CORRECTION: This story and photo caption were updated at 1:01 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, to correct misspellings of T.M. Lasater and Ben Johnston's names. Also, the service station in the photo was on the west side of Broad Street, so it is not currently occupied by the Super Carniceria Loa grocery store
So, what do you think a gallon of gasoline cost on Oct. 8, 1952, in Chattanooga?
Hint: Inflation alone has accounted for a 991% increase in overall prices in the U.S. in the 70 years between 1952 and 2022, according to a government calculator.
If you zoom in closely on the digital version of this photo online, you'll see that gas was 30.9 cents a gallon here in the fall of 1952.
With the price of regular gas in Chattanooga well over $4 a gallon this week, it makes one nostalgic for a time when you could fill up the 18-gallon gas tank in a Chevy Deluxe sedan, like the one in the photo, for less than $6. Ditto the Oldsmobile Futurmatic 88 sedan being topped off in the picture.
Non-inflation-adjusted gasoline prices in the United States first topped 50 cents a gallon in 1974, $1 a gallon in 1980 and $2 a gallon in 2005.
This photo is part of a collection of archived newspaper images at ChattanoogaHistory.com, a website developed and curated by local history enthusiast Sam Hall.
Why was this staged photo outside a service station on the front page of the Chattanooga News-Free Press?
Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.
If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives or original nondigital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.
News reports that week in both the Chattanooga News-Free Press and the Chattanooga Times noted that the Cities Service chain of gas stations here had chosen Oct. 8, 1952, as a day to donate all profits from gasoline sales to the Community Chest, an umbrella charity and a precursor to the United Way.
"The name Community Chest was widely used for United Way organizations until [sometime in] the 1950s," according to a United Way website.
Cities Services was also a familiar name in Chattanooga, with more than 40 gas stations spread around the city in the mid-20th century. News reports said that 41 locations were participating in the Community Chest drive in 1952, the most widespread effort ever by the chain.
At the center of the photo pumping gas is Bill Pettway, then president of Pettway Oil Company, wholesale distributor for the Cities Service stations here. Also in the photo (second from left) is W.E. Brock Jr., who was president of the Community Chest drive that year.
An ad in the Chattanooga Times on Oct 8, 1952, exhorted readers: "Fill up your tank today, Oct. 8, and help fill up the Community Chest."
The Cities Service location in the photo is at 1515 Broad St. at the intersection of Broad and Main streets.
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