My Dad, Frederick William Nibbs was born in Lambeth in 1882. He married my mother in 1910, having joined Standfield & White as a motor mechanic after losing a job in Torquay as chauffeur when his boss wanted to learn, to drive around his large estate when my father was not available. This man managed to overturn the vehicle - he then decided that his horse and carriage was better, so the job as chauffeur was no longer required! Luckily, in having to take this car, prior to its demise, into the only viable motor vehicle garage in the district, back in the early years of motoring, my father had been noted for his knowledge of mechanics, picked up from motor magazines from the time that motor vehicles had taken to the roads - and said to him, "If you ever want to change your job, you will always be welcome to work here!" Little did he realise that this time would come so quickly!
So, newly married, he and my mother came to Exeter, finding a rented house in Heavitree and start a job with Standfield & White. Whilst my father was a born engineer, he had NO ambition to do anything else! With his knowledge - and having been sent on two Rover courses at Coventry where he took top marks in both practical and written examinations, he would have been qualified to be foreman at the garage, but when he was forced to take over for the two weeks that Mr. Pidsley was on holiday, he longed for the fortnight to end so that he could go back to the work he loved! He was respected for the quality of his work and many of the owners who brought their vehicles into the garage for servicing would insist on 'Freddie' doing the work.
When the First World War ended my father returned from France, to Standfield & White.
Every year during the summer months, Standfield & White would have a 'beanfeast'. An open coach would be ordered and the whole garage tribe would fill it and be taken somewhere for a treat. It was looked forward to very much as there were very few benefits back in those days. If sickness made it impossible for a man to work, he lost money and there was no sickness pay. The men were paid by the hour and if late in arriving in the morning by only a couple of minutes, they lost a quarter of an hour's pay. I don't think, in the early days that holidays were paid for - they could be taken but at the man's own expense. The hours of work were from 8am with an hour off for lunch then working again up to 6pm. After that time, if vital, there was an increase in pay 'to-time-and-a-half' I think. Unlike my mother, my Dad was not a good time-keeper. Mum would ask, "Fred, why do you get up at 6am to be late for work at 8am?" as she studied his time card. My Dad had no answer.
During the Second War Years, undoubtedly because of the very few vehicles licensed to be used on our roads, Standfield & White was roped in to do some sort of war work. They constantly had lorries driving into the garage with crashed aircraft parts. Whether the engines were removed and serviced, I have no idea, but Dad occasionally brought home bits of perspex from these wrecks, to show us. I don't think much was talked about during this period and I didn't think to ask. After the Blitz on Exeter, on May 4th, 1942, Standfield & White was completely lost. When they took up residence in large new premises on the Honiton Road, Dad happily biked there right up to his retirement.
© 2006 Olive Johnson - David Cornforth
Olive Johnson nee Nibbs was born and brought up in Exeter. Her father was employed at Standfield and White, in Sidwell Street. The family lived in Weirfield Road. She married in 1942. In these extracts from her emails, she remembers the early days of motoring and her father's employer, Standfield & White.
Fred Nibbs in the car in which he gave driving lessons, in Torquay. Fred's father-in-law is standing. Fred Nibbs in his chauffeur's uniform. Standfield and Whites workshop - probably late 1930's. Fred is working on the central car.
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