Norman’s Garage

Norman’s Garage was a petrol forecourt and car showroom that sold Talbot and Chrysler cars. It was on the west corner of Stowe and Bath Road. This photograph was probably taken around September 1982 and is looking from Stowe Road, across Norman’s forecourt towards Everett’s Corner. A few years before this photograph was taken, as a schoolboy I had been able to get a part-time job working as an attendant on the petrol forecourt of Norman’s. The only job I’d previously had was a paper round, delivering the Evening Mail. I had to walk a considerable amount of the St Andrews estate and had the added loathsome chore of collecting weekly subscriptions. The pay was poor and after around two months I gave it up.

The pay was much better working at Norman’s, which involved  a fair amount of responsibility for a 15 year old. This was in the days before self-service when the attendants operated the pumps. The pumps were an older type than seen here and were mostly ‘blenders’ which had a handle to select between 2, 3 and 4 star octanes. You got to learn the right type of petrol for each model of car.

There would usually be an avuncular attendant working with me. There were four of these guys and they were all characters. The youngest was probably in his fifties and was a strongly self-assured caustic wit, another was a quiet polish war veteran who was whispered to have witnessed Nazi atrocities, one was strange (he probably had senile dementia), and the last had terminal lung disease. I don’t think I had conversed with many adults and we didn’t talk that much at first, although the atmosphere in the kiosk/office was always lukewarm and incidentally, thick with the smoke from our cigarettes. In time, funny stories read from our respective papers would be exchanged between us.

I don’t think I was ever late for work. Sometimes, when undermanned due to unforeseen circumstances I would get to Norman’s within 15 minutes of being called without a second thought.  Occasionally, on a Sunday (when there would be less than 20 cars per hour) I would be left alone on the premises. At 1 pm I’d switch the contact breaker, empty the register, count the takings, close up the kiosk, put the takings in the night safe, lock the showroom and post the key through the security letterbox. I had the sequence well memorised. Once or twice I found an unexpected bonus in my pay-packet.

The canopy you can see in the picture hadn’t been put up during the time I worked there and when it rained you got wet. The worst was when a customer pulled up in the middle of a rain storm and it was your turn to serve.

Norman’s garage was demolished in 1987.




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