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Yesterday in La Crosse

A 10-gallon limit during the energy crisis, 46 years ago

Brad Williams



Just before Christmas of 1973, America’s new ‘energy czar,’ William Simon, asked for drivers to voluntarily limit their gasoline purchases to 10 gallons a week. He also wanted gas stations to only sell up to 10 gallons at a time to any one customer. The US was in the middle of an ‘energy crisis,’ with trouble in the Mideast helping to increase gas prices and lead to shortages.

President Nixon did his part to save energy by flying first-class on a commercial jet, a United Air Lines flight.  The surprise plane trip caught the news media off-guard, and also annoyed the head of the FAA, Alexander Butterfield, who had wanted more advance notice to prepare security.  Coincidentally, that was the same Mr. Butterfield who publicly revealed in 1973 that Nixon had been tape-recording Oval Office conversations.   

In Wisconsin, Governor Pat Lucey declared an energy emergency, forcing the state to lower its highway speed limit to 55 miles an hour. La Crosse State Senator Milo Knutson said a special session about energy ordered by Lucey was actually a ‘power grab’ by the governor.   When he wasn’t in Madison for legislative business, Knutson was busy in La Crosse at his day job as news director for WKTY Radio. The station celebrated its 25th anniversary in ’73, broadcasting local programs such as the ‘Lead Balloon Show’ with Charlie Kearns, weekdays from 8 to 9 a-m. Charlie’s 21-year-old son Mike Kearns began working on KTY that year, as a sports announcer and later host of “Lead Balloon”…a run that began in 1973, Yesterday in La Crosse.  

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