The episode of Endeavour on ITV 3 included a 1960s garage. A wooden structure with two petrol pumps outside; cans of oil for sale; an attendant as competent to repair a faulty engine as take payment for fuel. There seemed a certain beauty about such places, the wood and the colour and the idiosyncratic structures. Even the pumps were distinctive, oil companies having their own designs and colour schemes. The early pumps showed only the number of gallons that had been delivered, it was up to the attendant to calculate the cost in pounds, shillings and pence.The cars that would have drawn up on the forecourt of such a garage now feature in parades of vintage automobiles: Ford Cortinas, Morris Minors, and Hillman Imps are now the treasured possessions of collectors who cherish them with an affection rarely devoted to a new car.
The disappearance of the garages and the cars they fuelled took place because people preferred buildings and vehicles that were more modern. However much people may now enjoy the design and colour of former times, it was considered out of date when it was left behind.
Would anyone wish to return to the times about which people are now so nostalgic?
It is forty years this autumn since I began work at a country filling station. There were no garage facilities, just a shack with a counter, a mechanical till, and a chair. A tea and coffee machine had been installed, but malfunctioned after a few weeks. An old transistor radio provided diversion during the times when there were no customers.
Outside stood three pumps, one for two star and one for four star petrol, and one for diesel. The fuel was seventy-five pence a gallon. A lockable metal stand contained cans of oil, for which customers would occasionally ask.
It was a miserable job! The old metal pumps would sometimes refuse to reset to zero. There was no canopy and, in times when all fuel was pumped by the attendant, every car meant going out to the pumps – in wind and rain, snow and ice, as well as the occasional summer’s day. The owner would come in from time to time, open the till and take out a handful of notes – to go for an outing or horse racing. There seems no memory of either the garage or the cars that would prompt a wish to recover such times. The 1970s were less than memorable days for either motor vehicles or technology.
Nostalgia is not the way things used to be.