“What would my father have said?” I thought, as I saw the meter on the gas pump roll past $50. It stopped at $51.90 to fill up my small SUV Saturday in New Albany. It was the first time I ever remember spending that much for gasoline.
When I was growing up on the outskirts of Kansas City, Mo., my dad used to rail at the high cost of gasoline. He called the oil companies “bloodsuckers” and complained it was too expensive for him to drive to work 15 miles away. He usually walked up to the corner and caught a bus.
But when I think about it, not much has changed in the conversation about oil companies over the past 50 years. Except the price, of course. When my father was ranting, gasoline in Kansas City was about 25 cents a gallon. Last Saturday I paid $3.49.
When I turned 16 and got to drive the family car once in a while, my father cautioned me against buying gas from the Standard Oil station a few blocks from our house.
“It’s too expensive. You’re just paying extra to help the Rockefellers,” he used to say. “All the gas is delivered from the same truck.”
I doubted that that was true, but I knew better than to argue. Instead, I dutifully took the car to Thoni’s, the station my father preferred a couple of miles away.
Thoni’s consisted of a small concrete-block building with two sets of pumps out front. A big wood fence stretched across the back of the lot with the words, “The Working Man’s Friend,” painted on it.
Thoni’s was not a service station, because there was no service – and no restrooms. All Thoni (if there was a Thoni) sold was gas.
You had to approach Thoni’s slowly: one, because of the pothole-pocked gravel lot; two, because usually there was a line of cars waiting to fill up.
But Thoni’s was cheap. During my high school years, Thoni’s price varied between 17.9 and 23.9 cents a gallon. I remember a couple of times though, there was a sign out front proclaiming a “Gas War.” The price: 14.9 cents.
I hated going to Thoni’s, but I was pretty sure my father was right about one thing: Going to Thoni’s was not helping the Rockefellers.
In the more recent past, we haven’t worried much about the price of gas because we all traveled short distances to where we were going. When we lived in Alabama, Joe was able to walk to high school, and Jenny and I both drove less than five miles to work. We’d fill our gas tanks every two weeks or so, unless we went out of town. The price of gas wasn’t something we had to build into our budget.
But because we lived around the corner from a Mapco convenience store and gas station, I always had my eye on the price of gas, and watched it slowly rise over the past several years. What has happened in the last couple of months certainly has gotten my attention.
And for good reason. We’re currently sending two cars a day to Oxford. My wife teaches there, and Joe goes to school at Ole Miss, but because they’re going and coming at different times, driving together isn’t really convenient.
I guess if prices get high enough, that could change.
And isn’t that what every college student dreams of? Carpooling with his mother!
T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.