This was more than a few weeks before my time, but — cue sound effects of chairs frantically sliding backwards and the younger Signal Reader Demographic sprinting out of the room — gasoline was 21 cents a gallon.
At the turn of the 20th century, petrol — just the one octane then — would come sloshing into town in 100-gallon wooden barrels. Gasoline was delivered into the Santa Clarita Valley through Beale’s Cut. On horse-drawn wagons.
I’m not sure how they managed to roll 100-gallon barrels filled with liquid explosives down a ramp, by hand, but they did. The old Doty’s Garage sold gas by the quart, ladled from the wooden barrel via funnel then into your gas tank. In the 1920s, one gas station owner hired the prettiest girl in town to dress in a swimsuit and pour gas. Swimsuits back then dipped chin to ankles and the local beauty wore boots.
Fifty years later, another gas station owner used the same ploy, hiring entire shifts of beauties to pump gasoline, except these girls wore bikinis. Anyway.
For the longest time, gasoline costs locally, depending on gas wars or shortages, cost around a dime. A gallon.
An old Model T’s gas tank held about 10 gallons. So, to fill your tank, it would set you back — a dollar. Through two world wars, the Sexual Revolution and disco, gas meandered up and down, between a dime to a quarter a gallon here in Santa Clarita. In the 1960s, I had this brontosaurus-sized pottie-brown Buick and couldn’t tell you how many miles per gallon it swallowed because, frankly, everyone in America could give a solar-powered hamster wheel about an abbreviation yet to be invented: mpg. Miles Per Gallon. For a buck, I could pump 5 gallons into my tank, more than enough to get me to the beach, back again and then some.
In Hart High’s 1967-68 winter break, my best pal Phil Lanier and I motored to San Francisco for a wild weekend of Hippy Staring. We took the coast route. Lanier and I stopped in Big Sur and were outraged that gasoline was an unexpected — are you sitting?
Forty. Nine. Cents. A. Gallon.
That’s more than double what we paid in Newhall-Saugus. During the Arab Oil Embargo in the early 1970s, gasoline nearly hit a buck a gallon, almost toppling the local economy. Remember. The new planned community of Valencia was being built with a promise of being a close commute to yuppie jobs. Lyons Avenue earned the unasked-for nickname of Gasoline Alley because the avenue was littered with service stations. That’s when a uniformed attendant literally jogged out to check your oil, water, tire pressure, battery level and clean your windshield. The gas shortage arrived, causing odd-and-even numbered fill-up days (based on the last number of your license plate). It got so bad, stations started rationing. Customers were limited to buying no more than $2 worth of petrol. Gas cost more than a buck a gallon.
I’ve often wished for a time machine, to see what the SCV looked like long ago. I’d pull my horse into one of these new service stations and pretend I was passing through. Then I’d eavesdrop on a couple of grumpy Newhallians, poking holes in the ozone layer with index fingers and complaining about how morally wrong it is to pay 10 cents a gallon for something that comes right out of the ground.
Today? I’ve bought cars for less than one current-price fill-up (a 1956 Mercury convertible with faux leopard skin interior; a 1934 bakery truck for $35; both ran duckily).
I know. I know. It’s Stardate 2022 and things cost more.
Apologies to local tooth-drillers, but my dentist’s office is in Beverly Hills. I motored past That One Place On Earth That Truly Infuriates Me. It’s the Shell station at Olympic and La Cienega. Mother Gasoline is always steep in BH. The wealthy could care less if gasoline is a nickel a gallon or 20 bucks. But this one station? It’s ALWAYS a buck or two more than other stations — no matter what market forces are in play. Mind you, this Shell station is not lined with Ferraris and Rolls Royces. Common, coughing, everyday 350,000-Miles-On-The-Odometer beaters belonging to maids and personal assistants are filling up. Across the street, stations are selling gas for sometimes two bucks CHEAPER. Why would a common Joe or Jane pay $20 to $50 more per fill-up?
I started writing this column earlier in the week. Gas has risen. Gas has fallen. When I drove past that BH Shell station, regular, 87-octane low-end gasoline was $7.35. High test? I know. I know. NOBODY says “high test” anymore except in “Andy of Mayberry” reruns. Top end, non-rocket fuel high octane at that Shell? It was selling for a nickel shy of 8 bucks — $7.95 a gallon. Who knows. Gasoline could be $9 by the time this piece is printed.
And you know what?
A pal texted me a tidbit from The Wall Street Journal. Up in — where else, Big Sur — (say it with me) “high-test” — was selling for $8.95 a gallon. For a high-end truck, that’s about $225 per fill-up. It’s also about the same to fill up some poor, jackass landscaper’s Last Throes Of Life Carbon Monoxide Fills The Interior pick-up.
Our Potato Head president, Joe Biden, blames Vladimir Putin. So does his lockstep Democratic Party.
I may have a plan to alleviate these fuel and economic crises.
We need to be creative and environmentally conscious in coming up with new energy solutions. Like shoving screaming Vlad and Refreshing New Socialists in the west into garlic presses and squeezing the holy petroleum out of them.
Soylent Green is gasoline.
Fill ’er up. With high test…
John Boston is the most prolific satirist in Earth’s history and does not actually promote using Democrats as fuel. But, if you do, let us know what kind of mileage you’re getting. Visit his bookstore at johnbostonbooks.com.