PICTURE: A google earth image of ‘Hawkins’ Paddock’ and surrounds, which was Jo Warne’s playground when she lived in Raymond Street, Speers Point.
Hawkins’ paddock was a children’s playground
A child of the 30s, now aged 87 years, Jo Warne lived at Creek Reserve Road, Boolaroo until age 12. The family then moved to Raymond Street, Speers Point in 1947.
Jo attended Boolaroo Public School till age 11, then she went to Wickham High School to study Home Science — travelled in and out mainly by bus but sometimes by train.
The hill up behind the house was known to the locals as Hawkins’ Paddock for her entire childhood and all the years she has memories of living at Raymond Street.
“We went into the hill from what was then 1 Raymond Street, Speers Point,” says Jo as we start our conversation.
A vivid memory was looking down across the lake to watch the air force flying boats land on and off from the water adjacent to Rathmines, on the western side of the lake.
[ Editor: Rathmines Park at Lake Macquarie, NSW, was once the largest RAAF Flying Boat Base in the Southern Hemisphere. Established in 1939, the base was at one time the home for flying boats from No.’s 9 (Walrus), 11, 20, & 43 (Catalina) 40 (Sunderland & Martin) 41 (Dornier, Martin & Empire) and 107 (Kingfisher) Squadron’s. It was also a base for the Seaplane Training Flight, No. 3 Operational Training Unit and RAAF Marine Section. Source: https://rathmines-catalina.com/RAAF-Base ]
Jo was one of 13 children – number three in fact. Her Dad worked in the coal mining industry at the Teralba Pit Mine.
They didn’t have a lot of money, “So you could say things were tight,” says Jo. “You didn’t waste things like people do today. In some ways we lived off Munibung Hill, at least for some things such as rabbits and mushrooms.”
“My Dad taught me to use a double barreled shot-gun, which I became a pretty good aim with. Shooting rabbits for meat was something we did a lot. Two other foods were regulars from Munibung Hill – mushrooms by the bucket full and blackberries. They were a regular at our house,” says Jo. And then added that her mother would sometimes say: “Go down to the creek and get some water cress.”
A lot of fun.
“That’s the best way to describe my memories of Hawkins’ Paddock (Munibung Hill). It’s hard to say what was the most fun, because we got up to so much over so many days and weeks. We had a lot of fun making sleds and sliding down the hill. We made them from scraps of wood. We used a stick for turning corners and stopping, because we got up high speeds coming down the slopes.”
“When you get higher up and right into the hill we used to spend a lot of time wandering along the creeks and playing in the water. You must remember that the creeks had water in them most of the time, not like now where they are mostly dry lifeless beds,” reports Jo.
“We built cubby houses in some places where we’d hang out with our mates from around the neighbourhood. One of our favourite things to do would be build a little fire and cook up potatoes. You know they were threepence a pound back in those days.” In our cubby houses we had a like a little kitchen with pots’n’pans for cooking potato chips on little fires.”
“There were lots of families like the Simpsons, the Hills, and us. In other words, a lot of kids that roamed these wonderful hills.”
“And one of the ways I made some pocket money was by selling blackberries – there was no shortage if you knew where to go for the best ones.”
“There was a lot of friendly rivalry among us kids. We’d raid other kids’ cubby houses, and they’d raid ours, but it was all good fun – there were no fights or turf wars like you would get now.”
“You could say: ‘They were the good old days when kids played outside.’ There was no reason to stay cooped up inside all the time.”
“There was a water reservoir built further up the hill, to supply water for the suburb. It’s empty now. I’m told it’s all dilapidated and just a rusty shell.”
Nicking fruit could be risky
“We used to walk across the paddock to go over the hill to Warners Bay. Our aim was to pinch fruit that we nicked from the orchards – they were mostly peaches that we took late in the afternoon when we thought no one would be on the lookout for us. We’d stuff the peaches down our shirts and head home. We rarely goy caught, but when we did, it was a bum full of saltpeter that the local farmers would fire in our direction to scare us away.”
“John (my brother), Herbert and Leslie, Kathy and me and Pamela and Doreen, they were who we would hang out with the most.”
“Up in between the big hilly section there were some great creeks and these were running most of the time, with water holes that we played in.”
“There were horses in the paddock. We called them brumbies because they were wild and you only got near them by feeding them bread, but you couldn’t get near them further up. They went mad.”
“I don’t remember much about animals like flying foxes or bats. No kangaroos or wallabies either. They must have been hunted out long before our time when the settlers first came – we didn’t know. In fact, the land was very open, the bush had been cleared to make way for the Hawkins’ Paddock.”
“I wasn’t aware of Munibung Hill being so old. To find out that its geological age is 251 years and that the lake is only 6,000 year old, that’s incredible. Most people wouldn’t know that,” said Jo.
“We didn’t go up the paddock for picnics or anything like that. We were quite poor when compared with other people. For family outings we’d go to Warners Bay on occasions.”
“But if you talk about favourite hide away places, then it would be the corner of Davis and Chippindall Streets – it was on the edge of Munibung Hill, down in what we described as a ravine. In fact, I went there to hide one day – the day I was to get married. It was our secret hide-away place.”
Birds and bandicoots were everywhere
“There was, and still is apparently, lots of Lantana and Blackberries. And one other thing, there were lots of Bandicoots. They were just there but sometimes we got them mixed up. You’d think it was a rabbit but no, on closer inspection it would be a Bandicoot.”
“When it comes to birds, now they were everywhere. Little birds, lots of them, and bigger ones to, like the kookaburra, rainbow lorikeets, pigeons and heaps of cockies. I can’t tell you all the names, but I remember there were lots of birds.”
“We were taught to respect the local Indigenous people but we didn’t have much to do with them.”
When asked, “What would you like to see happen at Hawkins’ Paddock or Munibung Hill as we know it now?” Jo doesn’t hesitate: “I’d like to see the area conserved and protected from any more housing subdivisions.”
“Oh no, they’re digging into the hill now and making a mess of it. All those houses.”
“I can visualize it like it was when I was a kid. Young people haven’t got any idea of what it was like and all the good times we spent in the bush. Protect the hill from further subdivision is what I say.”
“When I got married and had children, we would take the children for walks up the paddock.
“I just love the outdoors – did then and still do. You could put me in a little cottage at the edge of a creek like the ones we knew on the hill, and surrounded by trees, all secret and private and I’d be happy.”
Jo’s husband was in the air force – a warrant officer at Williamtown. He served for two years at Penang in Malaysia. Jo is a trained nurse who worked at Rankin Park (which is now John Hunter Hospital). Jo has three daughters, 5 grandchildren (4 boys and I girl), 19 great grandchildren and 1 great great grandchild. She keeps active and busy. She is a member of CWA, Women’s shed, a walking club where she goes waling once a fortnight and keeps informed using her computer to search for information she wants to learn about.
MMM … Issue 35, December 22 – January 2023