Anybody that has been acquainted with Laindon over the last 80 years will no doubt have come across Cliff or in the early years his father, James and brothers Bert and Cecil.
Clifford Dennis Parkinson was born in Laindon, in 1911, so he would have been about 9 or 10 when his father and brothers bought an old 14/18 war Army hut and set up business as motor and cycle repairs on the corner of Somerset Road and the High Road in 1920. Cars in those days were few, so to help supplement the business two petrol tanks were sunk beneath the ground and the petrol was hand pumped to your car. Cliff has always claimed that it was the first garage to open up in Laindon.
It is understood that Cliff’s father had been in the building business and for many years you would come across man-hole covers with the name Parkinson’s on them.
Cliff was 17 when he joined the business and soon afterwards his Brother Bert and his son Brian opened another garage opposite the Fortune of War on the corner of the High Road and the Arterial Road. This garage was eventually sold to Mobil Oil in the early 1960’s.
During the Second World War, Cliff joined the Air Force and was, for best part of it, stationed in India working on Lancaster engines. Though he never had a flying licence he loved flying and was still arranging for private flights out of Southend airport well into his 80’s.
When his father died he took over the business and in the years that followed, the business diversified, not only dealing in motor and bicycles spares and repairs, but also selling petrol, paraffin, new bicycles and motor bikes and ran a taxi and wedding service. On the opposite corner of Somerset Road was Markham ’s Dairies and the garage used to service the milk lorries, motorised and hand trolleys. This for a time was quite a lucrative business for them. Hand trolleys were needed because during the winter months it was impossible for lorries and motorised trolleys to get up and down the majority of roads around Laindon. During the 2nd World War, Markham ’s employed local girls to deliver milk on bicycles. Markham was a local farmer, owning Great Berry Farm in Langdon Hills.
Cliff was a great accumulator of bits and pieces. The garage and shop always looked a tip but he could always find what he was looking for and although he always seemed to be walking around with his head bowed and never smiling, he had an obliging nature which was appreciated by many.
In 1962 following pressure from the Basildon Corporation he relocated to the old Greens Stores shop with a garage at the back on the corner of Durham Road and the High Road.
This is where he was to stay for the next 40 years until he retired in 2004 at the age of 92.
Cliff was a workaholic and did not have much of a social life, did not marry but in later life started to take a few holidays and regretted not taken them earlier. When he retired he said it is time to go and take things easy but it is going to be an awful wrench to have to go.
He also blamed the changing times and supermarkets for the slump in trade. “There have been big changes in Laindon and trade was much better years ago” also “Supermarkets sell oil these days, which I don’t think should be allowed and cars are also very different. People used to spend Sunday working on them, but cars are so complicated now, they can’t.”
“I enjoyed having a chat and a joke with customers and I shall miss them.” Not as much as we miss you Cliff, you were its son and heart of Laindon.
Cliff passed away peacefully only a few months after he retired on the 24th September 2004 .