‘Fill her up please’: Remembering when service stations offered the works

May 31, 2020
Back in the day filling up came with a friendly chat to your neighbourhood driveway attendant. Source: Getty.

These days, getting petrol is usually an insignificant event that involves filling up, paying and driving away in just a few quick minutes. But remember the days when heading to the service station meant getting a full service treatment?

Service station attendants, also commonly known back in the day as bowser boys, would welcome you with a cheery smile as you sat back and relaxed while they filled up your car at the pump. And as the conversation flowed, other workers would begin cleaning the windscreen, checking tyre pressure and oil levels, adjusting windscreen wipers or even topping up the radiator.

Now, in the hustle and bustle of today’s busy world there’s not much time for chatting, and most people want to handle things like car servicing themselves. But the beauty of full service petrol stations came from just how homely and friendly the entire experience was.


Those from small towns might remember growing a sturdy friendship with their local service station workers and even using the inevitable fill up as an opportunity to catch up on their personal lives. Meanwhile, as the price was being pulled through the main till, there was no need to lock your car or even remove the key from the ignition as there was no real threat of theft back then.

And with exterior and interior checks happening every time you filled up, regular maintenance and road safety was much easier to control when compared to today’s drivers who would be lucky to check things like their oil or tyre pressure once in a blue moon.

It was also likely that the full service stations were connected to a mechanic on the side, so if the car was giving you trouble or anything looked off to the driveway attendants you could simply pull up and have it looked at straight away. And even though a visit to the mechanic might cost you, any help given by the bowser boys would come completely free of cost!

Although the driveway attendants were usually clean cut with well-kept hair and a clean set of clothes, they constantly saved plenty of drivers from the muck and grime of dealing with dripping petrol, brake dust and oil stains. This came as a major relief for those who chose to dress to the nines and didn’t have to risk soiling their suede heels or perfectly ironed skirts.

A full service petrol station also meant that drivers were able to get advice on how to take care of their cars from a trusted source. Nowadays with cars coming from all over the world and petrol types ranging from normal unleaded to E-10 and more, a bit of friendly advice would go far for those who might not know what their car actually needs.

Full service petrol stations are still available in some areas around the country, but it’s questionable how well the slower-paced, friendlier concepts would work in the quick and impatient world we live in today. Regardless, it’s a service most people of the 1950s and beyond will remember with fondness no matter how much time has passed!

Do you wish they would bring back this service? What was your favourite thing about full-service stations?

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