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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 21, June 1977

PAEROA OLD PUPILS RETURN

Contributed by C. W. MALCOLM

SUNDAY 13th MARCH 1977

was a memorable day for those old pupils of the one-time PAEROA DISTRICT HIGH SCHOOL who assembled in the old Wood Street School ere its coming demolition removed it for ever as an historic landmark. By bus and car they came from Auckland, Tauranga, and elsewhere to wander for a last time through the old familiar rooms and corridors.

A debt of gratitude is owed to the Principal, Mr. T. Barrett, his School Committee, Parents' Association, and Teachers who provided a substantial luncheon and afternoon tea and catered so splendidly for the visitors.

Those present were warmly welcomed by The Mayor, Mr. Graeme Lee, and Mr. Barrett. Under thoughtfully provided sun umbrellas - for Paeroa had turned on one of its perfect summer days - the gathering applauded the speeches in reply by Mr. Roy Neil, President of the Old Pupils' Association in Auckland, and Mr. C.W. Malcolm, one of its patrons.

Mr. Neil launched a fund on behalf of the past pupils for the presentation of a bell or some other suitable memento and Mr. Malcolm paid a tribute to the many splendid teachers whose influence on generations of Paeroa citizens would remain though the building in which they had taught had gone. What we had thought would be a permanent memorial to the best in education was to disappear but the memories would live on. Both speakers thanked Mr. Barrett and those responsible for their having made this pilgrimage possible and for the splendid arrangements made for the occasion.

It was not only at the School that the visitors journeyed back into history for by bus they were taken through the town and along Puke Road to the Paeroa Historical Maritime Park where the chief attraction was a trip on the Society's Cruising Vessel "Settler" upon the river.

From the Waihou (or Thames as Captain Cook called it), into the Ohinemuri, past Thorp's Bend, and on towards the Old Junction of the two rivers was indeed a "journey back into time".

It was Sunday 13th March and one remembered that Rev. Samuel Marsden had spent another Sunday - 18th June 1820 - among the Maoris on their pa opposite where the Old Junction Wharf was later to be located. He would have gazed - as we were doing - upon the noble outlines of Karangahake Trig and Te Aroha Mountain.

The writer was equally moved by the thought of another Sunday - 21st November 1897 - when my father, newly arrived from Australia, journeyed over this same stretch of river to land at Wharf Street to begin a new life - on his first Sunday in New Zealand. He was but one of the many early settlers for whom the river was the only highway into Paeroa. The River was the lifeline, the supply line, the line of communication, and one thought of the many vessels that plied back and forth upon these waters. Round the hairpin bends at the Puke - now merely a "dead end" - round Thorp's Bend and Pereniki's Bend, right into the heart of the town they came. When the reach of navigation was restricted to the end of Junction Road the tugs and their barges transferred the Te Aroha cargo via the Waihou. When the Puke became the limit for the larger steamers, the smaller vessels followed the Ohinemuri to the Old Junction, thence by the Waihou again. The Canal has now brought the junction to the vicinity of the "Puke Bridge" - all this passed through many a visitor's mind on this Sunday's pilgrimage.

It is all dealt with in the issues of our Historical Journal but a tribute must be paid to those who made this nostalgic journey back into history possible on a perfect Paeroa summer afternoon with the tints of autumn in the trees reminding us of the passing of time.