Friday, October 1, 2010

Sepia Saturday 43: My First School..

This is where I started my school life.
Matakawau School, Awhitu, on the Manukau Peninsula.
My brother Richard, aged 12, was a senior pupil when I started school in 1949.
One teacher and about 20 children.

The first school at Awhitu Central was opened in 1869
and there were six small schools dotted around the peninsula
by the time Matakawau school opened in 1935.

Our school was built from corrugated iron.
It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
There was a wood stove in the corner that sizzled and smoked, with a halo of warmth around it.
Those were the days of frosts and cold toes and fingers and huffs of breath in front of faces.

As a five year old I remember us 'littlies' playing with blocks
in the tiny porch area inside the door,
while the teacher taught the 'big kids' in the classroom.
There was a glass panel in the door and the teacher could keep an eye on us.

I was a good little girl, but one day I banged on the glass with a block.
The teacher opened the door, pulled me into the classroom
and sat me in the big double desk beside
Hugh Walker... a big boy! I thought I would die.

Richie and I walked to school.
It seemed a very long way to me but was probably only a mile or so.
If we were lucky we got a ride with the cream lorry,
standing on the back of the truck with the cans carrying cream from the farms.

The 'lavatory block' was down the back of the playground.
I can still smell it. Enough said.
I remember a huge puddle that grew outside
the door to the girl's 'lav' during the winter.

Notice how the big girls have a little one sitting on their knees.
This is how it was. The big girls 'mothered' us and fussed over us little kids.
There was probably a bit of favouritism going on.

In September of my first school year this little school along
with all the other little schools, was closed,
and we all went to the brand new consolidated school in the village of Matakawau.
It was so wonderful. We had three teachers and three classrooms.

The school was used at first as a Boating Club,
and the local storekeeper and his wife lived in it for a time.
It was decided in the end to tow it onto a reserve down by the beach,
but as it was being towed away the roof ridge hit power wires
and the little school "went out in a blaze of glory."
That was the very dramatic end of our little school.

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  1. What A Dramatic Ending To The Building!
    Childhood memories are so vivid,they stay & linger.
    I like the way the older children looked after the younger ones.It's the way it should be!

  2. Wow - what a dramatic ending for the little school! There is something to be said for smaller schools - the interaction between the various age groups is much more open.

  3. Riding on the back of the cream lorry....what a great image! Love this story.

  4. Hi Joan

    Received the Bookclub card. How lovely to hear from you all.

    Love your blog. What a poet and amazing photographer you are. Congratulations.

    I couldn't see how else to get in touch with you. Do you have an e-mail address? Mine is: You can also follow me on twitter.

    I also have a website and blog. I'm just about to change things and make it more interactive as yours is - you clever thing.
    Mine is at:

    lots of love to you. Penny xx

  5. Wonderful story J, so many of our little schools have closed now which I can understand but it's sad for the communities. The girls' lav at my school would have a huge puddle in the doorway each winter too! I had forgotten that till now.

  6. I was feeling sad that your school was burned right when you started, Joan, then I remembered you start school in January or February. What a treasure trove of memories you have here. I love the thought of the big girls mothering the smaller children. That sense of community that was fostered so early in days gone by.

    I'm also smiling as I see you have another Penny/Penelope visiting. I went through elementary school and high school being the only one. It wasn't until my freshman year of college and living in a dormitory that I came across another Penny. We immediately sought each other out and became fast friends. Isn't life grand?

  7. Bonjour Joan,
    How small your school was. It is a charming story and it is so pleasant to read these kind of memories.

    Thank you very much for stopping by my artblog.

    I wish you a nice weekend.

    ♥ Hélène Glehen - a French artist, fond of roses and romantic stuff ♥

  8. I loved learning about your school and your childhood and, indeed, life in NZ. This wonderful internet brings us all closer.

  9. What an interesting story and photograph! I love that the big children looked after the little ones. Visiting New Zealand is on my 'to do' list of dreams.

  10. Ditto echoes to wow, what a way to end the bldg. Great memories you have there and I bet you never banged on the door with a block again! We learned lessons from "punishments" that came swiftly

  11. When you have a chance, I've a little something for you over at my place.

  12. I love your memories of the little school. What an ending for it to go out in a blaze like that!

  13. Thank you all wonderful blogging friends for calling. I have been busy visiting you too. What a wonderful worlis the world of blogging! Thank you Kitty Howard for an award. now I'm trying to worl out how to send it on....

  14. What a fabulous photograph. What strikes me is how tall the school looks (I assume there wasn't an upstairs) and how small the children look. A wonderful collection of memories.

  15. i can almost picture it all, the road, the cream lory, you, sitting next to the big kid, and the fiery demise of the building. great storytelling!!

  16. What amazing memories -- the kind we should all preserve so they aren't lost. I imagine tiny little you, hanging on to the back of the lorry for dear life, feeling so lucky you didn't have to trudge all the way to school. I also imagine your awe on the first day in the new big school.