PICTURE: Aaron Smith with his two boys enjoy the views while walking the tracks at Munibung Hill. Courtesy: Hilary Smith
Hardy’s Hill (Munibung Hill) was a playground and a place to collect wild food.
June Davidson was born in 1928 and now at 92 years of age she tells us how important the hill was for her and many others over the last 85 years or more.
“Grandfather took us children for walks up the hill that was known as Hardy’s Hill then. We used to go up each of the streets from First to Seventh, but not Eight because of a gully that made it too hard,” says June.
“We would take a piece of cardboard and use it for slides down the slopes,” said June. “We collected fruit from Blackberry bushes and Lilly Pilly trees.”
They would take food and blankets and sleep overnight. Whoever got up the Hill first got to collect the best mushrooms – “ they were where the cows camped at night-time.”
“Our favourite place was near the reservoir, at a place called ‘Pot’n’Pan’ – there was a spring that filled up with water,” June recalls.
June went to school at Boolaroo but there were no school excursions or visits to Hardy’s Hill as it was known then.
Blackberry collecting was mainly on the Eastern side of the hill, but they had to watch out for a bull in a nearby paddock – one of the children kept an eye out just in case the bull came too close.
“The Williams family had a big orchard; mainly citrus and stone fruit.”
After leaving school, June worked for the Hawkins family for some years, and her husband also worked there and helped build some of the roads around the hill.
“Neville Hawkins wanted to build a restaurant on the hill but the idea was knocked back by Council,” said June. “The Baptist Church at Boolaroo had scavenger hunts on the hill and lots of boys went there shooting foxes and rabbits.”
June remembers helping collect wood for the family wood stove and fireplace. Every afternoon after school they would walk up the hill and on weekends take a blanket and camp “ … it was our playground,” recalls June. “There were cows and calves but I don’t remember seeing much local wildlife – possums, yes, but no kangaroos or wombats or echidnas when we were there.”
“We picked a lot of wildflowers. There was the odd Orchid, and lots of Christmas Bells. And there was a lot of Lantana and other weeds. We climbed trees and had lots of fun.”
“Oh, I must tell you, old blokes used to go and play two-up. The children were the look-outs for the authorities. They would warn the blokes if the police were around.”
Most of the men in the local area were miners and they went to work at the sulphide mine.
“Boolaroo was an important town in its own right with a co-op store and all the shops we needed. There were two picture theatres. The community organised festivals with floats that paraded down Main Street. These were events to raise money for special projects.”
Just before where Metcalf Street is now there was an army camp. There wasn’t much at Warners Bay back in those days.
“The soldiers from the camp used to walk to Boolaroo because it was the major business hub and so the men walked across the hill to get to and from Boolaroo.”
Hughett Smith, age 11 (June’s great grandchild), showed us a skull that he had collected on the north western slopes of Munibung Hill.
The first time that Hughett visited Munibung Hill was with his Dad Aaron and Ryan (a friend of Dad’s).
They went up from Sixth Street to ‘Grandfather Rock’. They then walked up to the cell towers and then down the tracks further to the north. The next time he went up was on New Year’s Eve to see the fireworks.
Grandfather rock is a popular lookout point with locals providing a great view from north to south.
Interview with June Davidson, arranged by Hilary Smith. Wed. 15 July, 2020