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Mark Simonson

March 31, 2014

Local residents coped with lines for gasoline in 1974

Had I been a licensed driver at the time, I probably would have been surfing the songs playing on the car’s AM radio in early March 1974. It could have been a bit of therapy for many local drivers, faced with long lines, waiting for gasoline. 

“Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks happened to be the Billboard No. 1 song in the U.S. at the time. Those who remember the song’s refrain knew there was no “joy” or “fun” when it came to the long lines or high prices for gasoline.

“Mexicans relax with a daily siesta, Eskimos hibernate as much as possible during sub zero weather and the British opt for late afternoon tea,” it was written in The Oneonta Star of Friday, March 1, 1974.

“Until the energy crisis began, the fast-paced U.S. was one of the few countries in the world which had no provisions for a national form of relaxation.

“Times have changed, and Americans are now indulging in a relatively new type of ‘leisure time’ activity. It’s called the gas break and its practice is relatively simple — every time a gasoline pump starts pumping, an instant line-up of cars mandates a long waiting period from lines end to the pump.”

On that Thursday afternoon, Feb. 28, Highway Oil in Oneonta’s East End, now a used car dealership, had average lines of nearly 60 cars, being the only operating gasoline station in the area. One-and-a-half to two hours was the general waiting time.

Diane Huntington of Luther Street was catching up on letter writing, while Virginia Sanik of Union Street was making good progress with a navy blue and red afghan, when approached by a Star reporter.

“The waiting doesn’t really bother me,” Mrs. Sanik said. “The last time I was in line, I did up a whole sweater.”

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Mark Simonson

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