Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 16, June 1972
HISTORY IN THE FLOORBOARDS
By C.W. MALCOLM
"THE HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL falls into three parts - Early, Middle, and Recent. The Early Period ending with the destructive Fire of 1910 has been recorded [see Journal 15: Early Paeroa School - E]. The Middle Period, with which this article deals, is concerned with the School from the time of the Fire till the beginning of the period of alterations and extensions commencing in the early "twenties"."
THE OLD PRIMER ROOM still stands, spanning all three periods. It survived the Fire. Externally it is the same. We may enter the same doors, right or left, and tread the same flanking corridors. But the large main classroom which at one stage was subdivided has now a level floor. The tiers which once rose one behind the other from front to back like the terraces of a grandstand so that the rear rank of desks was the highest giving its occupants an uninterrupted view over all the lower levels, are gone.
THE PLAN OPPOSITE, omitting the Primer Room, shows the School as it was for most of the Middle Period. Nearest to Wood Street stood the old wooden Standard 1 - 2 room, saved from the 1910 Fire by the splendid efforts of the Paeroa Fire Brigade. In 1920 it was moved to the southwest corner of the playground (Wood St. - Nahum St. corner), turned completely round, and used for a classroom until, in 1965, it was sold for final removal to a local farmer. It was actually in this room that our soldiers of the first contingent leaving for the 1914 - 1918 First World War slept on their last night at "home". Modern brick and concrete classrooms now stand in its original place, permanently joined to the rest of the School building. The alleyway that used to separate it from the "new" school of 1911 - 12 is gone, but if you climb the first flight of concrete steps on your right after entering the grounds (Entrance "A") you will find yourself in the corridor where the School Roll of Honour hangs and you will be approximately above the spot where your small feet once trod on their way to Standard 1 or 2.
Moving along the front of the building you will come to what used to be the Main Doorway (Door "A"). Though the steps are still there, a window replaces the door and bars your way. You can tread the old corridor again (Corridor "A") only by finding your devious way to the old Standard 5 - 6 room (Room 5 - 6) which has been enlarged by the inclusion of part of the original passageway.
But Door "B" will still be open to you, and to your right in Corridor "B" there is still the door to ROOM "H" which was, from 1911 through into the "twenties" the HIGH SCHOOL - Standard 7 as it was once called. It was a small "island" of a room with corridors on three sides of it. At the back, near the corner where Corridor "C" joined Corridor "A", was a window which the Headmaster, crossing the corridor from his study, could throw up and bawl out a loafing pupil! We were vulnerable in the rear! But the corridor (Corridor "C") is no longer there. ROOM "H" has been enlarged by the inclusion of the corridor; a clear-cut line of joints in the floor boards marks where the wall once separated room from corridor, and you can stand where once you stood waiting for the opening of the Headmaster's door, or looking at the long wall-rack which held the wooden rifles used for military drill by the school cadets.
Across Corridor "B" from the old High School Room the door to the original Standard 3 - 4 room still swings on its hinges. The room is smaller because building alterations in 1920 took part of it for a new adjacent room beyond which there is a still further classroom. To serve these additional rooms the original TEACHERS' ROOM disappeared, to become an extension of Corridor "B". Again, on the present corridor floor you may observe the break marking the old boundaries. The Teachers' Room was transferred to Corridor "A" until its final metamorphosis into part of the old Standard 5 - 6 room.
The strange little shadowy alley ("B" alley on Plan) tucked away beneath the overhanging eaves of Teachers' Room and Headmaster's Study, has now broadened to become a new entrance to the building from the Boys' Playground. An entirely new corridor runs parallel with the old Corridor "C" and immediately alongside of it. It is interesting to observe that this new corridor runs outside the old south wall of the building so that you can trace the old outside wall of the School where it has now become the inner wall of the corridor.
But where is that awe-inspiring ground - the Headmaster's Study? The spot where we stood before those great and terrible men - Murphy, and Dunlop, and Hamilton (M.A., B.Sc.), and the beloved Taylor? As you walk the end of the new long corridor, the end farthest from Wood Street, you will be again "on the spot". Pay reverence here, for without the Headmaster there is no School.
In offering this "Guide" to traces of the Old School within the walls of the new, I trust it will be gratifying to many to know that in spite of the necessary and extensive modernization programme, so much remains of the historic past to enable us to trace the lines we knew so well.
Let us now praise famous men -
Men of little showing -
For their work continueth,
And their work continueth,
Broad and deep continueth,
Greater than their knowing.
There we met with famous men
Set in office o'er us;
And they beat on us with rods-
Faithfully with many rods -
Daily beat on us with rods,
For the love they bore us.
And we all praise famous men -
Ancients of the College;
For they taught us common sense -
Tried to teach us common sense -
Truth and God's Own Common Sense,
Which is more than knowledge!
So much more important than the floorboards in the School are the Teachers and children who walked upon them. Here I endeavour, with gratitude, to recall the names of those who taught us from Primers to High School, in the years 1911 to 1921 - my years in Paeroa as a pupil.
Miss Minnie Shaw who spent her entire teaching service in the old Infant Room with its galleried floor is surely one of the teacher-immortals. Generations are in her debt for the sound grounding she gave, not only in the Three Rs but also in character and citizenship. Mr. Frank Murphy, a Headmaster who became a legend, created a tradition though most of his School lay in ashes and the majority of his pupils were uncomfortable housed in the Drill Hall nearby. The only other teacher I remember from my Infant School days is Miss May Dean, daughter of Mr. Thos Dean of Puke Road.
From Standards 1 to 4 a succession of teachers had no difficulty in controlling us in the large classes of those days. Mr D.W. Dunlop had taken over from Mr. Frank Murphy as Headmaster, and we all knew well what they meant by discipline. There was no lack of strictness in our lady Teachers either! Miss Webber ruled the large Standard 1 and 2 room that had, together with the Infant Room, survived the disastrous fire of 1910 enabling us to spend our first years in the continuing tradition of the Old School and to escape the discomforts of the older scholars in the vast corrugated-iron hall next door! Was there a Miss Fitzgerald and a Mrs Ling about this stage too? In Standards 3 and 4 I well remember Miss Rolton, a Pupil-Teacher I think, and Mrs. Baskett, Miss Laurie and Miss Dare. The two last named both married Paeroa men (Cochrane and Whitmore). For a short term Miss Pirrit relieved, and Miss Gibson took over Standard 4 on the other side of the green curtain from Standard 3. She followed us to Standards 5 and 6 for the teaching of singing and managed that huge room full of us, conducting vigorously with a ruler, and bringing us all in with commendable precision in such four-part rounds as "The Bear went over the Mountain" and "Trip, trip, fairies light!", or the more melodious "Canadian Boat Song" taught from the tonic sol-fa in two parts. How well these good women teachers did with such large numbers in combined classes, teaching effectively and maintaining discipline!
The Headmastership was now in the hands of R.J. Hamilton, M.A., B.Sc., a martinet, but, as it was with Goldsmith's Village Schoolmaster, "full well we laughed ... at all his jokes - for many a joke had he." And to this day we remember how much he taught us. Each morning, using the old Science Room as his classroom, he took Standard 6, solidly grounding us in Arithmetic, Spelling, Latin Roots, English Grammar, and Written Composition. In the afternoons the First Assistant managed the combined Standards 5 and 6 in the main classroom. The First Assistantship had passed from Mr. G.H. Pocock to Mr. Smith and from him to Mr. S.J. Bishop during whose absence in World War I he was replaced by Miss Whyte, Mr. Moody, and Mr. Rendall. Miss Janet Walls was a Pupil Teacher of these days.
On into the small one-room High School Mr. Meredith, Mr. Algie, Miss. Minchin, Miss Clarke and Mr. Clinch (later Dr. Clinch of Teachers' Training College) had gone, and Miss Dorothy F. Tregenna was the Teacher. She was beloved not only by all her pupils but also by Sgt-Major Clive Swears of the Defence Department, and it was one of the saddest days of parting known to the old School when she left Paeroa to become his wife. Her work was shared by the Headmaster (R.J. Hamilton) who took maths, and by an itinerant specialist (first Mr. Stevenson, later Mr. Hudson who came fortnightly to take Agriculture, Botany, Dairy and General Science. There appeared to be no "options" in those days; every-body took everything, and Matriculation covered a wide field of subjects. Miss Tregenna was followed by a number of Teachers: Mr. J.E. Leaming young and popular was later to become well known as a master at Auckland Grammar and as a Secondary School Inspector. Mr. A.L. Harris was another Headmaster-to-be. We also had an elderly Mr. Barker from Canada and Mr. J.J.S. Cornes.
Two splendid, well remembered teachers of High School days were: Miss W.E. Sutton and Mr. Frank Wilks, B.A., whose walking-stick and permanent limp were ever a sad reminder of War wounds from which he never ceased to suffer. His handicap did not prevent his undertaking the extensive task of establishing and tending the school's notable flower gardens, especially along the Wood Street frontage. These were a joy to the beholder and an aesthetic asset to the School.
Following a brief relieving Headmastership by Mr. Norman J. Crabbe, Mr. G.H. Taylor returned to Paeroa, this time as Headmaster. Mr. Taylor had been First Assistant at Paeroa under Mr. Frank Murphy and was able most skilfully to combine the best of that old tradition of somewhat harsher discipline with the new, enlightened approach that was dawning. His teaching of Geography in the High School was the main-spring of at least one pupil's world-wide travels. His splendid influence has been far-spread - "greater than his knowing" - not only in the lives of so many of his pupils but also through the sound training he gave to those who were fortunate enough to have been pupil-teachers under his wise and enlightened direction. Paeroa was fortunate to have had him.
TEACHERS AT PAEROA 1922-1937 – MY CONTEMPORIES
When I commenced teaching as a Pupil-Teacher in 1922 my Headmaster was Mr. G.H. Taylor (I served under only one other - Mr. A.E. Day) and there were still on the Staff some who had taught me, namely Mr. S.J. Bishop First Assistant, Miss Minnie Shaw Infant Mistress still, Mr. Frank Wilks and Miss W.E. Sutton. It was splendid to be launched on one's career by such dedicated and sympathetic people. My first year's work was to assist S.J. Bishop who was teaching pupils of Standard 5 and 6 in the old wooden Standard 1 and 2 room that had escaped the fire and has since been sold for removal to a farm. In my second year - at the age of 17 I was given a class of my own - a Standard 1 with 66 pupils - with another, a "Probationer" Stan Kerr to assist me. Other Pupil-Teachers and Probationers at the same time were: R.D. (Bob) Flatt, Jean McIntyre (Mrs. Pettit), Jessie Marshall, Winifred Nathan, and one remembers Wi Royal and 'Brick' Budd. Other Teachers of those days hold a firm place in the memory:- Misses Josephine and Madge McCaskill; the sisters Iris and Eileen Whitten, Jean Buchanan and Minnie Fallon (Mrs. Pennell).
On her retirement Miss Shaw was followed as Infant Mistress by Misses Kathleen O'Grady, and Marjorie G. Paterson. In the High School, too, there were many changes: In 1925, Mr. Wilks and Miss Sutton were replaced by Edgar G. Preston (M.A., Dip. Ed), and Miss Hazel E. Taylor B.A. (now Mrs. Stone). The Staff was increased and Mr. Fred L. Cassidy B.A. appointed; later Miss Madeline Leitch M.A. (Mrs Harold Taylor of Howick). Under the direction of Mr. Preston, the examination results, particularly in Matriculation (University Entrance) gave Paeroa D.H.S. a very high reputation.
* * *
At the recent Golden Jubilee of Mt. Albert Grammar the "Old Boys" presented MR. H.L. TOWERS, B.Sc., M.B.E. with an Armchair as a mark of affectionate admiration. We are proud to pay a tribute to "Herbie Towers", born in Rye Lane, (now Towers St.) Paeroa, the eldest son of the first Mayor (1915-1919). He attended the Dist. High School and in 1912 at the age of 13, won a Scholarship which took him to "Auckland Grammar" prior to University. After teaching at King's College for two years at the age of 22, he transferred to Mt. Albert Grammar when it opened in 1922 and has continued to teach there for 50 years being brilliant at his chief subject - "Mathematics". He was awarded the M.B.E, in 1963 for outstanding service to athletics. Ed.