Mr Johnson left the army in 1920 at the age of 23. He had no concept of a career and so at his father’s suggestion decided to take up gardening and nursery work.
Eric wrote to several nurseries including King Acre Nurseries, Hereford, James Backhouse Nurseries of York, Mack and Miln of Darlington, and fisher Son and Sibray of Handsworth Sheffield.
Eric eventually went to Handsworth in the spring of 1921, it was a large tree and shrub nursery of 250 acres and had been trading since the 18th Century, where they were Seedmen and Nurserymen to the Royal Family. The wage was just 35 shillings for a 50-hour working week which just covered lodging expenses. Johnson was a general nursery worker, hardwood grafting, layering, budding fruit trees and roses etc, and in winter, lifting all the different kinds of trees and shrubs for orders.
He went on to be in charge of a lifting gang and handed in his notice when his pay wasn’t increased alongside increasing responsibility.
In the meantime, Eric had become engaged to a girl whose family owned several malt kilns including one near Cattal Station. At the Cattal Maltkiln were two cottages, one empty and the other used by the foreman maltster. Mr Johnson’s future father-in-law suggested that he could go and live there to look after the gardens, he agreed to this.