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Front Page » September 27, 2011 » Carbon County News » 1973: Oil embargo hits county hard
Published 1,057 days ago

1973: Oil embargo hits county hard


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Editor's Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. The article is being written from front page stories that appeared during each year in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth in 1891.

If there was a story in 1973 that affected everyone in the county, even in the entire nation, it was the Arab oil embargo. The embargo brought about gasoline shortages across the nation from 1973-74.

The shortage was brought on by the decision of OPEC (Oil producing and exporting countries) which largely consisted of Arab countries, to cut crude oil supplies to the United States (which at the time imported 35 percent of its oil from those countries) because of American support for Israel during the Yom Kippur war in which Syria and Egypt attacked Israel.

But while the war didn't happen until the fall of 1973, gas shortages had already begun to pop up across the nation, due just to the shortage of supplies and high use. That happened in eastern Utah in the early summer as "no gas today" signs went up at various stations and distributors in the area faced quotas on how much fuel they could get from the refineries.

The shortages hit tourism in the area hard. All summer efforts were put through the state to keep gasoline supplies in the area sufficient to supply people going to Lake Powell, Moab, etc. The biggest problems occurred on Sunday afternoon when people were headed home and coincidentally the quota of gasoline for the area's stations ended and began anew the next day. Long lines and stations closing as early as 1:30 p.m. on Sunday caused problems for travelers and locals as well. Labor Day brought on particularly bad problems as dozens of motorists were running low on fuel.

The price had also hit a high of 55 cents a gallon, which even rankled people more. Then came the embargo in the fall and it caused huge problems across the country with lines stretching miles just to get a few gallons of gas.

Price City faced employee problems during 1973, as negotiations for hourly employees wages and benefits broke down in May. The two sides were apart in what the employees wanted and what the city said they could provide. On June 1, 14 employees and two supervisors did not return to work after the city told all city employees that if they didn't show up by noon that day they would be replaced. Those employees also set up a picket line in front of city hall and other operations of the city.

The four areas affected by the walkout were the street, water, cemetery and parks departments. The city decided to give the raises and benefits compensation they had offered to the remaining employees and began to hire new ones to replace those on strike. The strike went on for 11 days before it was broken by the city's actions.

East Carbon City also became a reality in 1973. Residents of Dragerton and Columbia brought a petition with 380 signatures from the area to the county commission in May asking for incorporation of the area under the new town's name. On June 19 residents of the area voted 410 to 239 to incorporate.

This was also the year that Shirley Haycock, a local Spring Glen resident, tried to canoe across the Atlantic Ocean. She trained for months and then in the spring of 1973 made the attempt. She was attempting to canoe from Wilmington, N.C. To Lisbon, Portugal, 3,700 miles in all. In fact she made two attempts, but the first was thwarted by logistical problems with equipment and supply weights during the first attempt and the second by the annual hurricane season. The attempt made national news. Reports in the June 7 issue of the Sun Advocate stated that "the trip, designed to raise funds for a senior citizens living center in Carbon County, did not accomplish much fund raising, but did receive a great deal of nation wide publicity for Shirley and the senior citizens of the nation."

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