Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 35, September 1991
By C W Malcolm
In 1914 when the first World War broke out I was a pupil in Standard Two in the large wooden room that had been saved from the 1910 fire which destroyed most of the Paeroa School in Wood Street. One afternoon ere we left for home we were asked to make the room as tidy as possible as that night the first soldiers who were to depart by train the following morning were to sleep in that room. With my parents I was on the railway station at the sad farewell, the Salvation Army Band playing a mournful tune.
Our school years were coloured by the events of that great War. In particular the excellent monthly School Journals that were issued to the pupils contained up-to-date articles of events that were happening. The Journal for Standards 5 and 6 of September 1915 contained the story of the Gallipoli Landing at Anzac Cove, accompanied by a graphic picture of our men invading the Turkish beach on that morning of 25 April 1915. Paeroa men were there, some never to return. The Poet Laureate of England, John Masefield, wrote a book about it and we willingly memorised a stirring passage of prose from it.
One felt that the heroism, the discipline, and the stamina of the men of Anzac should never be forgotten but should be told and retold down the years to come.
In 1922 I became a pupil teacher at the same Paeroa District High School where we prepared for Teachers' Certificate examinations, one of the subjects of importance being Blackboard Drawing with fascinating coloured chalks.
I knew teachers who, towards the close of the school year, decorated their blackboards with illustrations of Santa Claus and scenes of the Bethlehem manger. My own chief effort was an Anzac Memorial Drawing prepared in advance of Anzac Day. It took the best part of sixteen hours to execute and used the full width of the blackboard, I think about 16 feet.
With minor variations, I repeated my drawing in my schools at Netherton, in Hamilton, and in Auckland. In Paeroa, following the Civic Service on Anzac Day, my headmaster, the well remembered Mr G. H. Taylor, opened the school for the public to view my drawing. Somewhat embarrassed, I kept well away as my effort had been intended only for the children. One of the surprises of my later years has been the number of my one-time pupils whom I meet and who greet me with, "I remember your blackboard drawing!"
The drawing was usually in three sections, the left-hand one, in an oval "frame" of scarlet poppies illustrated the landing at Anzac Beach as I had seen it illustrated in the old 1915 School Journal. The right hand panel was, by contrast, a peaceful scene of Anzac Beach at sunrise as I imagined it today. It was surrounded with ivy leaves, no doubt symbolic of something that clings as memory.
The centre panel was inspired by a photograph in an English Educational Publication, "The Teachers World" to which I subscribed. It was of a splendid monument in London where the centre figure was that of a soldier, lying still in death, covered reverently with his great-coat, his "tin hat" laid atop. In the background, silhouetted by white clouds beyond, was the statue of the Winged Victory on top of the Wellington Arch near Hyde Park Corner. The wording beneath was the Shakespearean "A Royal Fellowship of Death" which I did not always use. This panel was surrounded by draped flags, laurel leaves for honour and finally a wreath of laurel.
It is some satisfaction to know that at least some lessons taught by a Paeroa teacher so long ago were not of a subject that would fade with time for Anzac Day continues to be solemnly celebrated and the memory of its men hallowed three-quarters of a century later.