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Harry Hammon & son Philip in front of the Scenic SkywayHarry Hammon & son Philip in front of the Scenic Skyway
28 Aug 2019
family-activities, history

What Father’s Day means to us at Scenic World

Father & son Philip and David Hammon, second and third generation family business owners of Scenic World, talk about life as fathers, sons & owners of one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions.

Phil Hammon took over the business from his father Harry, who was inspired by the curiosity of visitors to the Blue Mountains and the steep railway in the rainforest.

Father’s Day is coming up, what does that mean to you and how do you usually spend it?

I’ve only had a few Father’s Days since I retired, but it’s about getting the family together.  I’m also a Grandfather now so the day is about David and the other Dads (Philip's sons-in-law).  I get cards in the mail and we get together with the grandkids for the day.

Tell us about your father, Harry Hammon, the founder of Scenic World.

Well, I knew him for a long time! (chuckles) He was always working very hard; he was very involved in the community with Rotary etc.  He was a busy man with a strong work ethic, so we didn’t see him at home a lot but we spent as much time with him as possible.  He used to take us water skiing down at the Nepean River on Saturdays. 

Tell us about growing up around Scenic World, and eventually getting into the business yourself.

My first job at Scenic World was picking up papers at about seven years old, maybe younger.  I had a broom handle with a nail stuck in the end of it and got paid with an ice cream!

I loved going down into the rainforest, there was no Scenic Walkway back then so there weren’t a lot of people down there so you were really on your own. I don’t remember the old wooden train too well but the aluminium car was installed in 1952 and I learnt to drive the winder. Learning to run Scenic World was a gradual process.  I became an electrician like Dad and taught myself a lot of things, it was a gradual improvement process.

You are a father to five, tell us about your children growing up around Scenic World and now two of your children, David & Anthea running the business.

I used to bring the kids down when they were little and have a picnic on the grass under the tree outside the winder room so that I could drive it and then run back out and have a sandwich. You can always hope that your kids will want to follow you into the business but we just wanted them to have a good education and to do what they wanted to do and do it well.  It was a pleasant surprise when Anthea wanted to do engineering and David manage the finance side of things and they are both doing very well.

You have six grandchildren, and another on the way! Tell us what you see for them in the future of Scenic World.

Well, we are well on the way to having lots of grandchildren!  We want the same for them – to do what they want to do but hope they will be interested in contributing to Scenic World.  We have a grand family plan but will have to wait till they are a little older and see.

Why is Scenic World a great place to take Dad on Father’s Day?

It’s a great place and opportunity to spend time with the children in a different environment.  You can buy Dad a cup of coffee and then put him on the Scenic Skyway and see if he really isn’t scared of heights like he says! 

David Hammon is Phil’s son and Joint Managing Director of Scenic World with his sister, Anthea.

Father’s Day is coming up, what does it mean to you and how do you usually spend it?

Father’s Day has taken on a new meaning since becoming a father myself, you become much more aware of your own parents’ efforts. My children are 7, 5 and 2 so we normally do something that we all enjoy together, riding bikes, kicking balls around, taking a bushwalk.  We normally go and visit my Dad as well.

Dave, tell us a bit about your Dad & what he means to you as a father and also 2nd generation running Scenic World.

Phil is a quiet person really.  Often reading and absorbing information.  I think he has read every National Geographic published since about 1978.  He has an amazing mind for logic in mechanical and electrical machines.  He has a deep passion for drumming and clocks which I think is linked to that logical brain function.  I love watches and our forebears were clockmakers back in England so there is some type of genetic predisposition I guess.

He has been a wonderful example to follow.  Encouraging but never overbearing. As a child you don’t have much of an understanding of what your parents are dealing with.  A family business is a special situation so when you are older and have time to reflect on what you saw taking place as a child – you gain a great appreciation for what your parents were doing.  Phil did an extraordinary job taking Scenic World from a regional tourist attraction with sub-par infrastructure to an attraction that was able to compete internationally.  My sister Anthea and I were lucky to be given such a wonderful platform to continue to develop.

Harry was your grandfather & is the man who started it all, tell us what you remember about him?

I remember that he was fairly short and being taller than him when I was about 14.  Despite that he was always a large presence, strong of will and determination.  A man who had an aura of achievement, he was someone who had come from the depression and I think was very proud of what he had done in his life, as he had every right to be. 

How was your childhood growing up around Scenic World and then eventually getting into the business yourself?

Fun.  I had a train to ride, a skyway to go on, lots of arcade games to play, a workshop full of stuff, plus a rainforest.  We did work such as emptying all the coins out of the arcade machines but I always played them on the way round.  So short was I when I started doing that, that I used to have to stand on the edges of a bucket to be able to see the screen and use the controls.  I used to follow dad around a lot and do what he was doing which always seemed like the most amazing adventures.  Fixing these machines or just standing around and watching them run, ask questions about what did what.  It was unique.  Coming back to work here after having been at university and then a few other jobs were totally different.  I came back as the head of finance, I don’t need to stand on a bucket anymore.

You are a father of three, tell us about your children growing up around Scenic World and your hopes for them in the future.

It is a different business now to when I was a child but it is important to make sure that the kids come in and see what happens.  They need to be involved and feel a part of it.  You have a great luxury as a family business person that your children are able to come and see what you do all day which creates a different level of understanding between you.  I hope they get to do what makes them happy.  I am lucky that I get to do what I love every day.

Any last comments about spending Father’s Day at Scenic World…?

One of our values is “Create the Unforgettable”, and a day at Scenic World certainly gives you the opportunity to do that. It could be the look on each other’s faces as the Scenic Railway plunges into the tunnel or a quiet moment of family reflection on the Walkway.  It’s really about the memory you create together.