Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 48, September 2004
BIOLOGIST, CONSERVATIONIST and TEACHER 1907-1979
By Gordon Mathieson
"The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on" . . . and so we must bow to the inevitable. It is with sadness that we have to say goodbye to Mr John Jensen. One could safely say, echoing Goldsmith:
"And still they gaz'd, and still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew."
We regret the loss of this fountain of knowledge, wisdom and experience. We have enjoyed the company of a man who has come to a grip with nature and tried to explore her hidden mysteries, who has such an understanding of the human touch, who can so ably distinguish between a fresh breeze and a full gale and discriminate between effort and ability.
The above account, taken from the valedictory speech upon the retirement of Mr John Jensen, was published in "The Ohinemuri - Magazine of Paeroa College" - 1964, bringing to a close a teaching career of thirty-five years.
Born in Denmark, John Jensen came to New Zealand as a child, with his family during the First World War. They settled in the Thames district. Always a keen sportsman, he played for the Thames High School First XV Rugby team, and later represented Auckland University. His prowess on the football field was such that he represented North Auckland (now Northland) while primary teaching at Whangarei in the 1930s, having gained his Batchelor of Arts Degree in 1930.
He then went as sole secondary assistant to Ohura District High School in the King Country, until his appointment to Paeroa District High School Secondary Department, which he took up in June 1938.
When Mr Jensen arrived in Paeroa, the Secondary Department had just moved from the Wood Street school to the then Methodist Hall (corner of Willoughby and Arney Streets). It was into this situation that he began what would be twenty-six years of service, less his time served in the Army during World War II (1942 - 1945).
Mr Jensen took a keen interest in the Paeroa District High School First XV Rugby team from his arrival, the nearby Domain providing an ideal venue, where the following photograph was taken.
In September 1940, the Secondary Department was able to move to the newly completed school on Te Aroha Road (see article "Paeroa District High School Secondary Department 1902 - 1957" in Journal 44, September 2000). Mr Jensen's teaching subjects were English, French and Biology.
After his War service, he attended a refresher course and then resumed his position at Paeroa District High School in April 1946. When Paeroa College was established as an independent secondary school from 1958, Mr Jensen was appointed First Assistant (now known as Deputy Principal) - a position he held until he retired in December 1964. Throughout the years that he was associated with the school, he saw many changes, and indeed took an active role in them. When he arrived in Paeroa (1938), the Secondary Department had just three teachers (Mr R P Callaway, Miss Stella Baird and Mr Jensen, himself) and a roll of seventy pupils. When he retired (1964), Paeroa College had a staff of seventeen, plus four part-time staff, and a roll of three hundred and fifty.
Mr Jensen was a member of the Paeroa Historical Society, contributing several articles for the Journal between the years 1965 - 1969, and he also took an active interest in local affairs.
John Jensen married his wife, Mary just prior to coming to Paeroa and they celebrated their fortieth Wedding Anniversary in 1977. They had no children. In their later years they lived at 6 Bennett Street, Paeroa. Mr Jensen died on 15 December 1979, aged 72 and Mrs Mary Jensen died on 20 August 1985.
In a Lighter Vein
Many references to Paeroa's Secondary teachers are to be found throughout the pages of the school's annual magazine, "The Ohinemuri". Some excerpts(with particular reference to Mr Jensen), are quoted below:
Peacocke, Jensen, Fleming, Heward
Here's to the High School few:
Hutchins, Fulton, Kinsella or "Spud",
Finish the rest of the crew.
Teachers all, for teachings sake
Honour be theirs, and fame
Honour, as long as the school will last
To Paeroa's peerless name!
Fleming tore his hair with rage
The fourths were all to blame
For geometry theorems they did not know
It's no wonder that he's in a flame.
Monsieur Le Paon is French right through
As you will presently hear
With a smile on his lip and a tear in his eye
Say "Vous etes un ane, ma cherie!"
Jensen is the steady type
Whose smile is very rare
His figure's like a Viking God
Even to his rippling hair.
Pupils all, we've learned to believe
The teacher's words we can trust
Pupils all, we hate to leave
But we fear one day we must.
We leave a school that's always proud
Of the pupils yet to be
So "Work Conquers All" we shout aloud
As we say farewell to thee.
School Chronicle - Wednesday, 22 October, 1958
Mr Jensen warns us at assembly against the evils of hula hoops.
School Chronicle - Wednesday, 24 June, 1959
The most recent detention for late comers: Write out a copy of the school rules, which have obviously been compiled by Mr Jensen.
School Chronicle - Thursday, 25 June, 1959
Quotation from the Jensenian Code: "A pupil who does not take part in games is a potential source of trouble" . . . Yet the juniors are still deprived of their four-square. Such inconsistency.
School Chronicle - Tuesday, 10 November, 1959
Mr Jensen at assembly: "Some people are taking far too long to move between classes. The worst offenders are not the juniors but the elderly ladies of Form 5G". Now that you come to mention it sir, I always did think that there was something queer about those fifth form boys.
School Chronicle - Wednesday, 20 July, 1960
"You may not use (barefooted only) the new grass", says Mr Jensen at assembly. One immediately imagines hordes of enthusiastic juniors tearing off their shoes in frantic efforts to romp on the frost-encrusted grass.
From the Ohinemuri 1963
I am a seagull that makes a habit of sitting on the roof of the Paeroa College block of Rooms 1 - 7 every morning in suitable weather from about 8.45 to 9.00am. I come here especially to watch this thing called assembly. Sometimes I like to make a spectacle of myself by running up and down the roof singing in my delightful voice, which makes the kids down there, standing on the concrete, laugh.
I always try to arrive early so that I can see the kids rush to line up and await the arrival of the teachers. In contrast, the teachers struggle out, one by one, while a tall man in a black nightie proceeds to start this assembly off. This fellow seems to be quite important. His name is Mr Webber, who usually chatters to the kids and sometimes makes them laugh (rare) and other times makes them stop grinning and look very uncomfortable (common).
This next bloke must be important too, because he usually has a lot to say. I think his name is Mr Jensen. He must be quite light fingered because every so often he boasts about the fountain pens he's managed to lay his hands on. He often worries the boys about little unimportant things like 'concertina' socks, grubby shoes, unpressed pants and shirts with buttons missing . .
School Chronicle - Thursday, 21 March, 1963
If the builders would stop singing as they worked (on the new Assembly Hall) we might be able to hear Mr Jensen at punishment assembly.
School Chronicle - Thursday, 20 June, 1963
Mr Jensen's statement that 'No pupil is meant to cross from one building to another while it is raining' has serious repercussions.
School Chronicle - Monday, 30 September, 1963
All pupils are deeply shocked to hear Mr Jensen purposely encouraging deceitfulness by asking the school to tell on anyone who can play a piano for Mrs Elley's choir.
School Chronicle - Thursday, 16 April, 1964
Singing (?) practice. Mr Jensen is amazed at the number of budding young Beatles. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
School Chronicle - Tuesday, 21 April, 1964
Storm-in-a-teacup day. Mr Jensen's vandalism in Room 2, turns out to be a knob missing off radio for the last three months.
School Chronicle - Tuesday, 28 April, 1964
A new method of guarding against that sudden drop in temperature is observed. Mr Jensen came to school with his pullover inside out.
School Chronicle - Wednesday, 22 July, 1964
School record for prefect's detentions = 24. Mr Jensen warns school against psychopathic bicycle thief.
And the final words from his valedictory:
'Somehow one feels that the parting after years of service will cause a rustle of sadness to run through worlds outside the human one. Because of his tender care for the other realms of nature, a leaf of regret could well be shed for one who knows their members' real names, who understands their whims, and who appreciates their difficulties.'
The staff and scholars, past and present of the College, wish both Mr and Mrs Jensen many years of happiness as they terminate their active participation in the life of the school. May they be blessed with "health and peace and sweet content".'