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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 19, June 1975

By T.C. (Ena) Buchanan

From the time the 1200 enrolments were received and the welcoming informal session of afternoon tea on Friday, 27. Feb. it was evident that each following function of the Paeroa Central School Centenary would be well patronised. Ex-pupils and teachers came from Australia and Fiji, and from Awanui in the north to Invercargill in the far south to attend the first centenary, and Mrs Gaylene Cleave was a wonderful Secretary.

The wine-and-cheese evening on Friday night was held outdoors, with coloured lights overhead and groups of tables set about on the tar-sealed area between the school buildings, which made an ideal spot for such a special occasion. "Do you remember when?" "I wonder what happened to!" "You haven't changed a 'bit!" prefaced almost every conversation and the crowd lingered on, well past the official closing time.

Saturday dawned with an overcast sky and later rain delayed the official opening of the celebrations. With the ringing of the school bell, by Fred Douglas, one of the oldest ex-pupils, (he started in 1896), the assembly of ex-teachers and pupils were called together for the official opening. Other very old pupils were, Mrs Louisa Innes (nee Adamson) 1885 and Mrs Jessie Lowry (nee Forrest). Some families were particularly well represented, e.g. seven of the nine members of the Buchanan family were present.

Forming into their decades and headed by the pupils of the period (1875-1904), behind the banner held by Joe Walmsley, they marched from the school grounds down the street as far as the Band Hall, and returned to the school, as light rain began falling.

Addressing the assembled gathering, Mr G. Vuglar, Chairman of the Centennial Committee, welcomed the ex-pupils and teachers who now lived away from the town, back to Paeroa and the school. He particularly welcomed Miss Marjorie Patterson, a teacher at the school for many years. Other speakers were the Mayor, Mr G. Lee, the M.P. for Coromandel, Mr L. Schultz, and the present principal, Mr T. Barrett. The Chairman of the School Committee, Mr G. Buchanan, suitably replied. When the rain eased, the centennial cake, a replica of the main school building, was cut by three pupils of the first decade, Mrs Ida Gerrand (nee Robson) Mrs Jessie Lowry. (nee Forrest) and Mr Fielden Thorp. The cake was iced by Mrs Coralie Greenhaigh (nee Ziegler), a former pupil and now of Rotorua.

On Saturday evening over 600 sat down to dinner in the Paeroa College Assembly Hall and a huge marquee, erected in the College grounds. The guest speaker was a distinguished "old boy", Brigadier Jack Connolly, B.Sc. D.S.O. E.D., who began his teaching career at Paeroa Central School. "Those who were older had seen many changes," he said. "The fires of temptation burn more freely today so that the weak fall more easily, but the strong become stronger. While the influence of a good home is the most important factor during the impressive years," Brigadier Connolly continued, "Primary school comes a close second." Another eloquent speaker was Mr C.W. Malcolm. B.A., a past pupil who had also taught at the school for many years. The evening concluded in the Memorial Hall where hundreds of dancers continued the celebrations.

The Sunday morning combined church service was held in the Domain in brilliant sunshine which lit up the scene to the best effect. Music was provided by the Salvation Army Band of Te Aroha, and the United States Ambassador to New Zealand read the lesson. Local ministers who took part in the service were Archdeacon M. Richards, Rev Brian Weston and Rev John Watson.

After the service the ex-teachers and pupils adjourned to the school to have their photographs taken in decades and it was interesting to note generations of pioneer families, even the first Headmaster, Mr John Ritchie, being represented by his grand-daughter, Jessie Ellis.

This concluded the Paeroa School Centenary celebrations and a very happy weekend, long to be remembered.

(Note: The early history of the school has been recorded in previous Journals and a comprehensive illustrated booklet is being edited by Mrs Elsie Wylde.) Ed.