News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 28, 2011

LIZ CIANCONE: Getting nostalgic for days of cheap gas

Liz Ciancone
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Thanks to the miracles of modern electronic communication, I rarely get downtown to The Tribune-Star office. I can zap my column in a matter of seconds, right from home, and the editors do the rest.

Thus it is that I — a devotee of “snail mail” — depend heavily on Sheila to let me know when my T-S mail box has a delivery. Sometimes it sits for awhile before she calls, and before I bestir myself to check in downtown. Snail mail cannot be zapped, although I do get an occasional forward from Max when readers communicate electronically.

I recently picked up mail downtown and found a response to a nostalgic column about seeing gas selling pretty darned cheap, one dollar for five gallons. It was a station Dad would not patronize on the grounds that it was “cheap gas” and didn’t measure up in quality to Standard Oil, the company for which he worked.

The communique sent to me included a photocopy of a picture offering a name-brand fuel at six gallons for one dollar. I presume Texaco gasoline would not flunk the quality test Dad demanded, and maybe the difference between prices here in Indiana and in the Chicago area of my youth explains the extra gallon.

I do try to respond to mail, however belatedly. What I failed to do at the time this picture was sent was to save the envelope with the return address. Here I am with a photocopy of a Chevrolet dealership next to a Texaco station with a sign clearly reading “6 for $1.”

My correspondent included a brief note, not even his name, saying that the original picture was taken in 1939 at a build-up along old U.S. 40 in Putnam County called “Pleasant Gardens.” I’ve heard of it and have probably seen it as we motored along the old highway to get to Indianapolis. I know I’ll look for it the next time.

My Best Friend, a car enthusiast since childhood, identified the car as a 1939 Chevrolet. His enthusiasm has tapered off a bit, but he is still invincible when it comes to the models of the ’30s and ’40s.

So, my thanks to a reader who is anonymous, thanks to my carelessness in destroying the envelope. My BF and I need to refuel this afternoon. If only that Texaco station at Pleasant Gardens still existed. Imagine filling the tank for about $3.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to opinion@tribstar.com.