Farewell to a Caversham Shopkeeper from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s
Betty Frostick moved from London to Caversham in September 1963 with her husband Bert and 4-year-old daughter Joy. Betty and Bert bought the shop at 326 Hemdean Road, on the corner of Sheridan Ave, which was then a wool shop/haberdasher. Together they turned it into a thriving newsagents in a lovely little parade of four shops. The other shops in the parade were Jennings the butchers, Gordon Lewis the greengrocer and Theo Johnson the grocer. The shop was renamed ‘The Corner Shop’, although more commonly known as ‘Frostick’s’.
During the 60’s and 70’s people did all of their shopping in the local small shops, as the large supermarkets did not exist, Sainsbury’s in Friar Street was the first to open in October 1963 and it was not until the 70’s that the other big names appeared in Reading. 1971 bought Tesco to Broad Street Mall, 1979 Asda opened in Lower Earley and in 1981 the big Savacentre was opened at Calcot.
Frostick’s was so much more than just a Newsagents, as all of her customers were made to feel special, particularly her regulars. It served the whole community and there was something for everyone, whether it was a newspaper, cigarettes, stationery, balls of wall, a chocolate bar, toiletries, R Whites soft drinks or Lyons Maid Ice Cream. Not forgetting the great assortment of penny sweets and variety of jars of loose confectionery – it was a real Corner Shop! There was always a lovely window display, full of gifts and beautiful dolls and toys. I was even recently reminded that at one point she sold ‘Beatle Wigs’! She ran a Christmas Club and the back room would be filled with customers’ purchases. It was the same at Easter, when customers would pre-order their Easter Eggs.
Betty became everybody’s friend and often confidante to both young and old.
When decimalisation came in February 1971, all of Betty’s elderly customers would hand over their purses, as they just didn’t understand the ‘new money’.
Sadly, Bert died in March 1973, the week before VAT was introduced, which left Betty in a bit of a turmoil. She was now a widow at just 49 with a 13-year-old daughter and an elderly mother at home.
Betty’s strength was amazing and she continued to run the shop for several years on her own. She finally soldthe business to a couple of her Cadbury/Fry reps Mike Fussell and Ray Hanna. However, they didn’t want to lose her, as she had built up such a great rapport and reputation with her customers. So they employed her as Manageress and she didn’t actually leave until 1990, after her second grandson was born, when she left to help her daughter with childcare.
Having spent 27 years at the shop between 1963 – 1990 Betty will have touched many people’s lives.
She had a great relationship with her paper boys. Several made contact after she died and all echoed each other’s thoughts of what happy memories they had of Mrs F, as she was fondly known. They remembered how warm, friendly and fair she was to work for and how helpful she was to the local community.
Betty was a faithful worshipper at St Peter’s for over 40 years and a regular attendee of the Parish Holiday, which she loved, especially when it was held at Sandroyd School.
After retiring you would often see her around Caversham, usually with one or more of her four grandsons. She was a regular at pick up time at St Andrews Pre School and Caversham Primary School. She also enjoyed taking the boys to Cherubim and Sunday Club at St Peter’s. In more recent years you may have seen her walking up and down Hemdean Road to the Caversham centre with her walker. Even at 95 years old it was sometimes difficult to keep up with her!
Straight from her arrival to Caversham in 1963 she made weekly visits to the hairdressers, for many years to Barbara’s above the chemist in Church Street until they closed. More recently, and right up until the week she moved into a care home, she went to BB’s in Prospect Street, now also closed.
She was an active member of the Caversham Ladies Club, The Baptist Ladies Friendship Club and the Masonic Widows Club. She always enjoyed her monthly OAP lunch at The Clifton Arms after the Caversham Ladies Club Committee meetings.
Betty moved from the flat above the shop to a newly built house in Brill Close in 1969 and lived there until 2019, when she moved into the care of St Luke’s due to the progression of her dementia. In June 2022 she moved to a much smaller and wonderful care home, Lyndhurst, in Goring on Thames. This was where she sadly slipped away on Christmas Day 2022, with her daughter Joy by her side, just four months short of her 100th Birthday!