SI Vault
Edited by Robert W. Creamer
December 17, 1973
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December 17, 1973


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Gasless Sunday is now a fact of life, but a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED survey shows that its effect depends a lot on where you live and what you want to do. For instance, a sardonic reporter in Little Rock said, "Gasless Sunday doesn't affect anything in Arkansas. Trends are always slow to hit us. We'll hear about gas rationing two years after it goes into effect." But in Homestead, Fla. a dockmaster said business was off 90%, and the number of sun worshipers on the beach at Key Biscayne, near Miami, normally between 10,000 and 20,000, dropped into the hundreds.

Sunday business at urban bowling alleys was steady, but at those out in the country on normally busy highways it fell drastically. In Houston church attendance soared, and in League City, Texas the Rev. Keith Grimes said, "The gasoline shortage is the greatest thing for Christianity since World War II."

In California and Florida people continued to flock to Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland and Disney World, all conveniently located in heavily populated areas. On the other hand, Harv Boughton, who runs an isolated bait camp, grocery store and gas station on the Texas Gulf Coast, said, "I stocked up, expecting a big Saturday run in advance of the Sunday closing. It turned out to be my worst Saturday since last April, and Sunday was just as bad."

In Utah business at ski areas was fine, as good as could be, probably because Utah resorts are close to urban centers. Yet ski areas in Colorado were jammed, too, and Mammoth Mountain in California reported double the number of skiers it had on the comparable weekend a year ago. One reason for Mammoth's big business was that virtually every gas station on US 395, the highway from Los Angeles, 325 miles away, was open. A resort manager in Upper Michigan said, "This spirit of sacrifice is the bunk. So long as it is voluntary, the gas stations are going to be open up here." That attitude backfired in Hanford, Calif., where a man who dutifully closed his station on Sunday went and got a gun and shot up the pumps of a rival across the street who stayed open.

Many skiers remained on the slopes through Monday. "I called in sick," one man said, "because this might be my last shot." Bud Hayward of June Mountain in California reported good business, but was still pessimistic. "We'll get our lumps about Jan. 6," he said. "Schools go back in session then, and we'll probably have rationing. When that comes, we're in trouble."

Some resorts in remote areas were affected already. The manager of the Canterbury Inn at Ocean Shores, Wash., on the Pacific about 140 miles from Seattle and Portland, said, "It's the first time in the two years I've been manager that we did not have a full house on the weekend." On the Atlantic Coast, at Assateague National Seashore in Maryland, only four families were camping out in pleasant weather; there had been 37 families on the last non-gasless Sunday. The number of people on a party fishing boat that operates Sundays out of Ocean City, Md. dropped from 50 to 15.

Sunday driving was off sharply in most places, and even car-rental agencies were affected by the gas shortage. "We're not making any claims now about full tanks," said a Hertz man. At Boyne Mountain, a ski resort 250 miles from Detroit, owner Everett Kircher was planning to keep reserves of gasoline in big storage tanks. "We're not going into the service-station business," he said, "but we'll try to keep enough on hand to allot 10 gallons to each car. We won't sell it on Sunday, but we'll have it on hand Saturday nights to top off skiers' tanks so they don't have to worry about being stranded." Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pa. was admitting cars with four or more passengers for half the normal parking fee. Stratton Mountain in Vermont established a "Stratton Ski Saver Car Pool," with a toll-free number for patrons to call. In Boston there was talk of reviving the famous old "ski train" out of North Station, which has not run in 23 years.

Life-styles changed. A hunter in Iowa, who always felt a little fearful of being shot during the crowded opening weekend of the hunting season, said he not only saw no other hunters this time, he did not even hear any guns. "It was eerie," he said. Owners of campers and trailers were renting campsites, settling their vehicles down more or less permanently and commuting back and forth in gas-saving compacts. Television anticipated a rise in the number of people watching weekend sports on TV because of the new immobility. A couple in Atlanta, who had planned a camping trip to the mountains, pitched their tent instead in the backyard of an apartment complex. Unhappily, the building manager objected to their campfire, and they had to strike camp and look elsewhere. Near Philadelphia an itinerant farrier named James Hall, who had been traveling about in a truck equipped with anvil and forge, stopped moving and opened a blacksmith shop. Business was immediately brisk: eight horses the first Saturday. In Houston a service station was held up by a bandit who made his getaway on a bicycle. Car thieves in that city were said to be passing up big cars in order to concentrate on Volkswagens. In Goldfield, Nev. a legal brothel complained that Sunday business, dependent on autos, had gone to hell.

In Kansas and North Carolina ticket sales to the Liberty Bowl game at Memphis between Kansas and North Carolina State were discouragingly slow because would-be buyers in those states could not figure how to drive to Memphis and back if there was no gas available on Sunday. And in central Ohio the planned exodus of Ohio State fans to California for the Rose Bowl was dealt a triple blow by the gas curfew, the paucity of airline flights and a warning from Amtrak that those without train reservations by Dec. 1 could forget about riding the rails to Pasadena.

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