When getting petrol was a full service event

Feb 21, 2023
Do you remember when an attendant would fill your car up and check your tyres for you. Source: @ drawing_rehearsals/Instagram

On a beautiful afternoon like this, I shall tell a tale that brings a twinkle to my wrinkles. A sunny day reminds me of a Saturday early on in my marriage. My new husband was managing his father’s service station. He promised me a trip to the beach, then disappeared in his great beloved car, to check the oil.

I had my togs on under my jeans and t-shirt, weekend gear, very modest. Two hours ticked by. I knew where my husband was, so I drove my little lady’s car in search of a summer afternoon by a sparkling bay.

No, it was not to be. This tale is about the olden days, the local service station was once a traditional Golden Fleece. It had petrol bowsers and offered full driveway service with a mechanic’s workshop at the rear.

I wandered into this predominantly male domain of that era. The sun shone, the birds sang, and the breeze wafted. But no, in the dim recesses there, five young males were gathered around my husband’s bright red car. The hood was up. Fascinating, I was already aware that I had to love this car too. So I joined the revheads, gazing at a car engine.

The motor was humming, my husband checked the dipstick. “Are we going to the beach?” I asked. “Got to check the engine. Hop in and rev it up.” So I obliged. Yes, dear readers, the big engine sounded like a car engine.

The young male heads all leaned over and were intent and focused. Sparks plugs were checked. It had gone lunchtime by now, so I wandered off and came back with chicken and chips all round. Then I made everyone a coffee, trying not to interrupt this engaging fixation.

I revved it up again. Everyone listened keenly. My husband checked the dipstick again. I revved, and males gazed at a car engine which looked the same as before. Some hours later, I suggested a break. My husband said, “Why don’t you go home?”. So, I abandoned this listening to a car engine, and drove home in my little lady wheels.

The olden days did indeed mean full driveway service. Filling up with petrol meant tyres were checked, dipsticks were examined, windscreens were washed, and radiators were observed. Golden Fleece had a reputation to maintain. If ever anyone travelled on the highways of life, their roadhouses were regarded as top of the range. The loos were kept clean, the meals were hot and well prepared.

These days, the local mechanic’s workshops have largely disappeared. Fuel for our cars is self-serve, check own tyres, produce fees at a console. You might find a coffee machine and a fridge full of soft drinks.

Young males do not appear to gather any more to gaze at car engines. It’s a sign of the times, they are more likely to be indoors, gaming or coding or some such hobby focused on a screen. The olden days of Golden Fleece service stations have long been flattened, a property developer’s dream. Now flash apartments stand there, everyone staring at a laptop or phone.

In latter years, I used to have my car serviced at a workshop centre, managed by two brothers. On Friday afternoons, pre-pandemic, their driveway was blocked by a large truck laden with stock cars. All ready for a weekend ahead of stock car racing at assorted speedways. Their wives sat by themselves.

I must say, telling this tale, that wives of revheads learn very early on to occupy themselves to keep the marriage afloat. Now I am widowed and old, I still spend hours on my own pursuits. If I had a flat tyre, my husband would tell me to phone the roadside assist team. So I did, that is the first bill to sort. He was always too busy.

Reflecting on this lovely sunny afternoon, I realise now that I once spent nearly seven hours gazing at a dipstick. The car engine looked the same, the revving sounded the same, all gone to the wrecker years ago.

Yes, a twinkle now in my wrinkles, a tale of the olden days …

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