While searching through some columns written nearly 20 years ago for another newspaper that no long is operating, I ran across a column headlined “Soaring gas prices can’t help but remind of ‘good old days.’”
I quickly read further to see just what those soaring gas prices were in 2000. I read that I cringed every time I stopped to buy gasoline during those days and paid $1.59 plus for one gallon of fuel.
Today we are thrilled when the price of a gallon drops from $2.65 to $2.599 as it was a couple of days ago in several stations I drove by. Other stations were still at $2.699 or in between.
When you like to go places as much as I do, I just grit my teeth and pay the bill each time I stop and I don’t even complain as I was doing in 2000 when we were so accustomed to lower prices and could hardly believe the jump.
Some of us can remember the day when there was practically a filling station on every corner and a number of them listed in the city directories of my day.
Those were the days when you rolled into one of the stations and a friendly attendant came out of the office, asking “Regular or Ethyl?” and washed your windows, checked your water and oil while the car was being gassed up. It was the oil, transmission fluid and brake fluid, not to mention antifreeze that made money for the station owner. When you couldn’t afford antifreeze, you drained the radiator on nights when temperatures dipped below freezing.
Today, we rarely stop at a full service station, but at a convenience store where we fill our own gas tanks, check our own tires and check under the hood if it needs it. Times sure have changed.
When summer is just getting started, many families head out for vacations. That means possibly the largest bill during the vacation is the fuel if we are driving.
We talk about how high it will go before it starts inching downward and I read an article this week that we shouldn’t expect that to happen before fall.
When I start reminiscing about the “good old days” of $0.39 a gallon and even less if there was a gasoline war going on, I start to sound like my parents and grandparents. But I didn’t walk barefoot five miles to school every day as so many REAL old timers like to say. I did walk about four blocks, but I always had shoes. We also had one car and were fortunate enough to be able to pay for the $0.39 a gallon gasoline to get us where we needed to go.
We just didn’t drive as much. The car was used to take my mom and dad back and forth to work on Main Street, to go to church services on Sunday, grocery shopping on Saturday, to visit my grandmothers across town and other essential travel.
A vacation once a year was a special treat that we had saved all year to make and didn’t go very far. And occasionally I was allowed to borrow the car for a few hours to “make the drag on Main Street” with some of my friends.
When my children were young, I bought my first new car, a very small Super Anglia English Ford. I could fill that gas tank for less than $3 a week. Claud Easterly, my very dear friend and boss at the time, jokingly told me once that I shouldn’t be allowed to drive on the road and spend so little on fuel.
Back in 2000, we thought nothing of jumping in the car five or six times a week or even daily to make short – and long – trips across town, the county or even the state. Today, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that list of trips has grown considerably. Most family have two or three vehicles on the road that need to be “filled up” more than once a week.
Traffic can be horrendous, especially when you get around the Metroplex or further south to Austin or Houston and with the 75 mph speed limit, some of us don’t want to go that fast. Others seem to think it means they have to go that fast and even faster.
None of us like the price, but when we take all this into consideration, it’s a pretty good buy for the money.
That year we drove to the Sacramento, California-Reno, Nevada area and paid $1.70 a gallon there and thought that was almost unheard of until we saw some stations that had gone to $2 a gallon. I read that week that in England, petrol was selling for $6 a gallon. I haven’t seen lately what the Britishers are spend now but I suppose it is higher than that.
I cannot help but wish for the “good old days” back in high school when on a Saturday night my dad would allow me to use the family car and I could put a dollar’s work in for my driving all night.
After the gas gauge dipped dangerously low my friends and I would dig into our pockets and ante up loose change amounting to a total of $1 or so. We would buy five gallons of gas to drag Main and circle the root beer stand on Armstrong Avenue at least 10 times, then take everyone home and still have gas to spare so that daddy wouldn’t find an empty tank on Sunday morning.
However, I wouldn’t return to the “good old days.” I like my comfortable, modern vehicle and I’m willing to pay for the gasoline. I just try not to drive quite as much as I did a few months ago as I hope the price doesn’t go very much higher.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. She has been a longtime contributor to the Herald Democrat with her bi-weekly column, which appears in the Wednesday and Sunday editions. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.