Barrie Morgan

Below, explore's Barrie Morgan's memories of working at Parsons Garage (where Tesco Express is today) in the 1950s!

Barrie Morgan

'I worked at Parsons Garage from about 1956 for I think 3 years, but I know Oxford Road from about 1949 when we sometimes came to Reading from Basingstoke as a family to go shopping.

I remember the department store that was McIlroys very painfully because when I was 9 years old my younger brother hit me on the head with a rubber hammer. The rubber was the hard type not soft so when they picked me up off the floor I said some very naughty words to him. It’s his fault I didn’t become a rocket scientist but took up Marathon running and long distance walking.

Later the store was sold off and converted into small shops. I worked at that time as an electrical apprentice for Herbert and Lascelles in the Butts and we put in the electrics for the shops. I remember we put in night storage heating. This was lovely in the morning but by about 4 o clock it started getting chilly and by the time the shop shut at 5.30 it was so cold that the lady and girl assistants had their coats on'.

Entrance to McIlroys c1910 (c) Reading Libraries Local Studies Collection

'As I was made redundant three times as an electrical apprentice my mate got me a job in Parsons Garage. My memory of it was of being very wet and cold in the winter but we must have had summers as well. It was a very old building. There was a note dated I think 1927 to say you had to have windscreen wipers on cars unless the front window opened. We had a very good foreman named Alf who really looked after me but I think I may have been a rebel without a cause or an angry young man. I was a teenager who was going to change the world.

There were three lads there all called Barrie, Barry Fry and Barry Holden and me. They called me Joe as I was the last one there. The petrol pumps swung out over the pavement and it was REGENT petrol. The Castrol oil cabernets were by the pavement and not always closed so you got dirt and water with your oil. It was no wonder car engines only did about 50,000 miles before being worn out. Old man Parson used to ring a bell for us to go and serve the customers so we had to drop everything and go out and serve. If we were slow he would keep his finger on the button until we got there then tell us off when we took the money into the office (no credit cards then).

The car ramp was outside so you got wet working on the cars, the only heat source in the workshop was a useless sawdust burning boiler. All the cars that were for sale had to be started every morning which was a very hard job in the winter. I did most of my learner driving on the end of a towrope bringing cars in that had broken down. One of the regular ones was a MGTA which a young lad thrashed until it stopped. Every time we repaired it and he thrashed it again and again.

Now a confession if Noman Parson (the son) reads this: we had a 1933 Rolls in for sale but we had to repair it first. Norman told Alf to use a torque wrench to tighten the head bolts. I asked Alf what that was so he showed me and how it worked but also said I should learn to get a feel for how tight a bolt was not use the torque wrench. The other thing Norman said was only Alf should be allowed to drive the Rolls. I had only just passed my driving test the week before in an Armstrong Siddeley Hurricane (anyone remember them?). We got up the road and Alf said I should drive as I had to learn to drive different cars. It had a gate change gearbox with manual advance. It was a lot different to what I was used to. Sorry Norman but I learnt a lot from Alf!

I remember the Co-op along the road and a café on the opposite side of the road from the garage. But nearer the town was a workman’s café which sold among other things hot steak or pork pies. I’ve wondered since how many times they had been reheated (there was no sell by dates then).

I can’t remember any trolley buses going down Oxford Road. If my motor bike wasn’t working (I was always taking it apart) I caught the train from Bramley that came into the station on Oxford Road near the garage'.

Parsons Garage, Oxford Road,1963 (c) Peter Sirrell - The site is now Tesco Express