Now time to smell the roses every day

00:12, Jan 16 2013
ian rippin
PUZZLE TIME: Ian Rippin's finding plenty of keep himself occupied now he has retired after 50 years as an automotive painter.

For 50 years, Ian Rippin worked at paint and panelbeating firm Brown and Shipman. Now, he's adjusting to retired life. He spoke to features editor Claire Allison.

When Ian Rippin started heading towards retirement age, he decided to ease his way into it gently.

For the past year, he cut his hours at Brown and Shipman back to about 20 a week; taking Mondays off to play golf, and working 9am to 3pm Tuesday to Friday.

"Someone said to me, going from a 40-hour week, if you just stop there and then, you'll find it harder. So, I thought if I could just tone it down a bit and cut it down by half."

Rippin's retirement plans gained some impetus in 2008 when suspected bronchitis turned out to be a heart-valve issue and required surgery. That made him decide he did not want to just keep on working until he dropped dead.

So, he started transitioning into retirement, getting into the habit of watering the vegetable garden and the glasshouse plants before work, putting the washing out and getting something out for tea.


And then at Christmas he farewelled his workplace of about 50 years, and is now adjusting to fulltime retirement. So far, he has had little trouble filling in his days. There has been something of a role reversal at home, with Rippin picking up cooking duties and he has his eye on a few projects around his Maltby Ave home and in the garden.

There are regular golfing days, he has been playing pool at the Town and Country Club for a while now and plans to rekindle his interest in indoor bowls.

There are no busman's holiday plans; no vehicles in the garage awaiting a new paint job. Rippin is more likely to turn his hand to some carpentry projects. In the past he has built a cabinet for the television, some kitchen cabinetry and installed an aquarium in the wall, framing the front. There are jigsaws - on a draughtsman-style table Rippin built himself, and he is also interested in models.

Brought up in Timaru, his family lived in Hatton St and his father was the manager of McClatchy's Coal Company. He attended Waimataitai School and Timaru Boys' High School, before the opportunity came up for an apprenticeship at Brown and Shipman when he was about 15 or 16.

"I think it was my father who heard of a job going there. So I headed down there to meet the bosses and it started from that."

In the early 1960s, an automotive painting apprenticeship was five years.

"Now it's so many hours and as you put more pen to paper and do your homework, you can get it down to a minimum."

Rippin has seen a lot of changes in the industry over half a century.

"It has changed a lot over the years, from rubbing down and everything. We used to do it all by hand and now it's all power tools, and getting easier all the time."

Spray jobs were done in a booth with a bit of heat coming through. Now they are in a bake booth with high temperatures, masks are worn and sanding dust is contained, rather than blowing around in the paint shop.

Colour matching used to be a real skill, now computers can take a lot of the guesswork out of it.

"When I first started you had to try to match them by eye, we didn't have machines. Now, a machine scans it three different ways, you put [the scan] into a computer and can match it up 100 per cent".

And while technology has made the job easier in many respects, the old skills, and a good eye, are still important.

"There's a fine line between putting on too much and putting on not enough paint."

Different painting techniques introduced by car manufacturers, such as white primer coats, have to be replicated in order to match the colour. Motorcycles used to be painted silver and then have a dye coat over the top, followed by a clear coat. That same finish can now be achieved with new tinters.

"Manufacturers at times don't make it easy for you. All these bright colours; some of those really limey green metallics, you've only got to put in a drop more of the same tinter in and it can alter the colour a lot.

"It's a challenging job to be in, not an easy job. To get things perfect, you've really got to get into it and get your mind on it."

The company has been on the same site all his time there, but it has changed over the years.

"The back part of it was just a single yard with a wire fence. It used to be hell of a cold in winter with the southerly blowing through."

Rippin took a break from the automotive trade to manage a shop selling aquarium supplies and caneware. But he said the owner did not want to put money in to enlarge the business, so he felt it was not going to last the distance.

He had kept in contact with his old workmates, so heard a vacancy had come up when a former colleague went out into business.

Seven months later, he was back in the paintshop, where he stayed until retirement.

He has enjoyed his time in the business, has seen a lot of people come and go and says he would recommend it as a career for people with an interest in cars.

Some customers were very particular about their vehicles, others not so much.

"One guy, probably in the first 15 years or so I was there, he had a Volkswagen, and we permanently had a bumper for it sitting upstairs, because he seemed to damage the bumpers all all the time. I think when he got married, he calmed down a bit."

Other people's paint and panelbeating problems are not Rippin's now. He admits it can take a bit of getting yourself psyched into being fully retired. So far, he has dealt with it by keeping to a routine, getting up at the usual time and getting on with his day. "You've got to have other things to keep you occupied, apart from just staying at home and pottering around. And it's changing the mindset; jobs you used to have to do at night, or in the weekend, and sometimes you'd have to pack up part-way through, now you've got the days to do them. It's just a matter of getting into the habit.

"People say to me they might retire and I say, ‘look at what you want to do before you retire, and get into something'. Too many people I've seen, they've been that stuck on their job and do nothing else apart from their job."

The Timaru Herald