Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
A gas shortage triggered by an interruption of oil production during the Iranian revolution made life miserable for motorists. The Post reported on a few of them in the Washington area. An excerpt from June 17, 1979:
By Jackson Diehl and Linda Wheeler
Washington Post Staff Writers
At 3 a.m., Mena Marano awoke with a shiver. "I've never slept in my car before, and I am really afraid," she said as she stared out the window of her 1974 green Pinto station wagon, parked in a line at a darkened Amoco service station in Bethesda.
Marano, 38, had been at the station since midnight, eight hours before it was supposed to open, and she was having a nightmare. But she was not alone as the continuing drama of Washington's gasoline crisis followed a predictable course yesterday.
Pauline A. Smeed, for example, celebrated her 72nd birthday yesterday sleeping in her 1968 white Cadillac parked at the same gas station in Bethesda. "Every year I try to do something different for my birthday," she said at 4 a.m. "Now this is a real adventure, don't you think?"
Most area stations shut down for the weekend or opened for short hours to struggle with ever-longer lines of motorists and the sideshows of spot entrepreneurs, reporters and social workers they have begun to attract. One Maryland library offered books to those waiting for gasoline, a florist gave out flowers and some nearby restaurants reported a booming carryout business.
Lines were reported to be as much as a mile long in suburban Maryland. In Baltimore, waiting autos clogged two lanes of some streets for blocks. Few traffic problems were reported around the area, however, as most stations closed early and many drivers stayed home.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge police reported that only about 1,000 cars an hour were passing toward the Eastern Shore beaches yesterday morning, less than half the number normally counted on summer weekends ...
Those who rose early to wait in line found a flourishing subculture around the gas stations that were open.
Motorists waiting in a mile-long gas line along Massachusetts Avenue in Spring Valley received an unexpected treat from a local liquor store: free cold beer. "We thought it would be a good way to cool people off and avoid arguments," said Bill Miller, owner of Spring Valley Wine and Liquors ...
At the BP station on Wisconsin Avenue at Jenifer Street, Davindeo Marwaha, 11, passed from car to car taking coffee orders on a restaurant bill pad. He delivered the cups for 40 cents each, making a five-cent commission on each cup.
A Fairfax City police officer said he watched a line of about 50 cars inch toward a Shell station on the Little River Turnpike when a woman pulled past the cars and parked. She was apparently pregnant and asked politely if she could move ahead in the line.
Compassion prevailed, the officer said, and the woman was allowed in the line.
"I was shocked when two pillows suddenly fell out from under her dress," one compassionate motorist later complained to police. " ... We all thought it was a pretty good idea," Walter Dinsdale of Fairfax City said. "Then we chased her back out of the line."
This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com