Monday April 23, 2018
Half a dozen developments that impacted on the British motorists. P.S. After watching the adverts for Green Shield Stamps – don’t have nightmares…
1901 – Britain’s First Multi-Storey Car Park
Yes, as early as May 1901 the City & Suburban Electric Carriage Company at 6 Denman Street – off Piccadilly Circus – opened a seven-storey 100 space garage with an electric lift to move the cars between floors.
1929 – The Pedestrian-Operated Road Crossing
The Pelican Crossing was introduced in 1969 but a similar system had been devised some four decades earlier. By 1931, Croydon were using pedestrian operated push button signals although in 1955 there came this rather incredible report in the Croydon Advertiser:
“Women are the main offenders when it comes to pressing the button without checking whether it is necessary. A few seconds later the approaching traffic is brought to a sudden halt — but by that time the cause of the hold-up is safely across and is gazing into a shop window, blissfully unaware of the inconvenience she has caused.”
On a less dementedly sexist note, here is a Ken Dodd fronted Public Information Film; interestingly, he refers to ‘pedestrian crossings’ as late as 1963:
1938 – The First Flashing Indicators
80 years ago, the sort of motorist who could afford a new Buick naturally demanded the latest in accessories and so the gear lever for the “Handi-shift" could be fitted with a switch for the rear-mounted “Flash-Way Directional Signal". By 1940 the marque together with Cadillac equipped its models with fore and aft indicators as standard, although Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac drivers still had to pay an additional $7.95. Meanwhile, the UK was slow to dispense with semaphore signalling but in May 1956 the Minister of Transport announced his formal approval of flashing indicators, not least to assist the sales prospects of British cars in the USA. When the Austin A35 Countryman ceased production in 1962 it was the last new car to be fitted with trafficators.
1951 – The First Zebra Crossing
The town of Slough was the setting for a minor transport revolution on October 31st 1951. The Zebra Crossing had a long gestation period – the Bleisha Beacon was introduced in 1934 but “Pedestrian Crossings” were not marked with stripes until 1949 and the original colour pattern was yellow and blue. Black and white was eventually chosen for the greater visibility it afforded driver and pedestrian alike, but it was until 1952 that the government would introduced flashing beacons – before that, the crossings were guarded by a fixed orange light.
1958 – The Arrival of The Green Shield Stamps
These were last seen in 1991 but there was a time when every filling station would issue multiple savings stamps per gallon of petrol. Not even promotions as mind-bendingly awful as this trio - – could deter a Morris 1100 driver in Peter Sellers glasses from collecting the coupons, gradually filling a savings book and eventually exchanging them at your friendly local Green Shield store (ours was in East Street, Southampton) for various goods. According to this almost as bad advert, a pressure cooker is the dream item of 1978 - . The outlets would eventually become Argos but for many years car owners would approach a garage in an unfamiliar area with one vital question – ‘do they give stamps?’.
1963 - Britain’s First Self-Service Filling Station
Well into the 1970s, especially in rural parts of the country, petrol pumps would be manned by a morose white-coated individual who often bore a resemblance to “The Prof” in Vision On. Some businesses devised gimmicks that were on the border of genius and the quite worrying - - but on 11th April 1963, Turnbull's Filling Station, Plymouth gave Devon’s motorists a look into the future with its driver-operated BP pumps. At that time, only 13,000 out of the 580,000 retail outlets in the UK offered self-service. N.B. we do hope that the 1972-vintage story of a motorist inserting a pound note in the nozzle before shouting at the pump ‘four gallons please!’ is true…