It is great to be a guest on Paul’s blog today. I have brought cake, who wants a slice?
While Paul puts the kettle on, here is an extract from my new book, 21st Century Dodos. It is a compendium of inanimate objects, cultural icons, traditions and other things that are endangered or recently extinct. In this short excerpt, I look back at a profession that has almost completely vanished.
Petrol Pump Attendants
You’d pull up at the petrol station in your Rover 3500, Ford Capri, or perhaps an Austin Allegro [insert your own nostalgia-inducing make and model here], and onto the forecourt would waddle a chap in overalls.
‘Fill her up’, you would cry cheerfully from behind the wheel. And fill her up he would, as well as checking the oil, water and tyres, while he was at it.
You may find it hard to believe, but this was how everyone got their petrol until the onset of self-service stations in the 1970s. You didn’t even have to get out of the car to pay. The attendant would take your money, pop back to his kiosk, and return with a fistful of change.
That, my friends, was proper customer service.
The idea of the petrol pump attendant actually harks back to a time before the garage forecourt, when fuel would be delivered to the homes of the privileged few who could afford to own a motor vehicle. It seemed natural for that personal service to extend to all customers when cars became more affordable and widely available.
One of the last attendants in the country, Dudley Oliver of Bentley’s garage in Exmouth, finally hung up his nozzle in 2010, not for lack of business, but rather because the ancient pumps were beginning to fall foul of health and safety laws, and would prove too costly to replace. The garage continues to trade for repairs and, in a nice touch, for free oil, water and tyre checks with Mr Oliver, kept on the payroll to valet cars.
So it isn’t all bad news, although for one elderly lady customer it did truly mark the end: ‘I’ve never had to put petrol in my car myself and I’m not going to start now.’
Thanks Scott, don't be a stranger!
And before I leave, here's me reading a piece from '21st Century Dodos', all about my favourite piece of technology from the 80s.