Jean Parker (Brede)

1944 Collegian


After leaving school I really had no idea what I wanted to do. I ended up attending the Melbourne University Conservatorium of Music. I lasted a year. I loathed it. I was so lonely and homesick. Melbournians could be very ruthless, and they'd never heard of Perth.

In 1945, at the end of the war, I returned to WA. I met Lucie Howell, a singing teacher, and she invited me to be her accompanist. I loved it but after 6½ years I was tired of being a muso.

I went back to Melbourne and worked in an office. My friend Bryan 'Beau' Parker had been sent there on a course and I followed him over, though at the time he didn't realise it! In 1953 we returned to WA and married.

We raised four daughters and Beau ran the family business, the Fresh Fruit Drink Company.

In 1969 he was tragically killed on a business trip to the Northwest when his car rolled. It was devastating. The girls were 14, 12, 11 and eight.

I inherited the business and it was hard yakka, very labour intensive. I actually hated it. I was used to pretty dresses and playing the piano. I was a bit of a wuss. But I had a family to feed, school fees to pay.

Three of the girls went to MLC and the fourth won a scholarship to Perth Modern. The business was a success. And I did what Beau and I had always planned to do – I bought each girl a house.

When things got stressful with the business I would just go to the football at Claremont Oval and yell at the umpires. That would get rid of all my angst.

I grew up with football and cricket and was the inaugural president of the West Coast Eagles' social club.

In 1986, after 26 years, I sold the company. I felt I'd done my bit.

I served 15 years as a councillor on the city of Nedlands, was Deputy Mayor for one year (1993-94), served over 13 years on the local government executive committee, and was the only woman to serve on the then fire brigade board.

I was on the council when Swanbourne Beach was becoming a nude beach. What an outcry. I was shocked. I couldn't believe people could be so stupid. I was all for it.

On MLC: Fondest memories – diving off the 60 foot tower at the Claremont baths at 5.30am. It was freezing up there looking over Bay View Terrace from that height. Walking to school with two soaking wet plaits dripping on my skirt and being ticked off by prefects for arriving at school not properly dressed.