The Newcastle Herald's report last week about the future of Munibung Hill sent Edgeworth's Gary Lawless on a stroll down memory lane.
This is a piece that Gary wrote for Topics.
The Herald story brought back memories of a happy childhood and the many hours spent on the slopes of that hill back in the early 1960s.
We called it "Munibung mountain" back then and it was not as denuded of bushland as it is now. My mates and I spent a lot of weekends exploring those slopes. Back then, there was still the odd wallaby bouncing around the rocks near the summit.
The wildlife was abundant. There was also a few head of cattle grazing on the slopes. On the eastern slopes, there were sandstone outcrops with small caves to explore. We camped overnight in these little caves quite a few times during school holidays.
The slopes heading down towards Warners Bay were covered in orchards back then and the surrounding suburbs had not expanded to anywhere near the extent they have today.
We all lived at Cardiff South, so we would ride our bikes to the base of the hill at what is now the thriving suburb of Macquarie Hills, hide them in the bush as best we could and make the steep climb up the mountain loaded with enough food and drink to sustain us on our adventures.
Back then, I think the whole mountain was owned by the Hawkins company. They owned a quarry there and, of course, there was a fence with a large sign that read "Private Property - Keep Out". We would climb through anyway.
There was plenty to do on the mountain. We often caught lizards and we'd catch wild finches in traps we set. We would keep a couple of the finches for my mate's aviary and release the rest. We also caught parrots occasionally.
I also remember a pair of wedge-tailed eagles that nested high on the slopes. We would often sit and watch them soar effortlessly while they hunted for rabbits that lived among the low brush along the ridge.
We explored the hill from front to back. I remember sitting on the summit and looking down on the old Sulphide works which, at that time, was a thriving industrial complex. If the wind was blowing in our direction, the acrid stench from the smokestacks would send us back down the hill in a hurry.
There were also a few wild fruit trees on the mountain slopes then - apple, orange or mandarin - and the occasional peach tree. I assume these were escapees from the orchards further down the slope. When there was ripe fruit, we would pick a bunch and retire to a shady spot to enjoy our plunder.
There was also a steep grassy slope on the north side of the mountain with a small creek at the bottom. The grass was kept short by the cattle that grazed there. So, of course, we made our own sleds and carted them up the slopes to the highest point. We careened down that grassy hill until the steep climb back to the top wore us out.
I remember one of the guys found an old car bonnet in the creek. We used that as a sled for a while. This was extremely dangerous as it was much faster than our sleds. A few courageous guys ended up in the creek.
There were some spectacular crashes on that hill, with a few resulting in minor injury and a quick exit home for first aid. No doubt they received a tongue lashing from concerned parents.
Back in those days, we made our own fun. There was no internet, tablets or mobile phones and television in Newcastle was in its infancy. Those days spent on Munibung mountain were full of adventure.
As I write this, these and many other memories of my childhood come flooding back, even after all these years. Too many to write down here.
When I look at the mountain today on aerial images, I cannot recognise that virtual playground we used to have so much fun on. A lot of the bush is gone, and tracks criss-cross a landscape scarred by motor bikes and vehicles. What little is left should be preserved and the encroaching developments that would destroy the history and amenity of the mountain stopped once and for all.
Mists of Antiquity
Roland Millbank was recently examining artefacts at the United Service Club in Watt Street in Newcastle.
"Working through our collection, I came across a death plaque for a First World War digger," he said.
"Following a death in action in WWI, the family would receive a death plaque. How this death plaque came to be part of the club's collection is lost in the mists of antiquity."
The plaque is inscribed with the name "William Miller Jarvie" and "He died for freedom and honour".
Roland is hoping to track down the man's family, who he said "really should have this treasure".
Mr Jarvie lived in Brown Street, West Wallsend. He enlisted on March 11, 1916 and was in the 36th battalion, D company.
He died in March 1918 in Ypres in Belgium at age 36. He was buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey in England.
His wife was Sarah Jarvie. His parents were James and Agnes Jarvie. He was a miner who emigrated from Scotland.