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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 12, October 1969

by O.J. MORGAN

(Mr. Morgan has been Chairman of the Waihi South School Committee since 1953.)

An enthusiastic committee of ex-pupils led by Mr. Bill Lawrence, and with Mrs. Marjorie Lindsey as Secretary, very capably organised the celebrations which marked the 60th anniversary of Waihi's South School on the 14th, 15th and 16th March, 1969.

The school opened in February 1909 at the time when Waihi was one of the fastest growing towns in New Zealand. The central and East schools, both of which were filled to overflowing, could not cope with the youthful population and after some warm discussions with those who wished to enlarge the Central School, the parents in the southern part of the town won the day and the South School was born. Since then pupils and teachers have taken great pride in claiming their association with it - this being, the third time in recent years that celebrations of this kind have been held.

The school was originally designed to accommodate 88 pupils, but on its opening day, as Mrs. C. Duschka of Waihi Beach recalled, 137 turned up. An urgent telegram was sent to the Auckland Education Board, and additional temporary teaching space was arranged, Mrs. Duschka, nee George, was a first-day teacher and had it not been for an unfortunate fall which broke her leg, would have been Guest of Honour at the celebrations. However, her daughter, Mrs. Peggy Howard of Wellington was present.

The South School had another crisis in 1926. Mr. A. H. Blackmore remembers that until about 1930 one school committee administered all the State schools in Waihi and at the Waihi Beach. In 1926 the then committee, under pressure from Central School interests, recommended to the Education Board that the South School be used for the secondary department of the Central School, and that all primary children be moved to the Central. Again the parents at the southern part of the town as well as the farmers beyond, rose to the. occasion. But only after two well-attended public meetings in the Miners' Hall, and after much heated debate, did the status quo prevail.

In 1932, Standards 5 & 6 were transferred to the newly opened Junior High School (Fire had destroyed the Central School on March 27, 1931). All classes from the Central up to Standard 4 were then enrolled at the South School. Additional classrooms were added as the roll increased, and in 1956 it had reached 420. At present it is more or less stable at about 300.

A historical booklet is being published to commemorate the Jubilee and many well known names are among the list of teachers, headed of course, by the late H.T. Gibson, the first headmaster. His daughter, Mrs. Winnie Bestic, attended the celebrations and has written an article on her father's life and his many talents. Other articles are by Miss Marjorie Paterson, Mr. W. J. Henderson, Mr. Norm Morton, Mrs. Marjorie Dixon (nee Armour) and that grand old veteran of teaching, Dan McPherson. It was from the South School that he finally put down his chalk after 50 years of classroom teaching.

Many of these contributors mention the fine spirit and loyalty that has always existed at the South School. That same spirit exists today wider the competent leadership of Mr. Eric Gilbert and his staff of capable teachers.

Note: Mrs. Duschka did not recover from her accident and passed away shortly afterwards in Thames Hospital.