Memory road

As the price of gasoline moves inexorably onward and upward, I have heard and read frequently a helpful reminder -- for what it is worth -- that we mustn't feel outraged because, after all, gasoline in Europe sells for five and six dollars a gallon. Gasoline in Europe, of course, doesn't do any such a thing, since it is measured in liters and paid for in the currency of the Patois,m so to speak.

It takes me back to my 1917 Model T, the robin's egg blue relic that attended college with me and was pushed over the edge of the town dump in June of 1934. It would have run over the edge on its own power except that we had drained the gasoline tank. We redeemed just about a pint and a half of fuel that way, and that was a good start on the career of my new pride, a Model A. The Model T had its faults, some of which were corrected in 1918, but it was never a guzzler. A filling station back then was always a garage with a pump out front, and the pump had a crank for the man to turn. Soon after that somebody devised the reservoir pump which saved the motorist a little time -- the gasoline was pumped in advance into a glass globe atop the highboy, and it ran down by gravity as purchased. After each customer the garage man would crank his reservoir full again. Ten gallons. My purchase for my Model T -- The Blue Peril -- was five gallons, please, and a quart of oil. The Model T used oil in exactly that proportion. Five gallons of gasoline and a quart of oil cost me 85 cents, and they would propel The Blue Peril between 175 and 200 miles, depending on how much coastng I did. Downhill, I always shut off the ignition and coasted.

So did everybody. With fuel costing 85 cents for five gallons and a quart of oil, frugality was the motorist's word. The Model T was taken out of its lampwick gear by depressing the left-foot pedal halfway and then, hang onto your hats. There was a place on the old Rangeley Lakes road, coming down from Piazza Rock into the village of Madrid, where seven miles could be covered in one continuous coast. Push the pedal into neutral, shut off the ignition switch (no key, just a switch), and go it. A Model T that could be coaxed up to 30 MPH highway speed on gasoline would easily do 85 MPH on the coast, and all model T's went through Madrid at just about that. Sometimes they'd also go into Sandy River at the Phillips town line, but one hardly ever drove out in those days without having some little annoyance.

Fortunately, only a few of us Model T folks are yet around with retentive memories, so this sort of recollection will not become a burden on today's millions who grouse about gasoline costs. But bear in mind, all, that it will cost you more this summer to power-mow your front lawn than it cost my bride and me to gasoline our honeymoon to the Maritimes -- including the Gaspe. I see by the little book -- $26.30. That, and (c) flat tires.

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