for sure!

  2. Great article. To this day, kids still are fascinated by walkie-talkies. I was growing up, and so were my kids. I’ve heard a lot of slang terms in my day, but motorized freckles is one I’ve *never* heard. 🙂

    I wrote about the first concepts of hypertext, which originated in the 1940s, but didn’t become terribly useful until the internet. Something my kids have just come to expect every time they use the computer.

    • So true. I’m amazed at what I’ve found that started in the 40s – and progressed to what we have now.

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