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Rock'n'Roll George at the Qld Museum

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by West End Girl (subscribe)
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rock'n'roll george photo by west end girl
Late West End icon Rock'n'Roll George is being celebrated in an exhibition at the Queensland Museum until 2 October.

George -- real name George Kiprios -- became famous in the 1950s for driving his beloved 1952 FX Holden up and down Queen Street, rock and roll blaring.

A keen dancer, he was known for the 'Rock'n'Roll' plates that adorned his car, and for his brightly coloured stovepipe trousers. George continued to regularly drive the Queen Street circuit until the mall was constructed in 1982, and still took his Holden out locally for many years after that.

George also caught plenty of buses, and I had many a chat with him over the years at the bus stop near the corner of Vulture and Boundary streets at West End. He was a true local, born in Thomas Street, attending West End State School, and living his later life in Princhester Street.

Even when his hair was grey, George was still a stand-out figure in his purple stovepipe trousers. I remember wondering just how long he would continue to wear them. The answer? Right to the end, of course, like any good rock'n'roller.

George's beloved car led his funeral procession in late 2009, and was then purchased by Brisbane's Hutchinson Builders as part of their 100th anniversary celebrations. On loan to the Queensland Museum, it's currently the centrepiece of the Rock'n'Roll George exhibition. The exhibition also features George's famous purple pants and one of his checked 50s' shirts.

Not far from George's FX hang five paintings of the man himself by his close friend and West End barber Bill Diacos. Each shows George standing in front of the Holden, with the main variation between the paintings being the colour of the pants he is wearing -- you can see him in green, brown, red, blue and, of course, purple pants.

Another lovely touch at the exhibition is a visitors' book where people can write down their own memories of George. I really enjoyed leafing through and reading others' recollections, and intend to go back and add my own when I have more time.

If you're a West Ender, it's something special to see a local icon being celebrated in such a public way. It's also a rare treat to get up close to the famous FX, which didn't come out on the road that often in George's later years. Sadly, the 'Rock'n'Roll' plates are no more, but the car itself has been painstakingly preserved.(Click here to see a photo of George that does include the plates.)

If you're not from West End, this is still an interesting exhibition that captures a by-gone time in local history, when an unassuming man became something of a Brisbane legend.

The Queensland Museum and the ScienceCentre will close for three months for renovations on 3 October, so get in and see George while you can.
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Why? To experience a rockin' piece of Brisbane history
When: 9.30am to 5pm daily
Where: Level 2, Queensland Museum, Cnr Grey & Melbourne Streets, South Brisbane
Cost: Free
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