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Street Scenes, mid 20th Century


Lift boys and petrol attendants, early-mid 20th century

Before the late 1950s, self-service was largely unheard of. Tasks which were later automated were done by people employed to do them.  This page gives recollection of customer service in two areas where it no longer happens today.

Lift boys

For example, no-one other than the 'lift boy' ever worked the lifts in hotels and large shops.

Lift boy or lift attendant in uniform, c1950s

Lift boy accepting a tip - not that it was usual to tip lift boys. Screen shot from an old film.

Lift boys always wore smart uniform with matching pill-box caps, and they worked the lifts and opened and closed the gates. What a boring job it must have been doing this for hours at a time, never seeing daylight!

Petrol attendants

Neither did anyone ever serve themselves for petrol, as there was always an attendant who filled the tank, took the money and brought back the change.

Petrol attendant at a petrol station filling a customer's car with petrol, 1950s, UK

Petrol attendant filling a customer's car with petrol. Screen shot from an old film.

He - and it always seemed to be a he - normally wore overalls, and he didn't just stand around waiting for customers. He sat in his office doing office work and kept an eye open through the window for customers. There was so little traffic on the roads, that he must have been able to get quite a lot of office work done without ever keeping customers waiting.

(In World War Two of course, when women did men's jobs, there were no private cars on the roads and I was too young to know whether it was men or women who filled the war-work vehicles.)

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased if you would contact me.

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