Then and Now

Our Motoring Correspondent Jeremy Sparke-Plugge writes ...


"The jaded eyes of the present are often blind to the progress mankind has made over the last few decades; only with the eyes of an innocent can we perceive how far we have come in so short a period of time". So wrote a very wise Professor Thrupiece [Diaries Vol XXXVIII [March - June 1951] nearly 70 years ago and - the uncharacteristically sexist language apart ["He was normally pretty good at that sort of thing - and in most matters, especially those to do with sex, he was remarkably ahead of the curve" [Edna Whisky-McNightly]] - it remains as true today as it was on the day it was written. [I am grateful to Mrs Whisky-McNightly for drawing my attention to the opening quotation. JS-P]


A Startling Example


COMPARE AND CONTRAST: The forced smiles of Ms Audrey Badminton-Court [LEFT] and Ms Celia Notso-Pointy [RIGJHT] proves that the so-called freedom of the road afforded by gas-guzzlers was not much to write home about. Whilst Mr and Mrs Wright-Onn [BOTTOM] genuinely revel in the joys of the all-electric car.

Take for example the debate opened up by the recent edition of American Futures Magazine on the 1950s' sceptical attitude towards electric vehicles. And contrast that generation's failure to understand how easily the practical objections to them could be overcome with today's willingness to recognise that "every problem has a solution". Back then, people questioned whether an electrically-powered vehicle would have the battery life and instant rechargeability that the average motorist would require and the naivety of these questions was, in its way, as staggering to modern ears as the once-popular idea that the ridiculously efficient internal combustion engine [remember those?] would not be completely consigned to the historical scrap-heap by 2019.


A NEAR MISS. The 1950s automobile-based suburban dream wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Here a marriage nears breaking point as Myra almost parks the Cadillac in the family's swimming pool. Incidents of this sort were more common than we are led to believe.

The unthinking stupidity of the questions was indeed truly staggering. Would the owners of all-electric cars be able to undertake long-distance journies? [EMPHATICALLY YES - up to 12 miles!!!!]. Would it take a long time to charge the vehicle? [ABSOLUTELY NOT - marginally less than 24 hours!!!!]. What would happen if it ran out of juice part way through a journey? [You'd enjoy a natural break from the tedium of driving with an overnight stay in a Casa Enriqué Motolodge close to your own home of course]. And so on and so forth. Laughable concerns then? I think so.


Dave Oats's petrol station on the Beaminster Bypass is "living" proof of the resilience of small businesses and the remarkable change which has come upon the motoring scene since the days of the happily almost obsolete combustion engine.

Perhaps nothing illustrates more clearly the startling progress we have made since 1959 than the accompanying photograph showing - believe it or not - the same garage [Dave Oats's on the Beaminster Bypass] in 1959 and 2019. Owned by the same family for three generations it epitomises the sheer adaptability of the small family business, the resilience of the local entrepreneur and the distance we have travelled both as a society and as a group of people larger than a family but smaller than a nation. And it demonstrates too the sheer irresistibility of progress when the public buys into it and it is indubitably headed in the right direction. How foolish those who said the electric car was not the solution to everything must feel now.


Motoring might in and of itself felt like progress in the 1950s but think what a pleasure it is now and how far we have come. [About 0.5 miles per 1 hour's charge [Ed]].

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