one of the bosses at 82...
These days, we tend to think of
girls born into the late Edwardian era as living demure and decorative but distinctly
tame, dull lives.
Not so, as Mrs Evelyn Parker can
recall, who at 82 is still company secretary of Parker, Taylor and Company Ltd, the
Lincoln firm of motor dealers and engineers of which her late husband, Walter Parker was
co-founder. She still plays a very active part in the running of the business.
At her home, 5A Mainwaring Road,
Lincoln, she told me of her very eventful and often adventurous life. She grew up in
Lincoln, but she had a taste for country as well as city life, and chose to spend many of
the school holidays with her grandparents, Mr and Mrs Edward Vinter (sic) at Lawn Farm,
Coningsby (the land later became part of RAF Coningsby).
"When I was between 8 and 10,
they had a lovely black pony which I wanted to ride" she recalls. "Grandfather
wouldn't let me use the harness, because it was a beautiful silver plated one, so I rode
bare back, clinging to the pony's mane."
But the young Evelyn was no mere
playgirl visitor. At harvest time, her grandfather employed many Irishman, and her
grandmother provided all the meals.
marvellous", she said, "she would make three apple pies, each over two feet wide
for the sweet course of one day's dinner. They made their own beer and everything on the
farm. I used to sit on a stool and shell peas and clean potatoes for everyone."
Her first school was St Martin's,
Lincoln, and when she was 10, she won a scholarship to Christ's Hospital, then a
"The teachers there were
absolutely magnificent, the way they made us like our school work" she said.
When she was 12 or 13, the art
master said he thought she was quite up to standard to enter for an impending scholarship
exam for Lincoln School of Art, which at that time shared a building with Lincoln
Again, she won a scholarship, and
attended the School of Art for two years, passing exams. But there were no frills for
scholarship students. When she left, she was disappointed to learn that because the
scholarship had included free art materials, the school intended to exercise its right to
keep every piece of the work.
She could have studied there
longer, but her mother had other plans for her. A couturier who had earlier works in a
French firm, Mrs Vinter made clothes for many of Lincoln's wealthier women.
At this time, she had also bought
a shop in Oxford Street, Lincoln, trading as a newsagent with sidelines of toys,
cigarettes etc. She wanted Evelyn to serve in it.
Evelyn was soon taking full
responsibility in the shop. One day, one of Mrs Vinter's clients and her husband visited
them, and Evelyn overheard the conversation about herself in the back of the shop.
"They were very educated
people, and they said they thought it was ridiculous that having won two scholarships I
should have left school to work in a shop" she said.
The husband thought I should go
for the Civil Service and advised my parents to get some coaching for me from a retired
headmaster, Mr Downey, who lived in Portland Street and taught commercial and other
Mr Downey only prepared one
student a year for the Civil Service exams, so she had to answer former Civil Service exam
papers to his satisfaction before he agreed to take her.
After many a year away from
school, the habit of study was difficult to resume, especially as she was still
responsible for the shop, and had to do most of her homework "between serving
customers, with the books under the counter ".
After about three months of this,
she sat the examination at Gainsborough. There were 40 applicants, many older than Evelyn
and still at high school, for one job. She came second. But several months later, she took
a similar exam at Wisbech and came first.
Even then, she could have failed
the medical but she passed "100 per cent fit". She was engaged to work in the
head Post Office at Spalding.
"That was crazy if anything
was" she recalls. My digs were 10s a week, and my weekly salary 9s!"
Post office work was not
sectionised in those days, and she had to learn Morse in order to take telegrams,
including foreign telegrams, and the geography of British cities so that she could sort
into their right districts letters addressed to any street.
When she was fully trained, she
was given the choice of a posting to Lutterworth or Rugby. She chose Lutterworth, which
she already knew was "a beautiful place". By this time, World War I had started.
It was across the Post Office
counter at Lutterworth that even first met Walter Parker, then 21. He, his brother in law
and two other men were establishing the General Foundry and Engineering Company there, and
Walter came to collect their letters.
Water was an enthusiast for
"8-horse" motor bikes. One day, he was riding an American "Black Throe"
to see what speed it would do, and Evelyn said: "I want to have a ride on it."
He protested:: "it is too
powerful for you, and besides it has no kick starter." She insisted that she could
manage it, so he started it up for her. She rode with "no fear at all"., and
soon decided to put on a bit more speed than he had recommended. She carried down a hill
leaving him far behind, and stopped in the nick of time in front of a farm gate.
Soon, they both had similar bikes,
powerful ones without kick starters. "You just ran and jumped on them" Mrs
They started buying and selling
motorbikes. Water did any necessary repairs, and Evelyn did a lot of the testing. They
saved the money to get married.
They married during the War. At
that time, Walter was not expecting to be called up.
On the Christmas Eve when they had
been married three months, Walter was taken seriously ill with an abdominal complaint, and
was rushed into Leicester Hospital.
He was discharged a fortnight
later, but fainted immediately after the journey home. Nevertheless, when he was called up
later, the army Medical Officer pronounced him A1.
Meanwhile, Evelyn was expecting
her first baby. She continued at Post Office as long as possible, and also helped Walter
with his work.
Their son Eric is now managing
director of the Lincoln firm.
Mrs Parker returned to work
part-time at the Post Office three months after he was born, leaving him with a motherly
neighbour. "As a soldiers wife, I was only allows 10s for Eric and £1 for
myself" she explained.
When Walter was called up, she
moved back to Lincoln, and put their furniture into store. Her mother looked after Eric,
and she went back to Lincoln Post Office.
"I was initially working from
8. Thirty 8.30 a.m. to 9.0 p.m. she said. Lincoln Post Office received the casualty lists
from Leeds, and about 30 of us were receiving Morse messages of the missing and dying all
Walter, now a signaller 1st Class,
came on leave suffering a return of his abdominal trouble, complicated by double
pneumonia. He was rushed into the Lincoln Military Hospital, and was under treatment
nearly three weeks. Evelyn was allowed to see him every day, a concession only made in
those days for very ill patients.
By the end of the War, Walter's
brother-in-law had sold the Lutterworth works, so there was no point in returning there.
Walter took a job as experimental engineer at Rustons, Lincoln, and later sales manager
for Stocks Motor Company, Lincoln. For a long time, the only house they could get was at
Firsby, near Bridlington, from where also drove into Lincoln every day.
Later, they got a council house in
Ruskin Avenue where their daughter Valerie was born.
After Parker, Taylor and Company
Ltd was established, they soon became agents for several car manufacturers.
One day, she was driving back a
smart little blue sports car from Coventry while her husband drove a dignified
laundaulette. A policeman came out of a hedge and asked her sharply "what are you
doing?" After she explained, he said "you are the first woman I have ever seen
driving a car." She assured him she wouldn't be the last.
She has been company secretary of
Parker, Taylor and Company Ltd since it inception. For many years, she also sold cars,
served petrol and did many other jobs. When her husband died, she decided to run the
Lincoln firm her own way.