University of Reading researcher Robyn Woronka spoke with Eric in January 2021, discussing Eric's life growing up, living and working on the Oxford Road for the past 96 years.
Below, discover highlights from their conversation!
Eric moved to Oxford Road when he was 13 years old. He remembers taking the tram/bus to the centre of Reading. Eric lived at 212 Oxford Road with parents and three brothers and went to school on Wokingham Road.
Eric remembers hearing the 'clip clop clip clop' of the horse and cart, at 5am, delivering bake goods around town. From his home, Eric could hear the steam trains in the night as they went up the incline. Oxford Road was a busy road with traffic, trams, trolley buses, diesel buses and bicycles. He remembers having to be careful of the tram lines in the road when riding his bike, because if you caught your wheel in the lines, you would have a nasty fall.
Just before the war, Eric’s father worked at the Co-op Dairy as a milkman, delivering milk by horse and buggy, then electric carts and eventually motor car. Eric took a job as an office boy, working for the Automobile Association, riding his bike to work. The area around the train bridge was a posh, residential area, home to professionals such as the chief constable, a dentist, and some families.
Oxford Road, Reading c. 1910. Left: yard of Dunlop and Sons, coal merchants, and No. 69 West End Fruit Stores. Electric tramcar at the end of Howard Street. Right: horse and cart of G. F. Fuller baker and NO. 54 Hedderly newsagent's (c) Reading Libraries
Eric’s mother had four sons who went off to war and four sons who returned. After leaving school, Eric joined the RAF and spent four years in Devon, South Africa and India before he was 21 years old. He returned to Oxford Road to run the family fruit and veg shops. Eric’s father was part of a community fire watching rota, patrolling for incendiary bombs being dropped by the Germans. Reading largely avoided any bombs. Eric remembers his childhood best friend, Jack, who lived on Weston Arms Avenue. Jack was called up to the armed forces, sent to war and died. Eric’s mother ran the family fruit and veg shop during the war. Eric came home in 1947 and opened Reading’s first mini-market in the 1960s.
Reading Fire Prevention Panel, Vaudeville Theatre, photograph from Reading Chronicle Collection - March 1941 (c) Reading Museum
Eric remembers housewives who would shop every morning, visiting the bakers, butchers, fishmongers and green grocers, stopping to have a ‘natter’, a chat on Oxford Road with each other. Eric’s family grocer’s on Oxford Road (1947 - 1982) employed 40 staff. Eric felt it was important to employ young people, school leavers 14-16 years old, on weekends and holidays, serving customers behind the counter, restocking shelves. The University of Reading would supply some fruit and veg for Eric’s shops, produced from their farms in Shinfield.
Image showing Eric outside the family green grocers 733 Oxford Road (c) of Eric's family
To sum up Oxford Road, Eric says of the Oxford Road:
'a very interesting life, it depicts the changing population of Britain, becoming more international'.- Eric