Remembering those ancient days of the $10-fillup or less

Last week I was thinking on something or the other when I wondered about gas prices. I wasn’t wondering why gas was so high or will we ever gas priced return to $1-something a gallon? No, I was just trying to remember when gasoline was “cheap” during my lifetime.

I was specifically trying to remember what it cost me to drive back to far East Texas from San Diego when I was in the process of leaving the Navy. This was in 1978 and I had done a favor for a shipmate who in trying to repay me asked what it was going to cost for me to drive home from the ship. I think I told him “about $40.”  Looking back and doing some calculating, I might just have hit the nail right on its head.

Going by the theory that sooner or later you will eventually locate whatever you search for on the Internet, sure enough I found an historic listing of gas prices from 1929-2011. The table, published by the federal government’s Department of Energy was quite helpful in providing average gas prices. And an average was probably just what I needed since I was driving into different geographical areas, which as is the case today, have a wide range of gas prices.

Of course, I had to estimate the gas mileage my 1975 Toyota Corolla got and do some figuring on the actual miles from San Diego to Home.

It is an interesting little table though. It kind of provides some insight into history, such as when gas prices really took a turn toward the upswing. For instance in 1975. This was the year I bought my first new car and the gas went “way up.” I remember that pissed me off pretty good. In that case, the average price of a gallon rose from 39 cents to 53 cents. But in today’s dollars it represents about an increase of 50 cents. And that was a pretty good little chunk of change to take out of your budget back then.

Consider too that the average gas prices had remained in the 30-cent range for about 17 years — from 1957 until 1974-75 — when the price made a 14-cent leap. The prices just kept on going up and up. The last year we saw an average price less than a dollar was 1989. Although the average prices had never been that low again we have seen days when the prices would stay in the high-90-cent range, this being in the early “oughts.”

Call me wistful. Or call me a gas truck. It is interesting to know what gasoline prices looked like in bygone eras. It is also a handy reference to figure out the price of other items and the cost of living in general since petro generally sets prices of many assorted household goods. Read it and smile, not weep.

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