Virginia Day (nee Fox)

In this piece, learn about Virginia Day (nee Fox)'s memories of her childhood growing up on the Oxford Road!

Virginia Day (nee Fox)

'Growing up on the Oxford Road was a joyful and interesting experience. My father was a baker and had a bakery and shop on the corner of Edinburgh Road and Oxford Road – Dawsons. My upbringing was unusual as my parents were working in business all day and as the youngest – by far – of four children I pretty much had to be independent'.

Dawson & Co Bakers, on the corner of Edinburgh Road and Oxford Road, Reading (c) Virginia Day

'In those days – some seventy years ago – you could play in the side streets even if the Oxford Road was a major route through West Reading into town/Pangbourne. It was very safe to do this so my school friends who lived locally, and I, used to play up Edinburgh Road. However, even though the Oxford Road was a main road, it was not that busy when I was young, and always easy to cross the road.

It was so quiet in the area that you could always hear the whistle of the train guard at West Reading Station and hear the trains going through – a sound which never bothered us'.

Oxford Road Bridge Construction, Reading West Station, Photograph from Reading Chronicle Collection - June 1938 (c) Reading Museum

'We had the coalman come round regularly and the milkman, and, of course, we delivered bread and cakes to houses. I used to love going out as ‘round boy’. We also had the pigman come to us for the stale bread, and every now and then the rag-and-bone man would have us on his route.

The shops were fantastic! We had really old-fashioned shops like Tilleys – a haberdashery with the most wonderful wall of pullout drawers behind the counter. Everything from buttons, thread, wool, silk, needles, pins, etc. to gloves, scarves, handkerchiefs, socks and so much more. Then there was Jenkins. One side was an ironmongers, run by the Jenkins brothers and the other side was the most wonderful glass and porcelain shop, run by Miss Jenkins. Always with the reputation for being a battle-axe, she became a good friend to me growing up as I had a keen interest in good porcelain and glass which she helped nurture. Heelas in town (now John Lewis) would send the public to Miss Jenkins for things they did not stock as she had such amazing knowledge in this product'.

Shops along the Oxford Road, opposite McIlroys Department Store, 1938. Photograph from Reading Chronicle Collection December 1938 (c) Reading Museum

'Then, of course, there was Andersons, our local clothes and accessories shop. They stayed in business for a long time and when they closed the daughter opened a baby and toddler shop in town on the corner where Patisserie Valerie are.

We had everything catered for in our part of the Oxford Road: Floor/wall tiling, printing and stationary, antique collector, carpet supplier, accountants, banks, off-license, grocers, hairdresser, supermarket, house clearance, Post Office, newsagents (Willis and Short) and, of course, the last to leave now, Dixons the furniture shop. We had other stores I cannot remember the names of now, but the two things there always were along the Oxford Road were stores of variety and quality.

We were also lucky that we were serviced by public houses, the Curzon and West Reading Clubs and the Library.

It was clean, tidy, safe, quality area that I am sure will be remembered by all of us who grew up there as full of variety, and with great fondness'.