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Mark Simonson

February 24, 2014

Gasoline, demons and baseball were 'trending' locally in 1974

“Trending” has become a popular word in our present everyday language. This word wasn’t used in February 1974, but for what I write twice weekly, it could just as well have applied to local history.

Local news items that were “trending” 40 years ago this month included getting used to when you could buy gasoline, a movie that was coming to Oneonta soon but was already getting attention, and a very popular Oneonta Yankees “hot stove” event.


A voluntary gasoline rationing program got its debut in Oneonta and across the state on Monday, Feb. 11, 1974. In this program, initiated by Gov. Malcolm Wilson, the last digit of a license plate dictated when you could buy gasoline. If the number was odd, the purchase could be made that day. Those with even numbers waited until the next day, Feb. 12. Zero was considered an even number.

Being voluntary, pretty much everyone ignored the program, from drivers to gas station owners.

Don Tyler had a Mobil station at the corner of River and Main streets and was undecided about using the system.

“I don’t know yet,” Tyler told The Oneonta Star. “We’re just going to have to wait and see what happens.”

For Tyler, he had both regular and self-service pumps and felt that having to keep watch on the numbers of plates at the self-service pumps could be a problem.

“It would defeat the whole purpose of self-service business if I had to pay somebody to check license plates.”

The voluntary program served as a warm-up exercise for what came a few weeks later. Mandatory odd-even gas rationing began on Tuesday, Feb. 26. There was plenty of confusion at local stations, as most customers were either unaware of the regulations or were attempting to circumvent them. Commercial vehicles were exempt from the regulations, which more than likely caused a fair share of grumbling from regular vehicle owners.

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Mark Simonson

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