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Gasoline for Everybody

Two Clips from a Post-War Paean to Life in a Victorious America

Are these clips too pompous and self-satisfied by half? It seems that way at a distance of seventy-five years. Or perhaps that seems a current correct response in the correct social tone of automatic diminution. Be that as it may, the immense energy required for that stunningly broad and lateral burst of prosperity known at the Fifties had to come from somewhere, didn’t it? 

And in that prosperity America found their “New” Freedom, the Freedom of Movement… the freedom of, in the words of Jack Kerouac,

“Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’
‘Where we going, man?’
‘I don’t know but we gotta go.”

With the New Freedom came the smell of Los Angeles in the post-war years as the men came back and the nation literally “got back in gear.”

And the smell of L.A. in those years was always faint smog. And inside that smog was the far-off faint smell of napalm in the morning there at the edge of the Pacific where America ruled the waves and L.A. smelled… “like Victory.”

Yes, that smog smelled like Victory even to some kid living, say, at 521b Allen Avenue in Glendale, the 2-bedroom bungalow in the back,  watching a fuzzy black and white puppet show featuring Mr. Bluster, Buffalo Bob Smith, the Flub-A-Dub, and Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring. Then (after a trip to the incinerator in the back lot where everyone burned their trash regularly in the smokey LA summer afternoons ) watching that paragon of homeschooling,  Mr. Wizard.

And yes there was the smog but then there was Griffith Park. And the beaches of Malibu unbuilt on and wide open.

And yes there was the smog making dark rings on your father’s starched white short-sleeved shirts, but there was the Pier at Santa Monica. And there was watching the deadlifts and chin-ups at Muscle Beach in Venice with your father and your uncle. And there was the miracle of your uncle who just a month before had been fighting behind stacked and frozen Chinese soldiers in the Pusan Pocket in Korea.

And you sat in the sand and watched them both toss a football between themselves in the wave wrack along the shore. And that night you dozed on the rough and sandy horsehair cushions in the back seat all the way back to Glendale. In the front seat, your father and your uncle both smoked big cigars and talked about my uncle’s dream, having survived Pusan,  of becoming a prizefighter. And all the windows were open and the night air was cool and smelled good. It smelled like gasoline for everybody.

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  • stephen_barron November 4, 2021, 8:05 AM

    I attended an elementary school directly under flight path to LAX in early sixties, just when passenger jets became a thing. Not as many flights, but in those days runway approaches were not as steep. So, about every 10-15 minutes, the entire classroom would pause as the roar passed overhead. Some days we had “smog alerts” and were not allowed to run around on the playground because air was so thick you could mold it into shapes. We went outside, but were only allowed to sit around. Mostly I remember being a free range kid in the neighborhood, along with dozens of other apartment kids who just had to come in when the street lights came on.

    • Anonymous November 4, 2021, 7:12 PM

      Or when mom started yelling your name from the stoop.
      “Ronald time to come in”
      “Walter get your ass home now”
      etc etc

  • John Venlet November 4, 2021, 8:07 AM

    Then (after a trip to the incinerator in the back lot where everyone burned their trash…

    Back in 1960s, we had a incinerator right in our basement at 1344 Underwood in Grand Rapids, MI, and burned our trash a few times a week. It was a chore we liked to do, feed the incinerator, after Dad fired it up. We also burned our leaves at the curb in those days, which was another chore we boys liked to do.

    Nowadays, the only “legal” incinerator is run by the city of Grand Rapids, MI, to power their steam plant. They even have undercover garbage cops, who follow around the licensed Grand Rapids garbage haulers, and fine them if they do not bring their garbage to be burned at the licensed incinerator, as the haulers would prefer to haul it to the landfill. Course they gotta pay the city of Grand Rapids, also, to get the garbage burned.

  • ghostsniper November 4, 2021, 8:13 AM

    At the gas station—
    “Where’s Bob?”

    “He’s out back pumping Ethyl.”

    • Skorpion November 4, 2021, 10:34 AM

      You’re a *funny guy*, Ghost.

  • Boat Guy November 4, 2021, 8:28 AM

    I remember smog dense enough to hide Mt Baldy. I’d still rather live in the California of those days with all of it’s faults than what it has become today.

  • Rob De Witt November 4, 2021, 9:31 AM

    G –

  • William E. Harris November 4, 2021, 9:39 AM

    As an early-depression baby, I can say post-WW2 was fun while it lasted. Given what I’ve seen and done, I wouldn’t trade my date of birth for any other date in the last hundred years.

  • James ONeil November 4, 2021, 11:16 AM

    Not many of us around any more who remember buying gas at eleven cents a gallon.

    • Mike Seyle November 4, 2021, 12:26 PM

      I don’t remember 11 cents, but I do remember, when working myself through school with help from the GI Bill, that when driving a van around the Houston airport all night, I was allowed to fill up my MG at the company pumps at their discount, something like 25 cents. Small tank on that Midget. Filled up for 2 dollars or so.

    • Dirk November 4, 2021, 1:24 PM

      21 cents,,,,,,,,,,premix oil was 1.25, for my Kawasaki baby green streak 100cc. .


      • Mike Austin November 5, 2021, 1:16 AM

        I had a Kawasaki 125 cc two stroke motorcycle when I was in high school, and a 750 cc 2 cycle triple that I bought in 1973 when I was 19. I fitted it with expansion chambers, and man was it loud! I drag raced it in West Texas, doing the quarter mile at 11.9 at 113 mph. Those were the days.

        • Dirk November 5, 2021, 9:07 AM

          Mike, that’s pretty snappy for a stock bike with pipes, was your Kawasaki the “ Mach1 “. Way ahead of their time,,, handled like shit, but man we’re they fast.

          My 100cc Green Streak was a rotary valve motor, i ported it, and opened up the rotary valve. Put a low pipe on it. Never raced it, these green streaks are big money items now. Collectors.

          They have a big brother a 238 Kawasaki green streak, never had one, however I do have three American Eagle 238 Kawasaki’s. Their in a “ sprite” frame, made in England. I’m still motocrossing these 238s, in a vintage club named AHRMA.

          Nation wide. While I’m not racing like I did a few years ago, I still manage to make three or four events a year. My spine just won’t take it, with three discs removed and replaced, three fusions, and metal plated, in my neck area, a day of racing and I’m down hard for a week.

          But I love it.


  • Casey Klahn November 4, 2021, 11:24 AM

    I remember sitting on a curb, with the company of some female soldiers (they were called WACs back then and waaay sexier than sergeant wanna kill ya civilians from the memes these days). That was the first time I’d been in a unit with women – anyway it was fun. Where was I” Oh yeah, on the curb and on post on Staten Island, and looking out at Manhattan in the distance, and Brooklyn close-by, and the sky was, most days, an orange blanket of smog. There were lightning bugs, and sometimes electrical storms. Also, the women in NYC were all competing with one another to be pretty. At the movies that summer we’d go and see the first Star Wars, and SN Fever. We went across the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge to Brooklyn, where they’d filmed John Travolta’s dance movie, and go dancing at the disco clubs. I didn’t like disco, but the women loved it.
    Back on track…I guess it was the catalytic converter that solved smog. I don’t go into Seattle or Tacoma and see a blanket of smog overhead.
    The turds in Belfast want to everything but eliminate the ic engine, for no really compelling reason as far I see things. They just want to keep the little people down. I say no to that shit.

  • ghostsniper November 4, 2021, 2:08 PM

    Welp, in 1972 at the age of 17 (I graduated HS that year) I was working at the Miracle Mile Shell Station, the most popular gas station at the busiest intersection in all southwest Florida. It was right across Cleveland Av (highway 44) from the giant Edison Mall. Yeah, THAT dood. Place was always slammed. On rainy days people would leave their headlights on while at the mall and I’d go over there and jump their dead batteries for $5. Change flats to spares and then fix the flats at the station. Gas was 29.9 and the good stuff was a nickel more. The good stuff blew the funk off the tops of your pistons and valve seats so it was useful to get some every now and then. Fill ups were for the rich folks and most people got gas by the dollar, ie., “Gimme 5 dollars worth”. Credit cards were rare, most people paid with cash, and we had one of them coin changer rigs on the right side of our belt.

    2 doods on every car every time. One dood set the pump in the tank and locked it, then jumped on the windshield, front and back (the young strumpets in the front seat always got free beever inspections). The other dood popped the hood and checked all the fluids, air filter, battery and belts, then checked all the tire pressures. Every. Dam. Car. We did that for $1.45 an hour and were glad for the opportunity. Black rubber soled shoes, black pants, white button down uniform short with logo. Red rag in ass pocket, tire gauge in short pocket. No goofy assed hats or rood attire. Everybody that worked there had a cool ride in perfect condition and kept them displayed on the side while working. My cool ride was a mint 66 Mustang convertible, 289 hipo, dark green metallic, lifted a little, with Cragars and giant M/T’s, and Cherry Bombs. WOW What a time to be alive!

    • James ONeil November 5, 2021, 9:40 AM

      Oh yea, Ft, Myers. Took me a few minutes to place your Miracle Mile, I grew up ’round the Coral Gables one in the late forties and fifties.

      My first ̶c̶o̶o̶l̶ ̶ car, a ’49 Kaiser I paid 49 bucks for. Bought my tires, bare skins, at the junk yard, gained a lot of experience keeping the rig pointed right with blowouts.

  • SS November 4, 2021, 3:58 PM

    I went to Europe in 1960 as a punk college kid and realized our prosperity was largely due to Communism and WW2. Communism had locked up the rooskies, half of Europe and the Chinese behind their walls and mine fields. WW2 had destroyed western Europe and Japan. Which left the USA as the only viable game in town. Man…good times.

  • Callmelennie November 4, 2021, 4:42 PM

    Tell Bob to fill ‘er up, Ghost

  • Casey Klahn November 4, 2021, 8:47 PM

    SS, go choke on some cock.

  • Anne November 4, 2021, 8:53 PM

    I lived just a mile away from your place on Allen. The years were 1954 to 1961. Heard rumors of something in the air and then one day woke up and could hardly see down the street. The day I graduated HS got in my car (bought from waiting tables at VanderKamp) and headed to the beach. Never looked back. Left Southern California in 1966. My first trip back to Glendale was 2017. My little Episcopal church is still there. The beautiful solid wood wall behind the alter is now painted with Mexican styled Icons. Trying to get the new population to come to church.

  • leelu November 5, 2021, 6:55 AM

    I came up in L.A. (Pico-Crenshaw) about 3 years behind you. Remember the smog so thick that the beige stucco walls of my school looked orange from about 10 feet away. Eyes watered, lungs burned.
    And I remember the incenerator. My best friend’s mom used to just toss trsh on a pile in the back yard, and every so once in a while, get some keroses, toss that on the pile, and light if off.
    Better by the ’70s, IIRC. Early industrial controls (I suspect) and ‘smog re-breathers’ on cars in the ’60s. Unleaded gas.
    “I don’t trust air I can’t see.” Gene Hackman, Crimson Tide.

  • Callmelennie November 5, 2021, 10:34 AM

    The Battle of Pusan perimeter was fought in August- September 1950 against the invading North Korean Army. The fight against human waves of Chinese in bitter cold occurred in December, 1950. If your uncle was in the Marines, then it was the frozen Chosen battle.

    If he was in the Army, he might have been caught in the Chongchong River fiasco, which was, in fact, more harrowing than the Chosen Reservoir battle. It is likely he was at both Pusan and one of battles against the Chinese. It is pretty unlikely that he came home a month after Pusan (unless he was wounded) as America, at the time, was strapped for foot soldiers. Nobody was that lucky

    And if he was at both, he endured events every bit as brutal as Iwo Jima and Okinawa

  • Snakepit Kansas November 7, 2021, 5:22 AM

    “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.” – Chesty Puller at Chosin Resevoir