I arrived in Basildon in November 1964 from
Watford following the break up of my marriage. I stayed with a friend in Luncies Road, who was
the manager of Kingstons Butchers in Market Square, Basildon. He gave me a job, as butchering was my
trade, and I also got a part time evening job at the Locarno Ballroom where I met my wife
Shirley, who also had a failed marriage, and worked part time in the box office.
I had the idea of a mobile shop from a colleague I had worked with in
Watford, and thought Laindon would be an ideal spot to try it. Also I spoke to Harrington's
Butchers in the High Road about the possibilities.
I started out in 1966 with a secondhand Bartons Bread van that cost £50, and
a small shop to run it from in Gainsborough Drive, Southend. The weekly rent was the princely
sum of thirty shillings equivalent to £1.50 a week. I consequently had to give that shop up as I found it impossible to park
the van on the Friday's Southend United used to play. I then rented a small part of a shop on
the corner of Glebe Road, Ramsden Bellhouse. Shirley worked in the shop in the mornings while I
was out with the van, and then did her evening job at the Locarno while I babysat for her. I
bought a secondhand ambulance to carry on with my round as it met more of the hygiene
regulations needed to carry out my business. This was later updated with a Smiths Mobile Shop,
again secondhand, which I bought in Hadleigh.
|Ray seen pictured in front of his Commer van for a 1972 Standard Recorder newspaper write up.|
|Photo: © S. Crosbie.
Shirley and I got married in August 1968, and I was then able to operate
from home as we had a large garage area at the back of the house. We had leaflets printed, and
canvassed streets around Laindon and Langdon Hills to get more business. I started selling eggs,
potatoes and tinned foods at the request of my customers. It was a very rewarding occupation as
I got to know whole families, saw children grow up who later themselves became customers. Also
helping the old folk get their coal in and posting their letters all became part of the job. It
was a blow for me when the Laindon Shopping Centre opened late 1969 and I lost a third of my
trade. But undaunted I ventured further afield into Basildon and Pitsea and business picked up
again. After the initial opening of the Laindon Centre a lot of my customers drifted back to
me, they liked the convenience of just opening their front door, doing their shopping, and
having a natter to the other customers.
In 1975 I bought my first new lorry, the cab was purchased in
Springfield, Chelmsford, and the body custom built by a firm near Bishops Stortford. It was delivered to me on 27th
December 1976, the best Christmas present I ever had, and my pride and joy. We all stood outside and
watched as it came down the road, and all the neighbours came out, had a look around and were
|1976 photograph of Ray in front of his new Commer van with custom built body seen parked up at Great Gregorie in Lee Chapel South.|| ||Another 1976 shot of Ray standing proudly beside the new custom bodied Commer. He used this vehicle from 1976-1989.|
|Photo: © S. Crosbie.|| ||Photo: © S. Crosbie.
It was a real family business as the two children
helped out at weekends on the van when they were old enough, and Shirley did all the bookkeeping
and VAT. It was very helpful that she was familiar with the meat trade, having been the cashier
that opened with Matthews Butchers in 1959.
I continued trading until April 1st 1989, passing the van over to a John
Cooper. I went round with him for 2 weeks acquainting him with my customers before relocating
to Norfolk at the end of April 1989.
Basildon holds fond memories of my life there, and a big thank you to all
my customers for their support over the years.
Title: Ray's Family Butchers by Ray Crosbie.
Copyright: © Ray Crosbie, August 2008.
Comments: This account was supplied by Ray Crosbie for use on the Basildon History website.