William was the son of Richard Parker who was born in Cumberland in 1811. Richard arrived in Victoria during 1839 and established a general store in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne with a Mr Boadle. The partnership dissolved when Boadle left Melbourne. Parker then moved to Collins Street and continued his business until selling out to his brother-in-law Germain Nicholson in 1844. Subsequently, Richard moved to Geelong and established an ironmongery (hardware) store at 54 Moorabool Street. He was very successful, and opened stores in Clunes, Back Creek (Talbot), Firey Creek and Ararat. Richard was the brother of Mrs. Alice Jackson, first licensee of the Anglesea Hotel. His Anglesea holiday house “Marguerite,” just below McMillan’s “Blink Bonnie,” was constructed in 1887 and destroyed by the 1919 fire. During that period it was used as a letting investment. It was Richard’s son William who purchased a holiday property in Torquay.
In the 1840s there was a small change crisis in the Colony of New South Wales. It was perhaps most severely felt in the Port Phillip District, at that time still part of the Colony. Australian colonial governments were not keen to take responsibility for providing coins. Coins were made in England and the British government could make a penny for less than a penny. The Colonial government could only buy one for a penny, then pay the cost of shipping and, once the coins were worn out, they would be responsible for replacing them. The retail trade already had a solution with the issue of copper tokens.
On one side of the token retailers placed their name and business and on the other a figure of Britannia like the one on a real penny. When these arrived in 1849, they were given out in change as pennies from their shop. There was outrage in the morning papers the next day demanding that the police and law courts take immediate action. However, the tokens were not forgeries, they were not copies of real coins and clearly stated what company had issued them. Soon, shops all over Melbourne and Geelong were ordering tokens issued in their name to give as change to customers. In Geelong, the most famous token was issued by the ironmongers—Richard Parker.
Parker issued at least ten varieties of tokens, all with the same inscription and figure on the faces, but with slight variations. When the tokens arrived, they were emptied out in a huge pile in the window, and as small change was scarce, people flocked to the shop to exchange their silver for the more convenient copper. All pennies were withdrawn from circulation in the 1860s.
Richard spent many months each year in a camp beside Spring Creek, so it was no surprise when his son William purchased his holiday house then later retired to Fischer Street, Torquay. William became involved with Torquay community affairs as did his son (Leslie) after him.
According to the TIA One Hundred Years – A short History, William (1849 – 1928) was an active member of the TIA. He is remembered most for his commitment to beautifying the beach fronts with trees. William would also throw tea tree seeds along the Geelong Road as he drove in his buggy to beautify the main road. He was a pioneer footballer and at one time the fastest runner in Geelong. On the anniversary of his death in 1929 a bench was made with the plaque:
“In recognition of the voluntary services of the late William Parker who helped to beautify with trees the beach fronts of Torquay. 4th Jan. 1929”