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Pain at the Pumps: Historic Jokes About High Gas Prices

by Sam Moore


Tags: Sam Moore, looking back, gas prices, old jokes,

Gas Prices 
Photo courtesy of hc/ Fotolia

These days everyone is up in arms about gasoline prices, and I can understand why. The other day I filled up my truck on the way to a plow day and the pump shut me off at $100 and then I put an additional $35 worth in the tractor. An expensive day – but it was fun.

            The other day someone sent me some jokes about the situation:

            A guy puts his credit card in a fuel pump which asks for the make, model and year of his car, as well as his annual salary. After a brief wait, the message came back: “Your loan has been approved. You may fill up.”

            Another showed two bums sitting on a park bench and one says: “I had it all…nice wife, a house in the ‘burbs, a luxury car…and then I went to the gas station for a fill-up.”

            Another cartoon shows a gas pump with a banner that reads: “Spend your tax refund here!!”

            Then there’s the guy telling the tow-truck driver: “Oh! I’m not broken down. I just thought you’d be cheaper than buying gas!”

            Finally is the happy young lady showing of her new engagement ring to a gaggle of friends. She tells them: “…and we’re registered at Shell, Mobil, BP and Texaco.”

The following story appeared in the San Francisco Star: "There is to be a Government investigation into the recent frequent advances in the price of gasoline. To the (public) the cause of the advance is very simple: (the oil companies) 'need the money' – and have the power to get it. However, the investigation will be welcomed by all consumers, who hope that it may result ... in 'remedial legislation.'" The possibility of Federal prosecution of those responsible was also raised, although that was doubted by the paper.

The Star went on to say that the Standard Oil Company was claiming the price was simply the result of the law of supply and demand, but pointed out that Standard Oil had just distributed $25 million as dividends to its stockholders, "...the biggest 'watermelon' ever cut by a California corporation."

While the above story may sound contemporary, it appeared in the March 4, 1916 issue of The Star, proving again that there's nothing new under the sun. By the way, the "high" price of gas that triggered the investigation was 18 cents per gallon. Now 18 cents doesn't sound like much, but 18 cents in 1916 money is equal to $3.56 in 2010 dollars.

Jokes and cartoons abounded in those days too. One showed an open touring car with a mast and two sails, while the caption read: "Guaranteed to do thirty miles on a gill (1/4 pint) of gasoline [if the wind is right]. During the month of March eighty two miles on five drops guaranteed [that's on the level]."

            Two old friends met and one said, "George, I hear you've met with a terrible loss. Was that your wife on the ship that sank the other day?" George replied, "Worse than that! Some wretch drained the tank of my car – and it was more than half full!"

            A traffic cop was berating a motorist who had left his car parked on the city street for over a week. The man's excuse was that the price of gas had gotten so high that he had to take the train home and borrow money for gas.

            A sign on a gas pump read: "Why buy gasoline in small quantities? Get a whole gallon on the weekly payment plan."

So, high gasoline prices, consumer belief that oil company greed is the cause, and government investigations and threats of prosecution are nothing new, nor is the attempt to ease the situation with humor. I guess the crisis passed in 1916, and it may do so ninety-six years later as well.