DENVER, Aug. 6, 1973 (UPI) - Chuck Stiesmeyer looked at the three rows of automobiles lined up for gasoline at his Texaco service station Sunday and said the eight fuel pumps would be dry within the hour.
Across the city other pumps were already dry or were not opened at all.
"When we opened seven months ago, we had to hustle business," said Stiesmeyer. "We offered free car washes and we vacuumed out cars. Now we have to turn business away, especially on Sundays.
"The lines are nothing like they'll be pretty soon when we have to close down and the people start coming home from church. They really get mad when we put up the 'no gas' sign."
The weekday gasoline shortage in Denver that forces stations to close after selling daily allotments skyrockets on Sundays, when only a handful of stations remain open. Fifty gas stations were closed within a seven-mile radius of Stiesmeyer's Texaco Sunday.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) has called Denver's fuel situation the worst in the nation. Gov. John Vanderhoof last week ordered a crash out-of-state advertising program downplaying the problem in an effort to avoid $100 million in lost tourism this summer.
One Denver station manager has passed out identification cards to regular customers and will not sell to strangers. City stations are out of lock-caps for gas tanks, bought by motorists fearful of having fuel siphoned away.
Oil industry officials have blamed the shortage on an unexpected increase in the state's population and lack of adequate pipelines to bring gasoline into Colorado.
"They can't believe the gas shortage," said Stiesmeyer, assistant station manager. "I had one person who had a big car drive back in the next week in a compact and say, 'Look at my new car.' Imports are selling like crazy because of their mileage.
"We've almost had fights here on Sundays, especially when we tell them we're shutting down and that there's no more gas. Our other business is off. We don't have time to sell tires because we're too busy selling gas."
A few miles away, Jack Charrin waited in a line of cars to buy gas at a Conoco station at a busy intersection in south Denver. Charrin works for Conoco in Denver and predicts the shortage will last "at least two or three more years."
"The oil companies aren't holding out on gas," he said.
"If the gas was available there wouldn't be a shortage. The problem is pipeline capacity. There will be shortage in Denver every summer until pipeline capacity matches the tourist demand."
Behind him, Bill Speckman sat in his yellow convertible and said he'd been forced to get gas on Sunday because he had put off refueling during the week.
"I usually don't try and buy gas on Sundays," he said. "But I haven't had any trouble getting it during the week.
"I have a neighbor who has a Cadillac sitting in his driveway. He doesn't drive it any more."