Sixty years ago on March 9, our Grandfather William Robert Nichols passed away. Sadly he did not get much time to spend with his youngest daughter and grandchildren but his memory lives on. What was his story?
Born on 2 July 1903 in London, he was the much much-loved only child of Ernest Nichols & Annie nee Richardson. William (who was known as “Bill”) travelled with his mother, Annie to Sydney onboard the Scharnhorst, arriving on 7 February 1913. As his father had arrived earlier, in December 1912 on the Zicten they would have been met at the ship.
|Bill and Annie on the Scharnhorst|
The family lived at Tilba Tilba for a while and you can read more about their time here. Bill’s cousins Ern and John Nichols joined them at the end of 1913. Bill attended school at Central Tilba and was still at school in November 1916.
|Annie, Bill and Ern at Tilba Tilba|
The family moved north to Tweed Heads but eventually they settled in Richmond. Bill’s father Ern ran the Nichols Bakery and General Store which was located in Windsor Street, Richmond. Following his leaving school, Bill was apprenticed to Wally Heap who was an Auto Mechanic also in Richmond. He eventually learnt to drive and also drove hire cars for Wally Heap. During the 1920s Bill commenced a Hire Car Service in Richmond.
Around this time Bill met Florence Lucy Jennings, known as “Flo”. She was the eldest daughter of Charles Robert Jennings and Helena Bridget nee Smith. Florence was born on the 16 September 1905 at Wyong. Her family had moved to Richmond from Wyong on the Central Coast in August 1921. Her father was sent to Richmond to assist with the establishment of the Sawmill near Richmond Railway Station.
|Bill's certificate for completing studies on petrol motors in 1921|
Bill and Flo started keeping company and often went to dances together. Flo’s family moved to a property in Hamilton Road in Riverstone in June 1926 and established a poultry farm. Whilst visiting Flo and her family, Bill became interested in the potential of Riverstone and eventually moved there, leasing an old stable building opposite present Post Office in Garfield Road. This was the first motor repair shop opened in Riverstone.
Bill’s also owned an eight-seat Studebaker which was often in demand. Taking passengers to their destinations and also transporting car loads (in excess of his eight seats) to sporting events as well as to dances all over the district. In about 1927 Bill moved to workshop partly occupied by Harry Williams, Blacksmith, corner of Garfield Road and Carlton Streets besides Riverstone Park. He worked long hours from 8am to 8pm (often later) and closed only for a short period on Sundays but sometimes working all day Sunday when work demanded.
|Bill and Flo posing in their wedding finery 1929|
On the 2 February 1929 Bill married Flo at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Riverstone. Cousin John Nichols was a witness and he also drove the wedding car. Flo’s sister Eileen Jennings was the other witness. Many photographs were taken at the wedding but unfortunately a young family member managed to pull the film out the camera and they were all lost. The couple dressed in their finery and travelled toa professional studio in Parramatta, and the above image was taken. Following their marriage they moved into 20 Castlereagh Street, Riverstone living with Bill’s parents Ern and Annie while saving for their own home. They lived together until 1939. The couple had four children:
- Geoffrey Alan 1930-2012
- Ernest Charles 1932-2004
- Warren Ellis 1935-1977
- Janice Ann
Bill progressed with his business and established the first purpose built garage, Nichols Service Station in Garfield Street in Riverstone, opening in 1935. Read more about the Service Station here.
|Bill, Geoff, Ern and Ernie at Nichols Service Station, in Riverstone early 1950s|
Bill was able to build a new “all electric” home for his young family. Hostilities of the World War II commenced on the 3 September 1939 and the Nichols family moved into their new home in Pitt Street, Riverstone on the 12 September 1939. It was around this time that Bill was approached and joined the Masonic Lodge.
|Bill in uniform.|
Things became difficult as the war developed, with Bill joining the VDC (Volunteer Defence Corp) in Riverstone. Early in 1942 he enlisted in the A.I.F. and was a mechanic/fitter in the Australian Armoured Division, and served his time in the north-west including places such as Alice Springs and Marble Bar. He was always disappointed not to have been in action.
Towards the end of the war, he applied for a discharge as he was very concerned with his father’s health. His father, affectionately known around the town as “Pop” was now seventy years of age and had looked after the business single-handed, whilst Bill was away.
Bill planned to relocate his business and other venues were investigated and with foresight he eventually purchased the block next to Tozer's old house, opposite Oxford Street. In the mid-1950s he obtained the Chrysler Peugeot agency and also sold second hand cars. Bill enjoyed his family life and would take the family on annual holidays mainly by the beach, to places such as the Central Coast, The Entrance, and south at Sussex Inlet. He loved fishing as well. He also liked to draw and attended some classes by correspondence.
Both Bill and Flo became very ill in the late 1950s with flu, as a result Bill developed heart trouble and the relocation plan was set aside. Following a short illness, William Robert Nichols passed away suddenly on the 9 March 1958, as a result of myocarditis, heart disease. He was only 54 years of age at the time of his death. He was cremated and his ashes are at Rookwood.
I never had the opportunity to meet my Grandfather, as he died a few years before I was born. As I look into his eyes in old photographs, I feel a strong connection. His stories have been shared with family and his story lives on. A quiet and thoughtful man, he was well-loved and his memory is still treasured by his family.