THIS funny little picture was published 50 years ago this week to mark the retirement of Kit Spence of Cockton Hill, Bishop Auckland, who was finishing after nearly 50 years delivering petrol in south Durham.

He started with British Petroleum in 1919 as second man on a paraffin wagon – that’s his vehicle dressed up for the Bishop Auckland Carnival in the early 1920s. He delivered five gallons of paraffin to everyone from garages to saddlers and cobblers, who adapted it for their own uses.

In the early 1920s, petrol pumps were introduced to garages which altered the nature of his wholesale business, but drivers were still able to stop Mr Spence’s wagon and buy a five gallon can of petrol which was designed to be fixed on the side of a car.

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“I remember there were two grades: a khaki-coloured can for BP No 1, which was the best grade, and a blue-coloured can for commercial grades, BP No 3,” he recalled in 1967. “Don’t ask me what happened to BP No 2.”

But it wasn’t until the early 1930s that Mr Spence could sense that in Shildon and Bishop Auckland, the motor vehicle would really catch on. He said: “I was able to see that although the Great Depression affected business, people were finding it much more economical to run a car than feed and groom a horse for a whole week and get a couple of days’ work out of it at the end.”