Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 46, September 2002
This article covers the period of my primary school years in the decade of the 60s, in two regions - Bay of Plenty and Thames Valley.
I was born in Whakatane in 1956 where my father, Alan Mathieson worked as a agricultural contractor, truck driver and sawmill worker. My father, when aged 20, married Mrs Margaret Powell-Phelps (nee Waugh) aged 23 at the Paeroa Post Office on 12 November 1955by the Postmaster, Mr W J Taylor.
My paternal grandparents, Thomas and Eileen Mathieson had a farm on Rotokohu Road (then known as Old Te Aroha Road) from 1918 until 1952. It was opposite Thorp Road, 4 kilometres from Paeroa. Their family of eight was as follows:
As children, my sister Susan and brothers, Tom and Alan lived first at Thornton, 10 kilometres west of Whakatane and I, as the eldest, started school there in 1961. Shortly after we moved briefly to the Waikato where our father worked on a farm then, in September 1962, to Waihi where we lived about halfway between Waihi and Waikino, just off the present S.H.2. Sue and I travelled by bus to the old Waihi South School then situated on Victoria Street. The Headmaster was Mr Alan Teesdale - later a school Inspector. The portion of the school we attended is now the Waihi Playcentre. I went into Primer 2 there and the teachers were Mrs Jensen and Miss Oxley with Mrs Tawhiti the following year. By then we had moved to Waihi, to Wrigley Street where our neighbors were the large Pourau family. Opposite was Adams' Store and, I think, a butcher shop. My father was then driving a bulldozer at Whiritoa, forming the roads for the present settlement.
The togetherness of our early childhood years was to come to a sudden halt. In October 1963 our parents' marriage came to an end and as children we found ourselves elsewhere in hastily arranged accommodation with various relations. Sue and I stayed with our older cousin Vern Avery, then recently married and farming near Waitawheta. Three year-old Alan stayed at Matatoki with another recently married cousin, Marion and Eddie Long. Tom went to Uncle Edgar and Aunty Phyll at Paeroa. Shortly after I was taken to stay with my Aunt and Uncle, Colleen and John Meyers who were then share milking on S.H. 26 at Komata on the farm owned by the late Doug Powell. For the month I was there (November 1963), I attended the Komata North School on Rangiora Road. I was 'doubled' there on my cousin Tom Meyers' bike. Another move took me to Te Puke to stay with my father's friends, Ray and Val Gibbons and their four children. They lived on Canaan's Landing Road by the Kaituna River and I finished the 1963 school year at Fairhaven School in Te Puke. Sue stayed with Aunt and Uncle, May and Vern Avery (parents of cousin Vern) and went to the Waitawheta School.
The summer holidays of 1963-64 brought further disruption but not before I had my first memorable seaside holiday at 'Little Waihi' (not to be confused with Waihi Beach) located on the eastern side of a headland jutting into the Pacific Ocean in the central Bay of Plenty. It looks out onto the estuary at Pukehina and is a few kilometres from Maketu.
In February of 1964 we were together again with our father, assisted by a housekeeper, Jan Thomas who was a relative of our neighbours in Waihi. Our father got a job at Bowen's sawmill near Te Puke and we lived on Rangiuru Road and attended the one-room Rangiuru School, a four kilometre walk. There were twenty-five on the roll and the teacher was Mr. Bob Rogers.
A fire at the mill resulted in job losses, including our father's and so, in August 1964 we moved to nearby Paengaroa where Dad got another truck driving job and we settled into yet another new school. The school (close to our home) at Paengaroa was larger than Rangiuru with six or seven classes. The headmaster then was Leith Robert James Pattie and Mrs Pattie was my Standard 1 teacher. Alan (our youngest brother) started school in March 1965. At that time I was in Standard 2 and being taught by Mr John Boulton.
After several housekeepers another large family came to our aid, neighbours, Bill and Cynthia Knudsen. They had a family of seven and looked after the four of us as well.
It was not long after that we were on the move once more. The May holidays found all of us back in the Thames Valley. Our father moved first to Opotiki, then to Te Karaka near Gisborne, then to Te Araroa near East Cape and finally to Ruatoria.
I was enrolled at Paeroa Central School from 24 May 1965, into Standard 2. The headmaster was Mr James Pembroke Knoxbridge Callaghan and my first teacher was Miss Jo Brockett. Miss Lois Martin, the Infant Mistress, taught Alan in Primer 1. Sue went back to Waitawheta School then to Waihi Intermediate and Waihi College. Tom went to school at Komata, Netherton and Katikati.
The Paeroa Central School was in the process of undergoing extensive renovations, including the first major upgrade of the main 1911 building since the 1920s. Under construction was a new administration block and a two-room class block. My first classroom was Room 6 but in July 1965 we were moved to Room 2, staying there for the rest of the year. Mr. Callaghan retired in 1965 having been Headmaster since 1959.
As 1966 commenced, Mr T H (Tom) Barrett was welcomed as the new Headmaster. All alterations had been completed and officially opened on Thursday 24 March by the local Member of Parliament the Honourable Mr Arthur Kinsella who was the Minister of Education in the then Holyoake National Government.
My Standard 3 (1966) teacher in Room 9 was Mr John Lindsay Boyack Hodgson. (J L B for short). Paeroa Central had a roll of 380 pupils and this was still increasing. Most classes were of 40 or more pupils.
This was in the heyday of School Banking and we were encouraged to save our pennies and shillings. I still have my old P O S B School Savings Branch passbooks dating from June 1966.
Mr Hodgson resigned in August 1966 to travel overseas. He later rejoined the profession and now lives in Tauranga. Mrs Chris Tricklebank replaced him and we finished Standard 3 with her.
1967 was a significant year for several reasons, one being the introduction of Decimal Currency. Dollars and cents replaced pounds, shillings and pence from July 10. I still have a card issued for a test of ten questions on the subject, which near the bottom reads, "He/she is entitled to be called a Dollar Scholar ". Another change was on February 24, when the 'Milk in Schools' scheme introduced in 1936 came to an end. Being a Milk Monitor carried privilege and status. The milk stand stood in front of our Room 8 on Wood Street. Also, this year saw the roll grow too large for the available accommodation. Our Standard 4 class, after being in Room 8 for more than half of the year, was relocated to the adjacent Army (or Drill) Hall until the year's end. Our teacher was Mr R G Barrett, the son of the Headmaster. Mr Barrett also taught us the following year, in Form 1. That was when we started Manual Training classes, once a week on Tuesday mornings. In Form 1 we had Woodwork with Mr W W (Bill) Ritchie at Paeroa College.
The roll was still rising (it peaked at 530 in 1973) and the need for further permanent accommodation resulted in several prefabricated buildings being placed in the school grounds, and the relocation of the Komata School (which had closed in May 1968) to Central. The Dental Clinic, built in 1927, on the playing field across Thorp Street, was moved to its present site while the former Staff Room was converted into a Speech Clinic.
Our last two years at Central School were spent in the present 'Barrett Block' with Form 1 at the northeast end and Form 2 at the other. Traditionally the First Assistant taught Form 2 but Mr Young had retired in December 1968 and the position remained vacant until the arrival in May 1969 of Mr C E (Chris) O'Connell. For the first term of 1969 we were taught by Mr. Peter Underwood.
Each three years, senior primary pupils were offered the opportunity of spending around ten days at the Outdoor Education Centre at Port Waikato, 70 kilometres west of Paeroa. Our turn was in October 1969 when we, with a group from Netherton School went there. With us went several mothers, together with Mr O'Connell from our school and, from Netherton, Mr Colin Daly and the Principal, Mr Don Grant The camp supervisor was Mr Barry Cowley.
At the end of each year the annual prize giving awards were presented at the Paeroa War Memorial Hall. Each year there was a guest speaker and in my time there were the following:-
1966 Reverend Lawrence Rogers (Presbyterian Church)
1967 Reverend Gordon Kaa (Anglican Minister)
1968 Mr Graeme Lee (Mayor of Paeroa, just elected)
1969 Mr. Bruce Townshend (later a Member of Parliament)
For "Tech" in 1969 we did metalwork. Our teacher to be was Mr Leonard King but he died suddenly in December 1968. For the early part of the year, relief was provided by Mr John Jetten from the local firm of Jetten Engineering and he was later replaced by Mr David Gray.
Following, are the names of some of the staff that I remember:-
(The last two mentioned also taught at the School prior to their marriages, during the years 1950-53, as Miss Agnes Thompson and Miss Pat Poland.)
Other, non-teaching staff that I remember were:-
My brother, Alan, who stayed until 1973, was taught in his last year by Mr Roger McClay (Deputy Principal 1972-78), now Commissioner for Children. Mr McClay was the Guest Speaker at the October 2000 reunion and in March 2002, officially opened the indoor skating facility in the formerFarmers building on Normanby Road.
As the decade ended so did my primary school years. My last day at Paeroa Central School was Thursday, 18 December 1969. Our class started College the following year.
As I write this (May 2002) it is 25 years since the main school block (built 1911, extended 1921) was demolished. (May 1977). This changed forever the 'face' of our old school. An "open plan" replacement was built on the site and over the former junior quadrangle. It was ready for use in 1978. In 1992 these buildings (Shaw and Malcolm block named after Miss Minnie Shaw and Mr C W Malcolm) were partitioned to allow for individual class seclusion, the opposite of the open plan idea.
The titles of staff changed in 1973. Headmaster became Principal. First Assistant changed to Deputy Principal and Infant Mistress changed to Senior Teacher Junior Classes.
There are four "Sports House" groups named after gold mines from the Karangahake and Waihi district and they have individual colours, Woodstock (Yellow), Wentworth (Green), Silverton (Blue) and Talisman (Red).
For swimming, we walked to the Municipal Baths in Princes Street, as the school pool was not constructed until 1974. The pool was named 'Centennial Baths' for the 1975 school centenary.