Remembering a ’73 Cuda and cheap gasoline

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
When I was in high school, my lifelong friend and classmate Don Chandler had a ’73 Plymouth Cuda that ran like one of those bats from Hades we’re always hearing about.
The Cuda was dark green with a black stripe down its side. It was beautiful.
Don and I were wheeling about town one night in another in a long line of futile searches for female companionship when the Cuda’s motor sputtered.
Don didn’t seem especially concerned, noting we’d been driving for miles with the fuel needle below empty. The Cuda was just reminding us of feeding time, he said, and we pulled into a gas station.
Don and I pooled our resources and came up with 50 cents รณ him donating a quarter and me providing two dimes and a nickel. I got out and pumped the gas.
I don’t remember exactly what gas was selling for at the time, but I imagine it was a little under a dollar a gallon. This was was the mid-’70s, back when the Bee Gees and bell-bottom blue jeans were considered pretty cool.
When I walked into the station to pay, the attendant took my change, then said, “Be sure and bring me back a seashell.”
I looked at him. “What?” I asked.
“With all that gas, you must be going to the beach,” he said.
Then he laughed.
I remember being embarrassed and walking sheepishly back to the Cuda, where I relayed the guy’s comments to Don.
He responded by stomping the accelerator, squealing tires and draining from the Cuda’s tank, I’m sure, the 50 cents we’d just donated to the Arab retirement fund.
I was reminded of this the other day when I pumped $10 of gasoline into my ’87 Dodge pickup.
This was a classic lesson in in futility. On a good day, with a strong tail wind and an open highway, the Dodge gets about 15 miles to the gallon.
Around town, I’m lucky to get half that.
I spoke to my mother about all this the other day.
“It’s probably just as well your father passed when he did,” she admitted, when the subject of $3.35-a-gallon gas came up. “The price we’re paying these days would have killed him.”
Mother laughed, but I knew she wasn’t kidding.
My father died five years ago this month following a long battle with prostate cancer. At times, I still find myself wanting to pick up the phone and call him.
Daddy and I had our disagreements over the years, but I remember him fondly. He had a good sense of humor, which, the older I get, the more I realize is a necessary component to maintaining one’s sanity.
Daddy also hated over-paying for gas.
Decades ago, we were coming back from the beach when Daddy decided stations along the highway were charging outrageous prices for gasoline.
So we drove 10 miles out of the way to a small town to buy it cheaper.
I’d say my father was crazy if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve done the same. It’s true what they say about the apple not falling far from the tree.
I’m glad the soaring price of gas gave me the opportunity to reflect on Don’s beautiful Cuda.
I’m also glad it gave me the opportunity to remember my father on the anniversary of his passing.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.

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