THE NAME Pineapple Mayor has made headlines across Australia but there is a lot more to Chris Hooper than his childhood nickname, dubbed after his scruffy hair.

Known now for his eclectic artists collective storefront on East St, Havachat, Mr Hooper has led an interesting life.

He's been a banker, a train driver, was once married with three kids.

He has travelled around Australia with just his swag, been out to Western Australia and Northern Territory fossicking and was once arrested burning the French Flag outside of a police station as a stunt.

Mr Hooper was born in Rockhampton and grew up in Wandal.

 

Chris Hooper.
Chris Hooper.

 

 

He was the middle child with an older brother and younger sister.

His mum died when he was 10 from bowel cancer and he and his siblings, who were 11 and five at the time, were then raised by his grandmother, who was 63 when she took them in.

His father worked at the warehouse at the John M Headrick and Co. Building, which is now Headricks Lane.

He recalled playing a lot of sport when he was younger.

"She (mum) was always there, in the background," Mr Hooper said.

He went to Christian Brothers College, known as CBC, which is now The Cathedral College.

He graduated year 12 in 1969.

After school, Mr Hooper went out to work as a "bank johnny", relieving other tellers throughout Queensland.

It was here he "learnt about money".

From there, Mr Hooper went on to work as a fireman and train driver on the railway.

He "played trains for 17 years" driving coal trains from Rockhampton to Winton.

Hooper's Funny Farm on Emu Park Rd was well known to locals.
Hooper's Funny Farm on Emu Park Rd was well known to locals.

In 1984 he bought 58 hectares of bush on Emu Park Rd, which he named the Funny Farm.

He built his own rock house and hosted WWOOFers (willing workings on organic farms).

He had backpackers come and stay at his place from all over the world.

"I just showed them how to sit around the campfire, boil the billy, dampers in a camp oven, have it for breakfast, that sort of thing," Mr Hooper said.

During this time he was married and had three kids.

Around 1997 when the kids were in primary school and early teens, he and his wife broke up.

"I had been educated, had all this money and I just wanted to go back to the basics and live in the bush," Mr Hooper said.

While they don't talk anymore, Mr Hooper is still proud of his kids.

His son was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome and is now a fitter and turner, the eldest daughter a doctor in Darwin and another daughter works with Native Title as a lawyer.

"A lot of water has gone under the bridge, they have their own lives to live," Mr Hooper said.

Living on the farm after his wife and his kids had left was a low time for Mr Hooper.

"I was at the point, I was down … I know why some people commit suicide at this point,"

"But I fought my way out of there.

"I went mad, I know how low you can go, you can fight your way out of there.

"I found myself there.

"If you sit in the bush long enough and take it in, look after the critters and that, it changes the way you think, so you think like the bush.

"It was really good to get to that point.

"I think humans don't think they are humans anymore, they think nature has no control over them and they can fix everyone by science and we don't need all that, we are too smart."

Back in the day at Chris Hooper's Funny Farm.
Back in the day at Chris Hooper's Funny Farm.

He had to sell up the farm in 2006 and from there he "swagged it all around Australia" from Birdsville out to Tipooburra, getting another focus on life.

Then a mate called him up and offered him a job out at Mount Hay Gemstone Tourist Park, 30 minutes west of Rockhampton.

He worked with them for five years, getting paid in food and board, and went away to Western Australia and Northern Territory doing work.

Coming back to Rocky, he was living at The Fitzroy Hotel when he started to hang out at the library and got involved with peace rallies and demonstrations against Talisman Sabre and Adani.

"Losing the farm it opened up different pathways and meeting new people," Mr Hooper said.

Around 2011 he moved to 20 East St, which he has transformed it into what it is today.

 

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - The Australian Newspaper NOVEMBER 23, 2020: Rockhampton Lord Mayoral Candidate Chris
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - The Australian Newspaper NOVEMBER 23, 2020: Rockhampton Lord Mayoral Candidate Chris "Pineapple" Hooper outside his East Street Shop on 23 November 2020. Picture: The Australian Newspaper/ Steve Vit

 

 

Outside on the windows are a series of newspaper clippings and hand painted slogans and drawings with one side a scroll of his mayoral policies.

Inside is what some would call a treasure trove.

There are paintings of all different kinds all over the wall, hangings and all kinds of bits and pieces.

Some of the
Some of the "junk" on display at Havachat.

Each piece tells a story - like the series of paintings painted by a schizophrenic woman that Mr Hooper bought at an auction for a $100.

"It's good for other people, a lot of people are happy to see something like this in a town that is pretty straight, at least there is some bit of opposition to the norm," Mr Hooper said.

The doors are open most of the time and anyone is welcome Mr Hooper says.

"You get people blown away in here that they always want to have a shop like these but they never do," Mr Hooper said.

At the front of the shop is some old lounge chairs where Mr Hooper can usually be found sitting and talking with friends.

Another wooden trailer at Chris Hoopers.
Another wooden trailer at Chris Hoopers.

But if he isn't sitting down - he is out the back tinkering around doing what he loves best.

He says most people collect something and bicycles are his thing.

In the shop you can find all sorts of bicycles, from rickshaws, recycled Kombi van style pedal bikes, bicycles with trampoline springs, contraptions that look like motorbikes, even an armchair bolted onto a motorbike frame.

He took out the Kombi van bicycle down the street to show off.

 

Pedalling down his block at full speed, he gained the attention of some nearby passer-bys.

At the helm of the kids street bike, Mr Hooper had a smile like a five year-old boy.

"I'm 68, you'd think I have more sense," he laughed.

Chris Hooper's handmade trailer which he wants to see used as a shelter for the homeless.
Chris Hooper's handmade trailer which he wants to see used as a shelter for the homeless.

Down the back even further in the shop, lies a wooden trailer, similar looking to a caravan, which he has made as a prototype for shelters for homeless people.

"Making things is really good … I love making things and I love making things a bit yobbish, some people say I am a bit rough," Mr Hooper said.

"You can be rough and still make good things.

"I don't use a plan and it just comes out of my head as you go."

Missing the bush of the Funny Farm, Mr Hooper bought a block of dirt of four hectares on the Woolwash Lagoon at Port Curtis.

He likes to go out there often but has only been able to go once a week lately.

"I go out there, ride my pushbike, look at the animals there and the bush and the birds. Beautiful little block just out of town," he said.

When asked what he planned to do for the rest of his life, Mr Hooper shared he what called a bit of his philosophy.

"The trick when you get older is not to think about that, if you enjoy today or the next day, you don't think about that.

"People that worry about when they are going to die or what they are going to do or they don't have enough money, they are the people that fall off the perch.

"All I gotta do is smile and carry on with bare feet."


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