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Publishing powerhouse: retirees Jack and Elaine pen their memoirs

AHS Sunshine Coast Jack and Elaine Walter (2).jpg

Jack and Elaine Walter know the value of a good book, and the importance of preserving memories for generations to come.

The husband-and-wife retirees have just closed the latest chapter of their own personal publishing journey – their memoirs.

‘Our Story’ is their sixth published manuscript chronicling their lives, both personal and professional, including adventures taken and lessons learnt.

Jack, 94, and Elaine, 91, have been married for 70 years and live at home in Tewantin with home care support from Bolton Clarke’s At Home Support team on the Sunshine Coast. The team has encouraged them to continue writing during the pandemic, by arranging a purpose-built desk to make Jack’s time at the computer a breeze.

“When our Bolton Clarke home care team found out what we were doing, they organised a suitable desk for my computer work,” he said. “It has made researching, compiling, and self-publishing so much easier.”

They’ve shared their latest book with Bolton Clarke Home Care Facilitator Narelle Brunton, who was one of the first to read each chapter, as it was being written.

“It was a pleasure to read their book and to get to know Jack and Elaine on a deeper level,” said Narelle.

Their publishing journey began in 2014 when Jack, then 88, penned the instructional ‘Important Things I wish I knew when I was 21,’ for his grandson, Tom, who had finished university and was about to begin his career.

“Tom had gone to Sydney to take up a marketing job and I thought, ‘I wish I could be 21 again with all the marketing and management knowledge that I was privileged to acquire during my career,’” Jack said. “So, I asked Tom if I could put down a few thoughts and email them to him.

“He emailed back, ‘Gramps, you’ve got to put all this into a book so I can refer to this advice when needed!’ – and it was so uplifting to me, that he wanted to listen to what I had to say.”

Jack and Elaine’s passion for writing grew from there, and their ancestral histories, genealogies and Elaine’s art pursuits were the subjects of three more books.

Elaine said the process of writing the memoir followed organically. They had often wished they had asked their parents about their earlier lives, so compiling their own lifetime story felt a good idea.

“As we went through the stages of our lives, Jack would write a chapter about his early life, and then I would write about mine,” she said.

“Our formative years were very different, because he was on a farm, and I was in Melbourne, in the city.

“We each took it in turn to write, and that’s how we continued the book. Re-living all the good times that we have shared together with our family members gave us great joy.”

With Elaine’s creative background in art and fashion design and Jack’s head for business and marketing, they shared their journey in their family business of fashion stores.  

“In 1973, Jack was working for Ingham’s Chickens as their general manager for South Australia, when the Ingham Brothers asked him to go overseas to purchase processing equipment, and to look for new ideas” said Elaine.

“I was working for Myer in Adelaide as a fashion buyer, and I ended up going with him on the trip. I was very impressed with the changes that were happening in the presentation of ladies’ fashion, in overseas Department Stores.

“In America they were displaying colour-coordinated garments together and I was jumping with excitement. I knew this was the future way to go.

“On my return, I told my boss what I had seen, and he advised me that colour-coordinated merchandising was not likely to happen in Australia for some time.”

“So, I decided to open my own ladies’ fashion boutique”.

With little money left after their worldwide trip, but with a little help from the bank, Elaine opened their first shop, ‘Just Looking Good’, selling ladies daywear.  

“It was so simple! We had five modern fashion colours in the shop, and I displayed the garments together, like I’d seen overseas,” said Elaine.

“It was all very successful! We used to have a queue of girls stretching out the door at lunchtime, waiting to come in and try things on.”

As the business grew, their son, daughter and both partners joined the business. They soon opened another two boutiques, ‘Just Like Me’ and ‘Dress Up.’

Eventually members of the extended family joined, and the business changed and grew from three boutiques into the fashion label ‘Walter Kristensen,’ with boutiques in the same name.

“We all worked together as a team,” said Jack.

Elaine says having family members in the business was most important.

“They cared, and it showed,” she said.  “When we were in the height of the fashion business, we’d have journalists come to us and want to write about the fashion and our stores, but once they saw the family all working together, they’d end up writing stories about the family - and forget about the fashion!

“It wasn’t always the project that we had in mind. But journalists always seemed surprised that so many family – there were six of us – worked together so happily!”

She says the harmony can be attributed in large part, to Jack.

“He always insisted that each of us had to have our own area of responsibility, with no overlapping. If any of us disagreed – we’d have coffee and talk it through.

“And each of us were paid the same salary.”

Jack agrees.

“Just because we were older didn’t mean we were contributing any more than what the younger ones were doing,” he said.

“I didn’t have a very high level of education, not like our kids had – and it got to the stage where we were learning from them, and it worked. We treated each other as equals.”

Jack said they’ve learnt a lot writing their six books. 

“It keeps our minds active,” he said, “pursuing new ideas and knowledge, and we’ve learnt so much from researching the struggles and the achievements of our ancestral families.”

Not content with their achievements just yet, the pair have some lofty goals ahead.

“We want to live to be 100!” Jack said. “And Bolton Clarke is helping us with that!

“It gives us a boost when members of their team come to help and to advise us. We enjoy seeing them. It is great to have contact with them on a regular basis, and especially to have them help us to plan for our future home care needs.

“We’re planning for the end too – it’s going to happen so we may as well plan for it.”

“As we want to continue living in our home for as long as possible, we are receiving great support and encouragement from the team at Bolton Clarke, to help us keep our minds and bodies active.”

“Their team members also take care of most of the household and garden chores for us, so we have plenty of fun time to spend online, with our family members, our friends and our hobbies.”

Their ‘twilight years’ are their best yet, they said.

“Life is so good – and getting better all the time.”