PET LOVE: Margaret Hooker with her goat Ettie, who she used to milk for Washpool soaps.
PET LOVE: Margaret Hooker with her goat Ettie, who she used to milk for Washpool soaps. Liana Walker

Why Mrs Hooker settled in Ballandean after a life of travel

THERE aren't many places Margaret Hooker hasn't been but after a life on the road she's decided to call the Granite Belt her home.

Mrs Hooker celebrated her 90th birthday on March 22 surrounded by friends and family in the Ballandean area.

Her life has come somewhat of a full circle. She was born on a farm in Beerburrum on the Sunshine Coast in 1929 on a farm growing pineapples and other small crops.

"They were hard times, it was during the depression,” she said.

"We couldn't have this, we couldn't have that because there was no money.

"I used to walk three miles to school and back again in the afternoon.”

In 1950 when she was 21, she followed her sister to Fiji, where she would meet the love of her life.

"She had to go by boat ... she had the baby and she said 'it'll be a long trip - about eight days - that'll be a long time for just me and the baby' so she asked my mother if I could go with her and that's how I ended up in Fiji,” she said.

"I had a marvellous time because there was a lot of other people about my age there.”

She was somewhat of an adventurous youth, enjoying the night life that Fiji had to offer.

"Being that age - and he's not that much older - every so often we'd have games nights or something like that and we met like that,” she said.

"I probably wanted to get married quick too, I'd had enough on the farm.”

She married Ken Hooker in 1951 in Brisbane. His job would take her all around Queensland.

Their four children were born in different towns - Noeleen in Brisbane, Bert in Goomeri, Elaine in Longreach and Lueta in Dalby.

From them she has four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, with the seventh expected any day now.

The couple have done three trips around the country, often travelling through the west.

"The western country is very interesting, it changes all the time as you drive around,” Mrs Hooker said.

"Not like up the coast, that's all the same.”

In 1983 after Ken retired the couple moved to their house in Ballandean.

"We sort of fell in love with the place,” she said.

"We liked the country and this house was up for sale.

"I was a farm girl.”

Noeleen said her father was also brought up on afarm and they both wantedto get away from thecity life.

Ken passed away in 2000.

Margaret has been involved with the Leukaemia Foundation, the naval society and laurel club.

But one of the most interesting organisations Mrs Hooker is involved with is Washpool soaps.

It was a happy accident she became the one who produced the goat milk that would end up being used in their soaps. It just happened that daughter Noeleen lived next door to the business and put her mother on their radar.

"I'd been milking Ettie for a few years and then (Washpool) decided to make goat milk soap so they had to look around to see who had goats,” she said.

"So it was me.”

Her connection with her goat is a special one. Even after being away with illness for some time, Ettie is always waiting for her.

"When I came back and started milking again, I hear 'eh eh eh' and I said 'yes Ettie I'm back' and she realised it was me,” she said.

"She's beautiful.”

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