Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 13, May 1970
by PETER MORLEY
Over 250 former residents and old pupils returned to Karangahake for the 80th Jubilee reunion of district and school during Labour Day weekend, 1969. The celebrations commenced on Friday night with a get-together in the Hall and the Saturday afternoon ceremony was called to order with three first decade pupils (1890-1900) Mesdames C. McDonald (nee Barker) of Thames; I. Hawkins (nee Neil) of Paeroa and F. Gribble (nee Adams) of Auckland, ringing the school bell.
The chairman of the Jubilee Committee, Mr. P.H. Morley, extended a welcome to the gathering on the school's quadrangle, remarking, "You are lucky people to be able to return to this district and this great school. It has produced many scholars who have gone on to play important roles in many communities both in New Zealand and overseas and you are returning to an area which stood out in N.Z. history when gold mining was of paramount importance. The School which was built in that stirring era was also set in magnificent surroundings".
The oldest former resident present was 94 year old Mrs. Ben Gwilliam. She was accompanied by her son, Cyril, who was a teacher here between 1917 and 1919. The oldest "pupil" in attendance was 87 year-old Mrs. F. Egan (nee White) now of Hamilton. There were several "over eighties" present. The roll call revealed that the majority of those present attended the school during the first two decades. Mr. D. Gibb, on behalf of former pupils thanked the committee for its efforts in staging such a successful reunion. He said the pupils were. well disciplined and well taught and since then had done well.
The Chairman of the School Committee, Mr. C.D. Bradford, said he was pleased to see so many old residents and pupils present. No doubt they had seen a great many changes. He had heard one say "where has my home gone?" He spoke highly of the teachers who had been at the school, also of the pupils and then mentioned the roll which had dwindled from 500 and now fluctuated round 30. However, with the prospect of the mining industry re-commencing he was hopeful that it soon again would increase, and he wished all an enjoyable weekend.
Those present took the opportunity to view many old mining relics and other antique pieces in the school room. In another room there was a photographic display depicting Karangahake in its golden era. During the afternoon, a race to the top of the 1786 ft mountain organized by the Paeroa Lions Club was won by a Tauranga H S. boy Malcolm Taylor who reached the summit in 25 mins. 40 secs. H. Pocock of Waihi was 2nd and K. Sutton of Paeroa was 3rd. The winner was presented with an engraved silver tray by the organisers Mr. and Mrs. G. Vaile of Karangahake.
The banquet on Saturday night was a major highlight of the celebrations. The hall, a mass of colour with gay decorations hummed with animated conversation. The outstanding floral arrangements were the work of Mrs. Lynne Barker, the assistant Teacher at the School. The toastmaster for the evening was Mr. J.C. Cotter and Mr. A. McClymont said grace. After a Toast to the Queen the Chairman welcomed the guests and said that the sight of so many happy faces proved that the lengthy preparations had been worthwhile. Special mention was made of the work done of the Treasurer, Mrs. Joyce Curran, the magazine editor and the co-Secretaries who had organized a collection of mementos. (Mrs. N. Climie, Mrs. Barbara Morley and Mrs. Caryl Wilson.)
Mr. Fred Dare in proposing a toast to the pioneers defined the word 'pioneer' as one of a body of troops going in advance to prepare the way for the main body - beginner of an enterprise. He told of how the early pioneers came to 'Hake [Karangahake - E] and how we owed our heritage to the strength and fortitude of these early people, who had to withstand the privations of a hard life. Mr. W. Hanlen in replying acknowledged the difficulties suffered by the pioneers, but paid tribute specially to the work done by the women of that day.
A Toast to past and present pupils was proposed by Mr. Morgan who said that they had always commanded great respect both in the classrooms and on the playing fields. Mr. McClymont humorously replied. The South Education Board was represented by Mr. G.H. Burton who proposed the Toast to past and present Teachers whom he described as a very dedicated group. Mr. E. Nash the past Headmaster who had been most popular, replied. Mr. L. Smith spoke eloquently of absent friends and finally a Toast to the Jubilee Committee was proposed by Mrs. Gwen Nash, herself a past Secretary on the two previous Jubilee Committees. Mrs. Nell Climie (nee Scott) ex-pupil and Teacher, expressed thanks and said it was most rewarding to see the large crowd in such good spirits, and to meet so many old friends and past pupils. She gave praise to Mrs. Bunting who at the age of 82 was still able to play an active part on the Jubilee Committee and to Mrs. Grace Morran (nee Milroy) who had battled with the billeting. In fact every member had done a wonderful job.
Mr. and Mrs. Havill accompanied the songs sung for each toast and later joined with Bill Havill's Band to provide music for the dance that followed the Banquet.
On Sunday morning Father O'Meara celebrated Mass in the Hall and the Rev. L.M. Rogers took an afternoon service. A very large crowd gathered in the evening to view the excellent photographic slides of Karangahake. These had been prepared by Mr. A. Beck from old photos most of which were taken by Mr. George Chappell over 60 years ago. There were also present-day coloured ones taken from the same places. Throughout the evening a commentary was given by Mr. P.H. Jones. Some slides created much spirited differences of opinion among the old-timers but Mr. Jones, with humour and tact, won the night with his outstanding knowledge of the district. Everyone agreed that this was indeed a night to remember and a mighty acclamation from those present showed how appreciative they felt.
Note: The full story of Karangahake and Mackaytown is told in the illustrated Jubilee Booklet available at £1 from your Editor).
OUR CONTRIBUTER: PETER MORLEY, President of the Jubilee Committee and Headmaster of the Karangahake School since 1965 was born at Whitianga and attended Auckland Grammar and University before teaching. He spent 2 years overseas before coming here where he and his wife are very valued members of the community.