Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001
PAEROA CENTRAL SCHOOL 125th JUBILEE 1875 - 2000
By Gordon Matheson
The third reunion that has occurred for the Wood Street School in Paeroa, took place over Labour Weekend 2000, celebrating 125 years of primary education in our area. Previous reunions held were in April 1955 (the 80th) and in February 1975 (the Centenary).
Labour Weekend 2000 dawned fine and warm - ideal weather for such an event.
A wine and cheese evening held at the Ohinemuri Club on Normandy Road gave reunion visitors a chance to renew acquaintances on the Friday evening, October 20th, and this venue was crowded to capacity, with a delicious supper being served mid-evening.
The official welcoming function was held on Saturday, 21 October at the school. From around 9 00am guests began arriving to meet former classmates, staff members and old friends and reminisce until the commencement of the formalities at 11 00am.
The present principal since 1996, Mr Brian Pratt, acted as Master of Ceremonies, firstly outlining the history of the school, and then introducing the guest speaker, the current Commissioner for Children, Mr Roger McClay. Mr McClay was Deputy Principal from 1972 until 1978 and delighted his audience with many a humorous tale told during his years here.
The present pupils entertained with musical items until a buffet lunch was made available. Following this the assemblage moved around to the Wood Street frontage of the recently enlarged administration block to witness the planned official opening of it by Mr McClay, ably assisted by Mr Pratt and the earliest ex-pupil present at the reunion, 93-year-old Mr Ben Gwilliam.
Decade photographs were taken by the steps just below the 1903 infants' block, whilst the memorabilia and photographic display were a continued source of interest to all. By late afternoon the crowds had dispersed to prepare for the evening function being held at the Paeroa War Memorial Hall.
From 6 00pm dinner guests began arriving to fill the Hall. The official "Cutting of the Reunion Cake" was performed by the three earliest ex-pupils to attend, Messrs Ben Gwilliam (93), Jack Silcock (86) and Huia Blythe (85). After the dinner concluded, a dancewasheld, carrying on until 1 00am.
It was to be regretted that, owing to illness, the earliest surviving headmaster, Mr Tom Barrett (86) of Tauranga, and the earliest surviving teacher and Patron of the Paeroa Old Pupils' Association, Mr Will Malcolm (95) were unable to be present.
TRIBUTE is due to Mesdames Shonagh Jackson, Maryann Winiata and Jane Egan who put the programme together, making the weekend the unqualified success that it was. Thank you one and all.
EDITOR'S FOOTNOTE: The roll, at the time of the Reunion, was 190, plus Principal, Brian Pratt and sixteen staff, including teacher aides, a secretary and caretaker. Seventy-eight per cent of the roll was Maori. Present buildings consist of three double classrooms and two single cell classrooms. The school is "homebase" for the area's two dental nurses. There is also a speech language clinic on site and the Reading Recovery Training Centre for the area.