So Joyce can you tell me a bit more about yourself?
Oh, yes. I live at Milligan Road, Prospect Hill, and I’ve lived here for seventy-seven years and I’m eighty-three [laughs]. And I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I think it’s the most wonderful place in the world.
So where is your house located?
Along Milligan Road. Yes.
Beside the Kuitpo Forest.
Can you tell me a bit more about what you do in the community?
On the committee—well, oh, to start with: well, I’m a farmer. I look after the Prospect Hill Historical Museum – have it open every Sunday afternoon and through weekdays by appointment with busloads of…the wonderful old elderly people are the ones that enjoy it when they come to see, or to…children. We have seventy children the other day here all at once [laughs] that was a lively time, but it was very…it was lovely. And I belong to the – – – to the Prospect Hill Community Association Committee since we started that, which was back in the 1950s. And I’ve also been the secretary of Meadows Valley Camera Club, which I’m just starting on my forty-sixth year of secretary-treasurer of that. So that keeps me busy [laughs].
So – – – and in terms of farming, what have you done in the community?
Well I was milking cows to start. I had a heard of cattle – milking cows. But then I had to go to beef cattle, because all us smaller farmers were, well, disposed of as dairies, so I have – – – I’ve got beef cattle now that I wrung, yes.
What do you mean you were disposed of as dairies?
Beg your pardon?
What do you mean you were disposed of as dairies?
Oh, the – – – they – – – if you wasn’t in a big way, the factories just didn’t want you; they wouldn’t pick the milk up. We started off – – – we used to have to sell cream to start with – you had to separate the milk and sell cream – but then they started picking up milk many years ago, but now – – – when I was – – – had my dairy, there were forty-two dairies here just in Prospect Hill, because a lot of the…people with smaller properties, well they had a few cows, and, like, they grew their own vegetables and that…and that’s the only way they could get to live; they’d have a few cows and sell some milk. But now, there’s only two dairies left in the district, which is very tragic, really.
So what other activities did you do as part of the Community Association?
Oh, well, I belong to every committee that’s ever been around here [laughs], but no, I didn’t play a lot of sport. I was always too busy trying to work and run my own property and, so, I didn’t play tennis or anything, but like that. The photography – – – being a – – – photography’s be a big part of my life, that’s for sure. And the museum, because I’ve been here…1968 I started here at the Museum when Keith Griggs wanted volunteers, so Pat Connor and myself was his first two volunteers in 1968, so that’s how long I’ve been here [laughs]. So I should know a little bit about the history.
So is your farm still running today?
Oh yes, yes. Mm.
And do you run that by yourself?
Yes, but I’ve got to have someone come and help me feed stock and that. I can’t handle the big five-by-four rolls of hay by myself anymore [laughs].
I could up ‘til two or three years ago, but I have to get somebody in to help my like that, yes. Mm.
And so it’s just beef cattle that you have?
Yeah, beef cattle, yes. Mm.
How many head of cattle do you have at the moment?
Oh, at present, I’ve got about thirty breeders and then when they got calves, you got sixty, you see? [laughs] No, it’s a very – – – it’s a busy job. You’ve gotta keep a watch on ‘em all the time, that’s for sure. But it’s a wonderful life, anyway.
So can you tell me a bit more about life in Prospect Hill? What is the community like?
Joyce Oh, what’s the community [pause]? Well, things have changed so much in the later years. See, a lot of the bigger properties were cut into smaller ones where we – – – what we call hobby farmers. The people that come out here and buy a small block, but they can’t – – – see, they can’t make a living off of a small block, so they have to find – – – well, they have to go to the city to find work, or further afield. So there’s so many of ‘em, they have – oh, the driving that they have to do everyday – the mileage; they leave in the morning in the dark, and they come home in the dark, and you don’t see much of ‘em, that’s the problem. But it certainly changed a lot of – – – ‘cause many years ago, we’re’s all sort of one – – – one big family [laughs] you know, you knew everybody and especially when it was mail time, everybody’d come up to the post office here to pick up their mail at the same time, so they’d see each other and [laughs] There were, I mean, it’s just changed so much nowadays, it’s – – – some of them, they don’t – – – they don’t stay for long, some stay for years, but the summertime is where the thought of fires and that, that frightens a lot of them away. And some of our beautiful wet winters [laughs] but anyway, that’s – mm – but still, no, we’ve got a wonderful – – – Prospect Hill’s always been a, well, other committees have all – – -communities have always envied, you know, the community spirit in Prospect Hill? Well, something worth, you know, it’s always been wonderful. Yeah.
So why do you think Prospect Hill has such a great community spirit?
Why? Oh [pause] I don’t know, but I think we owe a lot of it to Keith Griggs. He was the one…he was…he was known as Mr Prospect Hill. He – – – and rightfully so too. He was a wonderful man, he – – – they were very Christian people, and – – – but Keith – oh, Keith was always there for – – – to help anybody. Didn’t matter who it was, it’s – – – so, I always thought of – – – Keith was the one that made Prospect Hill what it really was. Mm.
Can you tell me what you consider to be the most important aspects of Prospect Hill’s history?
The most important, well, I suppose, I’ve got to go back to Griggs family – see Mr G.T, or George Griggs; the first Mr Griggs. Like, he married Anne Russell-Spencer from Clarendon, and then he bought this acre of land here and built the – – – built this cottage and all the outbuildings, but he also started off the general store. So this is back in 1872, so they had – – – they had a general store, and he started the post office, and the mail – the mail would be brought here from Meadows by Mr Harry Rogers, and he used to ride a penny-farthing bike, and he’d deliver mail six days a week. So they had their mail delivered six days a week, and a general store back in 1872. And then his son William, he took over in 1914 when he married Laura Marshall from McHargs Creek, and they built the other house which adjoins this and they shifted the store and the post office and that up there then, ‘cause the first Mr Griggs – his health was failing – and then Keith – – – when Keith come back from the Second World War, he took over because his father’s health was very bad, and so from 1872 ‘til 1996, those three men ran that, and I always think that they was the ones that started the hub at Prospect Hill and it’s still is, like, this centre here is really the hub of Prospect Hill. So without them, Prospect Hill might not be here. It was called McHargs Hill to start with. See, McHarg come here, but he was only a squatter. He didn’t own – – – he didn’t own land, so when Burr come here doing the surveys, and now pioneer families were taking up land, see, Mr McHarg: he had to shift on. That’s why he went down the bottom of Bull Creek; down there to – – – and he started squatting there, then he went on further. As people take up the land, he had to shift on, so – – – but he’s still got McHargs Creek named after him [laughs].
Joyce, you were telling me what you consider to be the most important aspects of Prospect Hill. You were talking about the…three Griggs men.
Do you have anything more that you’d like to add to that?
Oh, gee. I lost my train of thought now. Well, we’ve got – – – we’ve got some – – – two halls here where people can come and use them, and tennis courts, and we’ve got the Scouts. We’ve got a wonderful Scout committee and that, that runs that. And, ‘course we’ve got our Meadows – well it’s called Meadows Valley Camera Club. We’re only a small club, but we’re a very friendly club [laughs] if people want to come. We always invite people if they want to come along and learn things about photography. We have judges, we have prints and that every month we show. We have judges that come there and tell you what you should do and what you shouldn’t have done, so, we’ve got that where people can come and learn a lot. It doesn’t take anymore to make a – – – take a good picture than a bad one, I always tell them. So if they can come and get some information that’ll help ‘em. And then we have the church down there – the Uniting Church – and that’s about all. We’re only a little place, but we have a lot in it [laughs].
So how long has the photography club been around for?
Oh, that’s – – – we would been going for ‘bout, well, I’d been the Secretary for forty-six years, so it’s been going a bit longer than that. Oh, it’s been going for about fifty-somewhat years, mm.
Have you been involved in any of the other clubs in Prospect Hill?
No, main – – – oh, tab- we used to have table tennis. Yes, I used to play table tennis, but they don’t have that now, no. And the – – – all the lads and that, they go Meadows for football and the – – – they haven’t got a football club or anything here, because we haven’t got an oval for ‘em to play on, but, mm.
So were many people involved in the table tennis club?
Oh yes. Yes, we used to go ‘round all the places, and they’d come here to play. No, we used to have an A and a B team, and – – – yeah, no, it was quite good. Mm.
So are you involved in the church at all as well?
I was, yes. Earlier in my piece. Yes, I’d belonged to the Ladies’ Guild and that for many, many years. But that…that closed down quite a long time ago, and – – – yes. Yes, I’ve – – – there’s not many that attend the churches nowadays, I’m afraid. It’s a – – – the church is – – – that is the way that Prospect Hill got called ‘Prospect Hill’. ‘Cause they built their church in 1873, and they wanted to – – – they didn’t want to call it McHargs ‘cause McHarg had already gone anyway, and they were down at the church one day and – this goes back to Mr G.T. Griggs too – he arrived there with a new spring cart, and his horses and that, ‘cause that was the only they could travel, and one lady said, “Oh, the prospects are looking up, aren’t they?”. And somebody said, “That’s what we’ll call it! Prospect Hill.” So that is how Prospect Hill really got its name. A lot of people think it’s to do with the prospecting with the gold mines and that down the – – – Blackfellows Creek there. But it was really what this lady said, “Oh, the prospects are looking up, aren’t they?”. So that – that’s how – – – so we can put that back to Mr Griggs as well, that he was the one that got the name changed. So from – – – since 1873, it was Prospect Hill. Mm.
So was mining a big industry in Prospect Hill?
Oh, well they – – – well they started off, but it wasn’t – – – they didn’t find a lot of – – – it was mainly alluvial gold, and then they had the big – – – the big dam that the fellow was on his moonshine that night when the flood come down and [laughs] he didn’t open the gates to let the water out, and of course they lost all their equipment and everything, and they couldn’t afford – – – ‘cause I think it was English – – – I think it was people from England that – – – that was running that, but they couldn’t afford to start it all again then, but – – – yeah, the – – – there’s still gold down there, they reckon, but – – – ‘course it’s private; it’s been sold as now private property, but there’d always be all these people going down there looking – hoping they would find the [bill?]. But they struck water in one of the mines, just when they were getting to a seam of gold, but, mm, they never went on. They had to board that up because the water – – – the water was still run[ning] – that was back in 1930, I think that was. And the water’s still beautiful, clear water still running out of that mine. But they used to come up here. See, they relied on the general store up here for their provisions and that, so the – – – Mr Griggs was supplying food and all to them, ‘cause they baked their own bread here, and they had a – – – they used to breed pigs, and they’d smo[ke]- well the only way you could keep meat in them days was either in – – – in brine, or by smoking, so they had a big smoke room where they used to smoke all their bacon and their ham, and the hooks up there on that – – – on the roof up there, that’s – – – they used to put all the smoked stuff in calico bags, which Mr Griggs’ daughters used to make, and when you come in, you could get a leg of ham, or bacon and that in these white calico bags – that’s the way they used to sell it. So it was very handy for ‘em down there to come here for their food.
So there was a little bit of mining, and there was obviously dairy farming as well; was there – – – were there any other industries in Prospect Hill?
Oh, there used to be a few sheep and things like that kept, but…no, there wasn’t… Oh, and then people later on started growing some potatoes and, you know, things like that, but back in them days, they was only dry grown, not like they do now with irrigation and everything, so they definitely never got the crops and that like what…what they do nowadays, because they had to plough…all the ploughing had to be done with horses, and everything had to be done by hand. There was…[laughs]
Alright. Do you now much about the history of Prospect Hill before European settlement? So, like the Aboriginal history of the area?
No, I know they…they used to…they used to travel through here, back up just behind my place – where I live – they used to walk through…when the weather was changing, it was coming winter, they say they used to live down around the lakes and that. Especially down around Goolwa, at Goolwa beach that where they could live where…where all the cockles and that are. So then they used to shift down to the plains, down…down around like Holdfast Bay, like, which is Glenelg and down in those areas, and they used to carry all these cockles. They used… ‘cause I can remember as a child finding all these cockle shells, ‘cause I always thought, “Oh, gee, the ocean used to be up there!” [laughs] But it’s where the Aborigines used to walk through, and they’d stop and have feeds of these cockles, and that. But they did…they used to live around here, but it was…most of the time of year, it was really too cold for them. So, mm, so that’s where they used to go down on the plains and that, mainly.
Do you know the name of the Aboriginal group that used to live around this area?
Oh, gee, now…[laughs] Oh, I can’t pronounce that. I know it starts with a P [laughs] The P…
Is it the Paramangk?
Yeah. Yeah, that’s them [laughs] Yeah, they’re the ones that lived around here, mm.
Can you tell me about the early days of Prospect Hill, from early settlement?
Oh…now, what…what…what was the…you want to know about the what?
Oh, just…just what you know about…from the time Prospect Hill was settled up til now.
Oh, gee, that’s a hard…I haven’t thought of this one [laughs] But anyway. Well, everybody travelled in horse and carts, and…well, a lot…I can say a lot of the families used to…well, some of the relations and that used to marry into each other, like each family would marry – a brother and sister might marry a brother and sister in another family. And some of the properties…say, if somebody had a…a larger property, well, say if the son was getting married, well the father and mother would cut a bit of land off up in the corner of the paddock somewhere and he’d build a house up there, and then if they had another son, well they might cut…say…they might build another…so you’d get perhaps three, you know, three members in the families living on one property in those days, and…that’s why it was such a friendly family, because father and mother and that was just down the road, or up the road, and…and I always thought, to the young women that – when they were having their children, that…. ‘cause there was no doctors or nurses around, and how comforting it must have been for them to know their Mum…Mum and Dad lives down the paddock, or Mum and mother-in-law and that lives up the road. You know, when they married into families like that, and…I always think how comforting it was for those girls to…knew well, there was somewhere where they could go for help if they needed it. But, no, there’s…but that…quite of the few…few of the families were married…like, brothers and sisters and that, but…and everybody…if there was problems anywhere, there was always somebody there to help each other, because everybody knew each other.
It didn’t matter what it was and they seemed to get on so well together, all of them. I’ve never heard any stories where they didn’t; it was such a friendly, like, it’s so…our community spirit went right back to the very, very early days. But…because like I said, if they didn’t ride a horse, they had to walk, so they didn’t…they never went very far. But…they used to have…get-togethers, you know…Sunday evening and that after church, they’d have gathering in their families – in their homes, and sing… Mr Griggs here used to…he used to play the concertina, and he used to supply the music and that when they’d have evenings and that here, and…and Keith, ‘course, and then Keith was wonderful pianist and organist, and…so they…they used to provide a lot of the music and that when they had these get-togethers, but everything used to be so…just so friendly, and…yes.
What are some of your favourite heritage stories about Prospect Hill?
Oh, well, I suppose, the tragic one – the sad one was about Sarah McHarg. Because, see, when they shifted away from here, that’s when Burr – Thomas Burr come there doing the surveying, and his wife…he would be away most of the time – Mrs Burr was frightened of the Aborigines, you see, so Sarah would come from down at McHargs Creek and stay with her, and…that’s how she got lost, when she left that morning to go back home, and there was no communication between the families, and…I think it was about a fortnight later, the Burrs…the Burrs thought she was home at MrHargs Creek and the McHargs thought she was still up here, and of course she wasn’t, so she’d been missing for nearly two weeks, I would think, before they realised. And it was August which was one of our coldest months of the year, really, and when they started searching for her, ‘course, it was two years before they found her remains down at the Black Swamp, down at Currency Creek. So that was sad.
And that was 170 years ago, last year, when they found her remains. When we had the plaque and that put up there in memory of her. But I can remember, ‘cause going to school I’d walk past…I’d walk past where she left that morning always, and I’d always think on a cold, frosty morning – I could just imagine her going down through all that wild country, ‘cause there was no…there wasn’t…there was a track; how she missed that track… ‘cause…my idea, ‘cause I always loved the fog and that, I love the foggy weather – and I always thought, I bet it was the thick fog that morning and she couldn’t find the track, because she would have known from here to McHargs Creek – she should have known that track very well, but she missed it somehow, but that was one of the stories.
And then, oh, about some of the old characters that used to live around: there was this old gentleman, Mr Luftman, that sold Mr Griggs the first acre of land here, and…he…apparently he was a cat lover, and he had this very large black tom cat that used to sit behind…on his shoulder when he was eating. And Mr Luftman was a great meat eater, but he never used a knife when he went to cut up his meat, he used a pair of scissors, so he held the meat with a fork and he used to cut it up but with scissors. Well, this one day, whether….whether his tom cat was extra hungry, or the meat smelled a lot better that the [laughs] but he made one grab to grab the meat from Mr Luftman when he went to cut a piece off to swallow it, and…he made a mistake: his missed he meat and put his claw right through Mr Luftman’s lip, and they reckon the air was quite blue with bad language for quite a while afterwards [laughs] But I never, ever heard whether the cat ever done it again or not, but I doubt whether he did. But that was one of the old characters that used to live around here. But they was all very harmless, and…they were real old characters. Most of them wore beards too, they would…so, it was a bit hard to…
I know, I had…some uncles and that used to live around here, and they all looked alike, because they all had beards [laughs] You couldn’t hardly tell one from the other. But I know some of my…oh, my great uncles, they used to walk from – one, he used to walk from here down to, well, the…the witchetty grubs, what the fishermen used to use; he used to…grub them out of the rotting wood, and he’d take them down to Wellington to sell ‘em to the fishermen, and he had walked from Prospect Hill to there – he’d leave early in the morning, about 4 o’clock, he had seven children, his wife had passed away when she was thirty-six – she was…she had just had twins, they both died, and then she died three days later, and he was left with…with six children to bring up, so he had find some way of raising a bit of money for food. So he’d leave at 4 o’clock of a morning, and those kids would be there waiting for him at night. He’d be coming just…he would have walked to Wellington, sold his [pellety?] grubs to the fishermen and come back again by dark that night, and that…so…that’s…I’ve come from a family of pretty good walkers [laughs] I used…I’m not doing too good now though. So that…that’s the…and you know some of them, they used to walk to Adelaide when the markets, to take food and that – the butter, the women and that, that they’d make their butter and that, and they’d walk to Adelaide. Yes, and if they had a young baby, they’d have to carry that on its hip to feed it on the way. So things were…you can’t imagine what it was like, but that’s…that’s the way they used to live. Mm. But they used to do…there was a lot of…like, if you had a cow, and you had butter and cream and that, well…and somebody else had some fowls, you’d swap…you know, you’d give them eggs, and they’d give you butter and things like that, and…that’s the way they used to exist, mm.
So do you have any other heritage stories you like to tell about Prospect Hill?
Oh…there’s a lot of them, but…I just can’t think of any straight…of the ones that I should tell [laughs] There’s some lovely stories, I know. No, I might have to pass that one, for now.
That’s alright. So you’ve already spoken about a couple of the characters of Prospect Hill and the Griggs family, are there…are there any other historical figures or people that you consider to be important to the heritage of Prospect Hill?
Well, there’s somebody…oh, there was…now this is more to do with what…how they improved Prospect Hill; it was Mr Norman Brookman, from down at Brookman Road – he was the first one that found out about molybdenum for using it on the properties. The…the way it was really by a mistake that he found this out, but when he’s clearing his properties out, they’d burn all the wood and rubbish up, and where the ash is, the feed…oh, because it was only all native stuff, there was no decent pastures or anything round, and all of a sudden the grass and that just started to grow where they’d burnt and where the ash was. And they found it was to…molybdenum. And then when they started using that on the properties, oh, it’d just improved it so much. So he was…he was somebody that…and he also had a…big apple orchard down there on Brookman Road, and…he was the one that used…a lot of the families would not have existed without having work. He supplied work to so many people, and the young people, and he was also the first one, I think, to export apples overseas, so that was really something for the district, that was, yes.
And another one, I must mention, oh, Miss Adelaide Mary Gallidge – she was our school teacher. She lived up here at the school that got burnt down on Ash Wednesday. It was on…the reserve over there. She lived there in a little caravan. Oh, and that reserve…in them days, it was just filled with all the wildflowers. She was a nature lover, so [laughs] I was just so fortunate, you know, to be going to school when she teaching, because she taught us how to, you know, to…all the names of all the native plants, and, oh, it was…she was a wonderful teacher. She was here for years and…she used to ride a pushbike, and she’d ride up to the junction up there…from Willunga, Kalangaroo, and Meadows up there [at?] the ‘Fingerboard’, as we called it. And she’d leave her bike there and get a ride to Adelaide, on a Friday afternoon, there’d be a bus go down, and she’d look after her elderly mother down there, and then come back on Monday ready for school. Her old pushbike would still be there waiting for her when she come back. Nobody’d ever touch it, but she was a wonderful person. And I think she had such…well, she taught…she taught us, so…she had forty-two children in one classroom – seven grades…she taught us all ourself… ‘course we did respect her too. You’d never answer Miss Gallidge back, and she respected us. But…no, she was a wonderful person and I’m sure she made such a difference to the lives of so many young people from around here. She was a wonderful person. But there’s been so many lovely people around here too, but…it’s a bit hard to…oh, I wouldn’t like to leave somebody out that I shouldn’t [laughs]. But those…yes.
Alright, so I’d like to talk about the Ash Wednesday bushfires now. Can you tell me when that occurred?
Oh. February the sixteenth, 1983.
And can you tell me where you were when the bushfire occurred.
Oh. Well, to start with, when I first knew it was coming, I was down at the fire shed – Blackfellows Creek fire shed. I’d been helping there all day. Oh, and I saw this…another lot of smoke, and I made for home, quick as I could. Oh, it was a shocking day. A day…the wind was about a hundred kilometres an hour, and there was…the temperature was a hundred degrees, and…I made for home, and I…I had some of my cattle down the bottom of my paddock. The dry cows, and a…new bull I’d bought about three days before – he’d cleared out hiding; he wasn’t very person friendly [laughs]. Anyway, and…my milkers were up the top, were – the ones I was milking. I went down the paddock and I was started trying to bring them up because there was so much grass and scrub, and the Kuitpo forest with pine trees over a hundred feet high right against my property, so I brought my cows – well, that lot of the dry cows up through, and I just got them up there, and they were just all starting – ‘cause when you put cows together after they’d been a part for a while, they all decide, “Oh, we’ll all fight each other to see who’s boss”, so that’s what started…but, oh. And then the wind that went through McLaren Flat and it went right through and across down through Mount Magnificent and it went right down to Double Bridges at Currency Creek, and the wind changed. It changed to a Southerly – a Southerly come in, which the old people have…they’d never, ever known a fire coming from the south. They’d always said, “Oh, you never gotta be frightened of getting burnt out when it…from the south. It’s never, ever happened.”
But I’m afraid this time, it didn’t. It come with the same force as it did from the north. And it come right back up through…from Double Bridges right up through, and McHargs Creek and…right up and come back up here. And that’s when it took Prospect Hill out here. But I’ll never forget that. I was…my cows had all run into a corner of a paddock up a bit of a hill by…a dam over there and…there was high grass and blackberries. There was no way they’d get out, so I rushed over there. I had my little dog in the car, and I was looking after a sick dog of my Auntie’s, and I put them in the car and me pet possum was in the car [laughs], and I went over there and I called these…the flames was going across this bare paddock that I had there, which I thought nothing had ever burnt. It was…there was nothing there to burn, but the gas was on. The flames was about eight foot high, just going across this paddock, and I got across there in my vehicle – my car with my dogs and the possum in it – and these cows, I called them, and they started running down this hill where the flames…running through the flames to me, and I’ll never forget the sight: they were holding their heads right up in the air, keeping their eyes and their mouths, trying to, out of the flames and of course they…their tails – they were milking cows so you can imagine what their teats and that were, and they got their hair burnt off their tails and that, but…out of the forty-two, I never lost one of them. Was weeks and weeks and weeks treating them with cream and that, bringing them in everyday. I had to dry the cows off.
You couldn’t…most of them, you couldn’t keep milking – their teats were too sore – ‘cause they were blaming me for it when it hurt that much when you went to milk them. But, oh, no…then they milled around me – they stayed all around this one little spot, I was just in the one little spot that didn’t burn. And…there was two little calves let out, that was up in the yard, and…I saw them just going when this great big patch of scrub just went up in flames. And I thought, “Oh, that’s…that’s…finish with those.” There were two little ones I was feeding by hand. And a while later, ‘cause I lost all track of time – you wouldn’t know how long this… ‘cause it just went pitch black when the fire was all around. You couldn’t see, you couldn’t breathe. It was terrible. And…I felt something hit me in the back of the legs. And I…I put my hand down, and there…these two little calves. They’d come down ‘round the edge of the fire, and they’d found me – way down the by the…part of the…property where I was with the cows. And they found me, and they would…they were sorta snuggled in against my legs, [laughs] as I was an old cow, and they stuck there by me, and some of the cows would go to walk away, and I’d call their name, because they all had names and they’d all rush back. And they all hung around – the whole forty-two of them. And there was this great big old six-foot kangaroo there amongst, he thought…he thought, “Oh, gee, I reckon I’m a bit safer with them.” So he was in amongst us.
And this bull that I’d bought – that I hadn’t see for two days – he was arrived there too, so…from then on, we got on very well together. He thought, “Gee…she’d not too bad after all. I think I’ll hang around here.” [laughs] So that…but, oh, it was a terrifying thing, but… No, I never lost an animal. I had one…it had its lungs full of smoke, for weeks it coughed and coughed, but no, I never lost any of my animals, but I’ll never, ever forget that day. I said, somebody was with me that day. That’s for sure. So I was very lucky on seventy-two acres, I…I was in the one little spot that didn’t burn. But when…but I went back across the paddock, drove back, took me car and the dogs back and that, and everything was on fire, of course. And I got there, there wasn’t – all the hoses was burnt, everything, and…I thought my house was still on fire – er, I thought it was still there, but it was all in on fire inside, and I went inside and grabbed a couple of things. I’d won this special nature trophy at Camera Club on the Saturday night, and I thought, “Oh, I’ve only got that for twelve months.” And I – – – I had it in the special place where I knew I could grab it if I needed to. I don’t know why, but I had. And I grabbed this trophy and it’s still – – – and it’s still being used here at Camera Club now.
Thirty-one years later, the same trophy – I saved that. But – – – oh, that was – – – it was dreadful. When you see your house just explode and you can’t do a thing about it. But when I – – – when I could see the fire coming, I’d grabbed a big old bedspread and I put [it] in the car, and the little dogs were terrified when the fire come all around. It was a lot of blackberries around the dam and they all burnt, but I got down in the dam – ‘course the dam was nearly empty – and I got there, and I got bogged in this mud when the fire was coming. That was a terrifying thing [laughs] but I managed to get out of it and grabbed this old bedspread, made it wet and threw it over the windscreen and that of the car, so it wouldn’t get too hot, ‘cause I thought it might explode, you know, with the dogs in there, but – – – no, I did – – – I saved all my animals, thank goodness, but – – – but talking about this kangaroo: he stayed there, because, see, there wasn’t a blade of grass for cows; you had to have the feed brought in. He’d be there every morning, ready for some hay and that with the cows, and he stayed there for about three weeks. One morning he’d disappeared, and I thought, “I wonder where he’s gone?” He was gone for three days and, you know, he’d gone and he’d come back, he’d found a mate – a female. He didn’t bring a male, he brought a female, but out in the forest, six weeks later, the rangers were finding the kangaroos – – – they were still alive with their feet burnt off. And that, you know, they had to go destroying [them?], but now I’ve got over a hundred kangaroos on my property. And when they knock my electric fences and that down, or smash my fences, I say to them, “Look, if I hadn’t have saved your great-great-great grandfather on Ash Wednesday, I wouldn’t have all of you! [laughs] I wouldn’t have all of you here now!” They know they come onto my property, because they get shot on others and – – – so, I’m feeding about a hundred kangaroos as well as my cows.
So, but, oh, Ash Wednesday was terrible … … some of the people, they couldn’t – – – they just couldn’t cope with it afterwards. I did – I built my home again on the same place, because I’d been all my life buying my property [laughs] and then when I – – – when everything got burnt on it, I thought, “Well, I’m not leaving now.” People’d say to me, “Get out, get out, why don’t you!” I said, “No! I spent all my life buying it, I’m not going now!” So I’m still there, but – – – no, a lot of them had – – – it took a real toll on some of them, and some of my relations that lived there, they – – – it wasn’t long and they passed away. They just couldn’t cope with it, and – – – but there were so many, see, there was – – – we was very lucky that this building wasn’t burnt, but the – – – all the outbuildings were burnt. They had to be rebuilt. So, that was Ash Wednesday.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your experience with the fire? Particularly the days and weeks following the bushfire: how did you feel?
Well, I don’t know. I was – – – well, I coped – – -you had to cope. If I hadn’t done the right thing that day, well, I wouldn’t be here, that’s for sure. I had my face and all burnt – I didn’t even know that ‘til I had to go up to the Meadows – – – oh, the day after Ash Wednesday, that was on the Thursday, I had about four great big detectives come there, getting – – – telling me off because I didn’t leave, ‘cause there was some people – – – I heard somebody yell and they told me that I had to leave – that’s just when the fire was roaring down close to my property. But I didn’t leave, I went over the paddock with my cows. ‘Course nobody knew where I was, or anything, but I would have lost all my livestock and they were my livelihood, and I needed them and they needed me too that day. But, anyway, they come and question – – – they had to go through every building that was burnt to see if there was any remains of anybody, and then – – – if they went through all through one – – – like through your house and that, and then they’d put up a red tape, or if they didn’t find, you know – – – around [each] building as they went through there. But they really give me the works, because I didn’t leave. And I said, “Look here! I’m still here!” And [laughs] I said, “When my cows are trying to calve over night time, I’m over the paddock with them. I didn’t leave them then,” and I said, “and I wasn’t leaving them then,” I said, “And if it happened again,” I said, “I wouldn’t go!” And, oh no, I really copped it from them. But, anyway, like I said: I’m still [here]; I survived it.
But afterwards, you know, I’m still – – – even nowadays, I go to look for something, and I can’t find it. Nature wouldn’t let me realise that I didn’t have anything left. I mean, you had everything, but a few hours later, you didn’t even have – – – you couldn’t even get a drink of water, your tanks were all – – – they all busted – you know, the solder melted in the galvanised ones, and the concrete ones – they burst – and things like that. You didn’t even – – – but that part that hurt me that night, I didn’t have any food for my dogs! That’s [laughs] that’s what worried me, but my brother and sister-in-law lived not far away – they were lucky; their house didn’t burn. So I went over there that evening, but then I come back, and I had one little garage there that was left – of all the buildings, that was left. It didn’t burn, and it had a forty-four gallon drum of fuel in it, if you ever, and that didn’t burn. I could never – – – but I always reckon, there was – – – you might have heard of the shrub, Boobialla [genus Myoporum]? That’s the one that doesn’t burn, and that had – – – had a hedge of that by it, and I reckon that’s what saved that. But, no – – – but then I went sifting through – – – you’d go down to your house, ‘cause I had all these – – – hundreds of trophies I’d won with in photography and that, and I had this, oh, beautiful collection of pepper and salt shakers. I had over two hundred pairs of pepper and salt shakers, and I knew exactly where they were in the corner of the place. When I picked up these sheets of iron, and there was – – – I had a squirrel, and he had a pepper and salt thing in both, you know, in both arms like that. And he – – – everything was burnt around him: the cupboard, the house, the roof had fell down on him, and he was still sitting there in the ashes – when I shifted the ashes. I could see this orangey coloured thing, and I thought, “What is that?” And it was him, and he was still sitting there with his pepper and salt shaker things in his arms. And that’s when – – – I couldn’t take it then. [laughs] It really caught up with me, and I really broke down then. I couldn’t take it. And I thought, “Gee, that’s given me fresh hope.” There he was, everything else meted around him, and this little squirrel with his – – – he’s coming over to the museum when I’ve gone.
There’s a picture of him in the museum out there, now, but I said, “He’s got to be taken in … he can go live in the museum then [laughs] when I don’t have him.” But it’s strange. I was never, ever bitter than I’d lost everything. A lot of people thought: Oh, why should they get – – – you know, why should it happen to them? But I just felt so sorry for everyone else that had lost, because I knew what they were going through. But, no, that’s the way it was and, mm. But I still – – – I have coped. It gets to – – – it’s funny, on the thirtieth anniversary last year, I got calls from channel two and all, they come out and interviewed me, and they – – – and you know, it brought it all back as though it had never happened the – – – after that. But it’s something you can never forget all your life, but, anyway, no, I’m not bitter that it happened. It happened, and – – – so, I mean, it happens to so many around here. I think there were sixteen – – – sixteen houses, I think, burnt, yes.
Oh, unfortunately, there was a young couple burnt in one down at Blackfellows Creek. They weren’t locals, they were there looking after the property for a young lass that had gone on her honeymoon, and those two got – – – they got burnt to death, those young – – – they were city people; they didn’t realise what would happen, and – – – that was – – – and you know, they had a dog tied up outside on a big long – thank goodness it was a rope – and that dog, he’d been caught alight, because part of him was burnt, but his rope had burnt through and next day they found him, he had enough sense: he’d gone and got in a dam. He stood in the dam, if you ever, and put himself out, and he was still alive, you know. And yet, the two young couple, they were burnt to death and that was dreadful. But [pause] but a day like that, there could have been dozens of [people]. Everybody – nearly everybody cleared out and went to the Meadows oval. They didn’t stay, but, like I said, I wasn’t going. I stayed. But I’m still here to tell the story, so. Yes.
So how much did the fires impact of Prospect Hill’s built heritage; its historic buildings and structures?
Oh, well, we lost so much – – – like I said, this part [of the museum], well you – – – see that there on the doorstep? [laughs] That’s what Ash Wednesday done. That was close [laughs]. To think that a spark would – – – there must have been a heap of leaves, I suppose, burnt … … … But that’s red gum, and when it’d light and burn like that – – – well, we lost the – – – there was a CWA Hall – that was burnt – but then Woollongong donated all that money to build the Community Centre over there [across the road] which was a wonderful thing; the memorial – war memorial hall, all the doors and all were burnt off of that, but the hall – the hall wasn’t burnt, thank goodness, only the woodwork and that. Oh, and of course the old school and that – that all got burnt, and the school house up on the hill. But the buildings out here, oh, we lost so much out there in the outbuildings. Like the – – – there was big horse stables and – oh, beautiful buildings, some of those – well they all got burnt. And the two-storied one out there now where the Ash Wednesday display is in, well that, that’s been built to the same as it was before, but that one’s been replaced, but oh, it was dreadful. When it first happened, you’d never think Prospect Hill could ever build up as again as quick as it did. And of course, Nature – oh, the trees, all the trees. There was a – – – after a few weeks, ‘course all the leaves went brown – they all went brown – then all dropped off.
There wasn’t a green – – -everything was black. Oh, it was terrible. And then we got a big rain about three weeks after, and, oh, especially our stringy barks and things like that, they all started to shoot with all this beautiful new shoots. And some of them – – – some of the gums, they never – – – the pink gums and that didn’t survive, and of course pines don’t, because it just boils all the resin and that … they’d never shoot, so. That was a business for the pine industry. They lost thousand – – – they were carting the logs right down to the – – – Mount Gambier, putting them in the lakes there to try to keep, because as you know, pine will not keep for long. Then it grew this blue mould in it when it was in the lakes and that down there. But – ‘cause my brother – – – he was cutting all these burnt pines; he was a pine cutter – and oh, that was a terrible business, that was. And it was only form here to the oak tree away from my property where they were burn[ing], like I said, over a hundred feet high. But, no, it did have a big effect on Prospect Hill, that’s for sure.
So do you think that following Ash Wednesday, more efforts have been put into protecting and preserving the built heritage of Prospect Hill?
Oh, yes, I reckon. Yes. Well, I think – – – well, we should appreciate what we’ve got [laughs] more now than … for what we have got left, because it could have all been gone, but, you know, if this property here – – – if this had been burnt, you just imagine, ‘cause none of this stuff can ever be replaced. And it all dates back to 1872, so that’s a long time, isn’t it to – – – mm. But, oh, the CFS and that – they’re wonderful. You know, they’ve got such better equipment and that nowadays too, and – – – oh, we couldn’t survive without the CFS, that’s for sure.
So that Blackfellows CFS?
Blackfellows Creek, yes. Mm.
How many people are involved in the Blackfellows Creek CFS?
I don’t know. They’ve got a – – – I think it’s quite a strong group there are present. The trouble is, a lot of them, like I said, they’ve – – – those young men, they’ve got to work in the city. And when the, oh. But it’s not only fires. See, they have to attend to accidents and that – well, they’ve got to go when there’s a car accident, ‘cause there’s usually a fire. And when there’s tree’s down over the road and that through the night, it’s the CFS – it’s not the Council people that’s doing it – and they’re out – – – they’re the ones out cutting all the trees and that off the roads and that. Oh, they’re wonderful, they really are. But, no, well, they have to have a full crew before they’re allowed to go out on a fire. I don’t know, I suppose there’d be, probably twelve, fifteen of them, I suppose. Perhaps in the – – – some of the girls, some girls as well, not only the men. Mm. But they’re always on call, I mean twenty-four hours a day. No, the place wouldn’t exist without them.
Can you tell me more about the Ash Wednesday display that you’ve got out the back?
Oh yes, that tells the history of the – – – of what did happen, and we got a grant to do that, yes, otherwise we couldn’t have done that, but it’s – – – well, it just goes – – – especially, it shows – – – for one thing, when I get so many children that come here too; you know, children that come here to look at the museum and you take them out there and you show them just what can happen, ‘cause of – – – well, they weren’t born when that … ‘cause this was thirty-one years ago and they don’t – – – most them have never, ever seen such a frightening thing to know what a fire can really do, especially from the city and that. They’d have no idea, only – – – well, they’d see pictures on TV, I know, but it’s amazing the emotions that people have when they go out there, and they read the things and see them. Yes, it affects them of all different ages, that’s for sure.
[end audio file part 1]
We are just continuing with the interview with Joyce Smart at Prospect Hill, on the second tape for the interview. Joyce, before we changed tapes, we were talking about what efforts have been put into protecting and preserving the built heritage of Prospect Hill since Ash Wednesday. Do you have anything more to add to that?
Well, the Council’s very good to us because they provide somebody to keep all the grass and everything cut around all the buildings and that – that’s a big help, because that’s cut regularly and kept, and we have busy bees and that around here trying to clean up the, you know, keep the rubbish and that down. But we’ve got sprinklers and that on the buildings here, the Community Centre and the Museum – this building – was set up with sprinklers and that. There’s a motor and all, like an auxiliary motor up there that can be started, and the big tank up there with all the water up there, so if there’s a fire that somebody has to be responsible to start the sprinklers and that to try and save this building anyway, but the outbuildings haven’t got anything like that, but the main thing is to try to keep, you know, any, like, the high grass and everything kept down in the summertime. That’s one of the most important things, I think. But we haven’t got anywhere where we can sort of store stuff that – if there is a fire coming, but anyway, it’s just got to be protected where it is. Mm.
Okay, do you think Prospect Hill’s built heritage and heritage stories helped residents, including yourself, to recover from the bushfire?
Oh, yes I do. It’s something, well, to me, it’s something so precious that must always be here [laughs]. Well, I hope to goodness that it will always be here and I hope it’ll always be kept in the – – – because people come in here and they just step back in time. They don’t want to see it all modern and all like that, they want to see how the people used to – – – because this is what – – – when we was first starting it as a museum, we wanted it to be a living memorial to the pioneering families, because it shows you how they lived, and the things they used to have to use and all of that, and that’s the way it must be kept. It must never be changed to lose that wonderful – – – because they come in here and they just stand and look, and they just – – – and, you know, “Oh, great-grandma used to have that!” And, you know, it’s wonderful to see the people, how they can go – well, I always say, you can step back in time when you come in here. And if you just stand here in the peace and the quiet and that, you can imagine, you know, the way they’d lived and that in those days.
There wasn’t that hustle and bustle … they were all going at a slower pace in those days. And what a difference it made instead of – – – yes. But that’s, yes, and I’m sure that, well, we were so pleased to have what we have got left. That – – – it must be looked after, that’s for sure. For generations, because how awful it would be if these things wasn’t here for us to see. I always think, you know, if anybody destroyed anything, what a dreadful thing to take it away so generations can’t, you know, see what we could have had the pleasure of seeing. And the children, they’re the ones that – oh, you know, they can’t believe it, “Oh, where was their fridge?” And “where was something else?” [laughs] You know, you just – the little kids, they can’t believe it. And where they had used to have to make candles and that, ‘cause they didn’t have a light that night and things like that, it’s – – – oh no, I’m sure that having this has helped, yes.
And so what role did Prospect Hill’s heritage play in your own recovery?
[thinks] I don’t know, I suppose – – – well, I never had anything – – – being a hoarder, and a sentimentalist, I had nothing of my stuff left: anything that I’d ever had from when I was a child, ‘cause I was only four and eleven months when my father died suddenly, and, oh, the things that had given me before. You know, I lost all of those things. I never had anything old or anything that Mum had given me, and to be able to come over here and – – – when I was over here all the time, to live amongst the, you know, the old things, and, oh, no, it helped me – it helped me a lot. Mm. It certainly did. It still does. Even if it is a struggle, I’ll still [laughs] … it’s the most important part of my life [laughs].
So can you tell me your thoughts on Prospect Hill today? What are the strengths of the community and what struggles does it face?
Well, I can’t expect newcomers – – – they can’t have the passion that I’ve got for it. I mean, you can’t expect that, because people [that have] been here for a few years: it doesn’t mean the same to them. And I don’t know what will happen in the future. There’s gotta be always somebody that really wants to keep it going. Well, it’s got to be kept going. We’ve got something, I think, more precious than – – – there’s so many places: what they’d give to have something like we’ve got. It’s something so precious, what Keith Griggs left us. It’s – – – what a wonderful thing to have left for a community. There’s a lot of the people, though, I’m afraid, there’s some that live in the community that have never been in here. And yet, they come from – – – I get them from all overseas. You know, and I get these letters and cards they send back to me after they’d been here. It’s just wonderful! And another thing, being here, and meeting people from all over the world, I get so much out of it. I know people from all the different countries – it’s amazing. And, oh, you just meet so many lovely people. And the old-fashioned – – – all the car clubs and that come Sunday. We’ve got another car club come here. When they come with all their old motorcars they have right back to the early 1900s and that. Oh, it’s wonderful. No, I put a lot of time in here, but I, gee, I get a lot out of it, and pleasure and that, that’s for sure. But I’ve got friends all over, I can be right away somewhere and somebody will say, “Oh, hello! You come from the Prospect Hill Museum, don’t you?” [laughs] Oh, it’s wonderful. No, something I’ve – – – when Keith – – – before Keith passed away, he said – – – he used to – – – Pat and I, he used to call, “Hey, you blokes! You go, you gotta look after that place when I’m gone!” And I said to Keith, not long before he passed away, “Keith, I’ll do it for as long as I can.” And the last eighteen years, I’ve missed one Sunday. I had to go away to a ninetieth birthday party and I felt terrible! They was all there eating their cream cakes and all, and I thought, “Heavens! It’s time to open the museum!” [laughs] But, anyway, no, it’s part of my life.
So can you tell me your thoughts on future of the museum: what struggles does the museum face in the future?
The future of what it’ll — well, I’m hoping that it’s going to be kept the way it is, that’s for sure. But, well we can – – – we never know, do we? We don’t know what’s going to happen. Anything can happen, but I hope that it’ll be here in a hundred year’s time for the young – – – for the generations … … … so that they can enjoy it and get as much pleasure out of it as we do today.
So do you have any closing comments that you’d like to say about Prospect Hill?
Oh, well I always say: Prospect Hill – it’s the best place on earth. And I think that tape I lent you that you would have heard Keith say, “If Prospect Hill means as much to you as it means to me, there will always be a Prospect Hill.” [laughs] so there will always be a Prospect Hill.
Well thank you, Joyce, and that concludes the interview.
Oh, thank you [laughs].