MEMORIES 347 showed a 1964 picture of a police spot check being carried out in July 1964 beside an RAC box somewhere on the old A1 in the Darlington area.

There was unanimity among readers in deciding where the picture had been taken.

Ian Appleyard, John Weighell of Neasham, David Oliver and Howard Thomas were among the first to say that the RAC box was situated in a lay-by near the entrance to Blackwell Grange Hotel on what is now the A167.

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Fred Pole even volunteered that it was RAC box No 3 with the telephone number Darlington 5937. He may well be right – although it is a little out of focus, when we’ve blown the picture up, a number 3 can probably be seen on the top of the box.

The RAC was formed in 1897 to assist the first motorists. In 1901, it introduced uniformed patrols, and in 1912 it followed the AA in installing roadside emergency telephone boxes, known as “sentry boxes”. Each member was given a key so they could open the box and summon assistance.

They were painted RAC blue – a bright mid tone – and over the next five decades, 500 of them were installed across the country. As the AA had about 1,000 of its slightly taller, black-and-yellow sentry boxes, the roadsides must have been full of street furniture.

“They were a common sight in those days,” says Michael Waite of Catterick Village. “Was there one near Coatham Mundeville as well?”

Needless to say, Memories would love to know any other locations of RAC or AA sentry boxes that you remember – even better, if you have a picture.

Several people said that the Blackwell box was initially located 100 or so yards south of the hotel entrance at Blands Corner.

“Before the war, my Father was an RAC Man and he had a box on Grange Road opposite what is now Evans Halshaw,” says Brian Fiske. “I think it was the only box in the town at that time and he cycled all over town calling on people who had expressed an interest in joining. He received a small bonus for every recruit and the receipt of such was a cause for celebration!”

These were, of course, very different motoring days.

“Even into the 1970s, Grange Road at this point had three lanes for traffic,” says Colin Ormerod. “One lane to come into town, one lane to leave town and a centre lane for overtaking either way.

“It could be a bit of a scare sometimes.”

Our picture was taken on the first day of Department of Transport spot checks on the roadworthiness of lorries.