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Alan Course cartoonist
A cartoon reminded reader Ann Spokes Symonds of an ill-fated experiment – the rubber road in Cornmarket Street.
It also reminded her of the cartoonist, the larger-than-life Alan Course, whose work regularly featured in the Oxford Mail in the 1940s and 1950s.
In the cartoon, published in December 1948, two men are seen laying rubber blocks and, in a parody on the game of dominoes, one says to the other: “What’s the matter, Bert – lost the double six?”
Mr Course led a varied life as a police constable, entertainer, newspaper artist and cartoonist, landlord of three pubs, fire extinguisher salesman, author of guide books and telephone operator. He came to Oxford in 1934 to join Oxford City Police, in which he served for 12 years.
He ran the Bear Inn in Blue Boar Street, where he started a collection of nearly 3,000 ties, the White Hart at Wytham and the Star at Woodstock.
He organised many entertainment shows for charity. He died in 1975, the day after his 62nd birthday.
The rubber road in Cornmarket Street was laid in the summer of 1937 – thousands of liquorice-coloured, 9in x 4in blocks were put down on a concrete base as an experiment. Rubber growers were keen to try out their idea on a major highway and offered £10,000 to pay for the project. They claimed a rubber road offered long life, stopped vibration, reduced traffic noise and prevented puddles in wet weather and dust in dry periods.
However, there were countless stories of vehicles skidding in wet weather and shoppers having to dive into shop doorways to escape being hit.
Despite the dangers, the rubber road survived until 1953 and 1954. The blocks were removed not because the experiment had failed, but the road had to be dug up for sewer work.
Mrs Spokes Symonds, of Davenant Road, Oxford, writes: “Does anyone remember slithering on the rubber bricks? Alan Course was someone who gave us so much pleasure.”
Any memories of Alan Course and the rubber road to share with readers?
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