It would be an added attraction for their tearoom’s visitors. The five foot long croc cost three pounds and was delivered - strapped between two pieces of wood - by Jensen’s Motor Service. The Evans family called him “The Old Croc.” Pop showed him off while visitors waited for their tea and scones. Many years later when Pop visited him, the croc seemed to recognise his voice. Later, the crocodile was named Charlie after a friend, Charlie Davis, a bus driver who stopped at the halfway house every day with parties of visitors. There are different stories about his origin. The Evans’ granddaughter believed that the croc was caught at the Barron River but others said it was from the Cairns Inlet or Yorkey’s Knob.
During World War 2, some American officers tried to buy Charlie the crocodile from Pop. He refused. His reason – “Charlie was his livelihood!”
Charlie’s fame grew steadily and the celebrities of the day came flocking. Sydney radio icon Terry Dear dangled a packet of washing powder on some fishing line for a gimmick (we suspect he may have had a commercial arrangement with its makers).
Charlie thought it was food and promptly ate it! Prince Charles met his namesake in 1966, and 1991 the Cairns City Council presented Charlie with an award for his ‘service to the community’.
Apart from one instance of bone infection in 1992, Charlie maintained robust health before finally succumbing to cancer in 2000. He had been at Hartley’s since 1935 and was in captivity longer than any other crocodile in the world.