The recent spell of 100 degree temperatures and high gasoline prices takes me back to the summer of 1980. Thirty-one years ago, the Kansas City metro area experienced a month long heat wave and “energy crisis.” During July of 1980, National Weather Service records note the temperature in our area reached 100 degrees or higher twenty-two times. Fifteen of those days were consecutive between the dates of July 6th and 20th. Many deaths occurred in the urban cores of cities throughout the Midwest. The region was also experiencing severe drought.
To make matters worse, oil prices peaked creating an energy crisis. Long lines of cars waited at gasoline pumps after talk of rationing circulated through the media.
The police department drove Plymouth Volares. The following year, the department tested four 1981 Plymouth K cars, a 4-door 4-cylinder small sedan. Two had automatic transmissions and two were manual transmissions. Officers on the street were not impressed with them and because of their small size, ultimately turned out to be impractical as police cars.
People empathize with firefighters who battle blazes in conditions of extreme heat, but police officers suffer in the heat as well. I remember Officers applying copious amounts of talcum powder to their chests and backs before strapping on their protective vests in an attempt to stay as dry as possible during their broiling shifts.
In 1980, uniforms were made of a heavy material so they could be worn year-round. Today, lighter weight shirts and pants make a big difference, but after 8-10 hours of wearing a vest, t-shirt, and uniform shirt along with a heavy belt, officers can feel pretty miserable even though their cars are air conditioned. Like any vehicle, police cars are taxed in the high heat. However, unlike the family car, many of them are driven from sixteen to twenty-four hours a day.
In his popular song, “You’ve got a Friend,” James Taylor captured the essence of service provided to the public by police and fire---“Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call.” The fire and police departments will respond---no matter what situation, time of day, or conditions.
Below are a few old photos showing some of our old cars.