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The free-ranging days of our yourth

Escapades into the bush. Those were the free-ranging days of our youth

“When you look down across the lake from the southern end of Munibung Hill, it’s a million dollar view,” says Richard Lynch, as we opened our conversation about his times growing up in the area.
Richard, who was born in 1936 has vivid memories of him and his mates roaming around Munibung Hill “for hours on end, back in the days when George Hawkins owned the land, that was later managed by his sons, who operated the gravel quarries on the south west side.”
There was a dairy farm at the end of Fairfax Road. “You got in there after crossing a bit of a gully.” (that’s now in a pipe under the road). “There were still a few Friesian cows off Thompson Street, as late as 1996,” says Richard.
Richard was born at Warners Bay, went to school at Boolaroo, and in 1943 reckons he saw the last yellow spotted quoll to live in this area.  He was in the Medcalf Street area at the time. It was an unsealed dirt track.  He spent a lot time in the bush with his two sisters and some cousins.  “We’d go up Munibung Hill from the end of First Street. There was a little creek there with water holes. The area was dubbed pots’n’pans. Cows used to be in the area and drink from the wateholes. And there was a two-up school there as well.”

“You could say there was a lot going on at Munibung Hill. It was a main attraction for all the locals.  And anyone who came to visit, we’d take them on our escapades into the bush. There was always something to do, new places to explore.  As you get older you become more adventurous, more skillful.”
In answer to the question and how did you put in your time at Munibung Hill, there was no hesitation. The first thing that came to mind was the building of cubby houses.  “When we look back on it, that’s what kids did a lot of when we free ranged around the neighbourhood.  A bit of bush had all the right materials for constructing shelters and being creative. Gee, there were no high tech gadgets and gizmos like there are today.  We made our own fun.  We didn’t rely on others to entertain us and keep us occupied.  What else? Bird nesting was one thing – wouldn’t dare do it now. Playing in the creeks all the way down to North Creek was another thing we did. And we can’t forget the blackberries and the mushrooms – there were bucket loads of them. They certainly were to good ole days, there’s no doubt about it.” Richard said.
“Trapping rabbits was another way we occupied ourselves. There were plenty of snakes you had to keep an eye out for and avoid, but they didn’t bother us. After rain, the creeks around Munibung Hill, even though they didn’t run for long, had heaps of water holes and small ponds that would come alive with tadpoles and frogs.  They‘ve all been drained now with the spread of houses everywhere.  There’s not nearly as much life and activity today as there was back them.  (Editor’s note: We’d refer to this as biodiversity replaced with engineered streetscapes; lost as the residential areas crept across the land around the creek catchments and into the slopes around Munibung Hill).
Another thing we did was catch ‘banky’ diamond birds and then release them. They lived in the soil on the cliff faces, thus the name ‘banky’ – we weren’t destructive. It’s what kids did back in those days. We were having what we understood to be fun and keeping out of mischief.
There were gum trees as we called them, all over Munibung Hill before the 60s, but then the trees began dying in large numbers and the orchard trees suffered a similar fate. We believe they were all victims of the mineral processing at Boolaroo.
And were there any bandicoots around, we ask?  “They were everywhere,” says Richard, “even down to Margaret Street.  It’s a real disappointment to hear that perhaps they’ve almost all been wiped out.”
Yvonne Lynch (nee Burnog) was born in Poland. Her family came to Australia in 1949 as displaced people as part of a United Nations resettlement program. They first landed at Port Adelaide, where they spent the next nine (9) years.  Moved to NSW. Lived in a tent at Argenton, with one cold water tap in the yard. At age 12 Yvonne attended Boolaroo Public School before going to Mayfield for her high school years. In her teens she and her friends used to visit Munibung Hill for hours on end.
One of Yvonne’s concerns today is the impact on wildlife from roaming domestic cats, who she witnesses killing local native birds on a regular basis. Cat owners seem to be in denial about the impact caused by their pets free ranging around the streets and into the nearby bush.

MMM … Issue 31, July 2022