By Clif Knight
I filled our Ford SUV with a $4-a-gallon tank of gas on May 28 when we left home for a short vacation in the Smokey Mountains. The cost was $44. I had a hard time swallowing the fact that the shipping cost alone was going to be three times that amount.
I didn’t realize the cost of gas was going to go up 50 cents a gallon in Hartselle until we got back six days later. When I saw the price of a gallon of gas was $4.40 a gallon in Knoxville, I decided to wait and fill up at a lower price when we got to Alabama. I guessed wrong. We ended up paying $4.50 a gallon, or 10 cents more, in Stevenson, Alabama, because we ran out of gas.
Reviewing a personal history of transportation costs, I recalled that when I was a child, our only means of transportation was a cart and a pair of mules. The trip was longer but the cost was insignificant, consisting mainly of a few cobs of corn and a load of hay. My mother was one of 15 siblings, so we always had relatives to visit, some of whom lived within a day or half a day’s wagon ride. We left early on Saturday, spent the night and returned on Sunday afternoon.
We lived on a rarely used winding dirt road where a passing car or truck deserved to stand on the side of the road and watch it go by out of sight. However, we had a nice mailbox and could count on it to receive a weekday visit from the rural route postman and his automobile. A weekly tour of the rolling store was another attraction, with its chicken coops, kerosene pump and large candy shelf. We children would line up behind our mother and eagerly await our turn to trade a handful of chicken eggs for a handful of our favorite sweets.
Gasoline for high-powered V-8 cars in the late 1940s and 1950s was plentiful and easy on the wallet. When I graduated from high school, I worked as an attendant for a 24/7 service station on Hwy 31 in Oxford. A gas war was underway. Ordinary grade gas sold for 15 cents per gallon. An oil check, windshield wash and tire inflation check were free.
How times have changed.