John Picken was born in Broken Hill where his family had business interests, and his grandparents had operated a Cobb & Co stage-coach station North of Broken Hill, until motor transport replaced horses. They then managed sheep and cattle stations in that remote area.
His early childhood was spent largely on trains as his mother, whenever possible, joined his father, an Air Force Flying Officer during World War 2. He attended eleven different primary schools in three states by the age of nine.
His teen years and very early twenties were spent in Adelaide, where he neglected studies to race motor bikes, play football and cricket, chase girls, complete his army training and finally get married.
He then took a position with Qantas, and after training in Sydney was 'posted' to Brisbane for a short time. And then to Canberra where he dealt constantly with Russian diplomats inside the embassy and was always de-briefed by ASIO afterwards. Two sons were born in Canberra.
Next was Hong Kong for two years during the riots and bombings and civil disorder of the Cultural Revolution. While there, he played rugby for the Hong Kong Dragons. He was then sent to Tokyo for five years where, because he spoke Japanese, he served two years as chairman of the Airline Operators Committee, representing the interests of all airlines in negotiations with the Japanese Government. His sons attended Nichimachi Kokusai Gakkoo, a Japanese school.
He returned to Sydney in 1974 to become the 'User Representative' on Qantas' Computer Development Task Force, but was sent at six hours' notice to Belgrade in Eastern Europe, to urgently open Qantas' first scheduled service into a communist country. That was the 'frostiest' period of the cold war and he had to negotiate the use of military airports and facilities with communist Generals and party officials In 1977, he was recalled from New York to become Manager Queensland. This also required him to be the nominal Company Secretary, because Qantas was registered in Queensland. Two years later he returned from Queensland to become Corporate Personnel Manager for Qantas, but after his years of field management, couldn't settle to dull corporate life. So, he resigned to start and operate his own business, until retirement.
John and his second wife, Claire, now live comfortably in the midst of five shared families and twelve grandchildren.