Hard times: 1970s gas shortages made it tough on business

EVERETT — The line wrapped around eight blocks.

Desperate for gasoline, people drove to Hansen’s Texaco in the middle of the night. Rumors about a 4 a.m. fuel shipment had spread.

Two hours after Ron Hansen opened his filling station, he sold out of gas. The green flag came down. A red one went up.

The gas crisis in the 1970s strained Hansen’s wallet and tested his will. The experience colors the way he views today’s high gas prices.

“The situation in the ’70s and the situation today are completely uncontrollable,” he said. “Small business owners with, say, 125 employees had no control over the economy in the ’70s and have no control over the economy in today’s market. We’re just a victim of circumstances and you have to roll with the punches. Small business is the backbone of America, but it takes all the brunt of the punishment when things get tough.”

Fed up with oil company mood swings, Hansen got out of the gas business in the early ’80s, but he still owns Hansen’s Towing, a company he started 50 years ago.

He estimates that the recent rise in gas prices has slashed his business by 30 percent. Not as many people are driving, he said. He’s trimmed his staff in half, to seven.

“Times are tough,” he likes to say. And Hansen knows tough times.

During the last gas crisis, he had four kids to feed and struggled to pay the bills. He thought about selling his company and trying to get a job at a mill. He decided to ride out the crisis.

Most of Everett mills closed long ago. At 72, Hanson is still towing.

Reporter Kaitlin Manry: 425-339-3292 or kmanry@heraldnet.com.

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