By Pauline Stewart
Back row: Colin Hooker, Philip Wells, ( not known) Shane Hardy, Tim McLean, (not knownx3) Glen Mayclair. Teacher – Anne Smith.
Second row from : Jillian Smith (now Jill Warwick), Kay Williams, Noelene McLeod, Peggy McLean, Lois Oxley, Janet Wells, Janice Lowe, Dolly Moss, Lynette Low.
Third row from back: Henry Turner, Alan Parker, Christine Hailey, Valerie Ewengton, Eva Jensen, Lesley Hailey, ? Dyson, Philip Crabb.
Front row: Ross Nickol, (not known), Tawhera ?, (not known), Cliff Arnold.
Happy memories came flooding back when Jill Warwick opened The Informer to see a photo of herself and her classmates at Mercury Bay District High School taken 71 years ago.
The photograph was dropped off at The Informer by a person asking if anyone could identify the youngsters.
Jill, who was around six-and-a-half when the photo was taken on the school’s basketball court in School Road in 1951, instantly recognised herself and many of her old classmates. “It was a little bit of a shock, I must admit,” she said. “I thought, ‘wow, this is amazing. I know who they are, or quite a few of their names at least.’ It really brought a lot of memories flooding back.”
Jill, nee Jillian Cholmondeley-Smith (though she tended not to use the Cholmondeley part as it was too long), showed remarkable recall and was able to rattle off the names of many of the children in the picture, and after a bit more thought, was able to add a few more, though not quite all.
“There were some boys whose parents were share-milkers, who didn’t stay there all the time. Some of these boys came and went, but most of them I can identify,” Jill said.
The photo shows all the youngsters barefoot alongside their teacher, Mrs Ann Smith, whose husband Les was the town’s postmaster. “I am just glad my mother is not around to see that. She would have had a fit if she knew I had taken my sandals off. I used to take them off just round the corner from the house where Mum could not see me and put them back on again when I came home from school.”
Two of the classrooms at the school were later transferred to The Lost Spring when Mercury Bay Area School opened. While Jill said that there were many happy memories, there were one or two that were not so pleasant to recall.
“We had a lot of fun at school and there are a lot of good memories, except for one head master. He used to throw clocks - yes, actual clocks - dusters and pieces of chalk at people who weren’t paying attention. I remember him throwing a piece of chalk at me because I was day-dreaming,” said Jill, who was in Standard five, as the forms were called at the time.
She said she had kept in touch with some of her old classmates, but some had moved out of the area and they had lost touch. One she had stayed in touch with, was Lynne Barraclough-Wood (nee Lowe), who moved to south of Auckland where she had horses, but sadly she died recently. Her younger sister, Janice Lowe, who moved to Whangaparaoa, is also in the picture. Others who continue to live in Whitianga, include Shane Hardy, who served three terms on the community board. Henry Turner, who is Jill’s cousin by marriage, is also in the photograph.
“I have not really kept in touch with any of the others because they have gone away. I have lost touch with them since the last school reunion, which was a long time ago in the 1980s,” Jill said.
Of those she had lost contact with, Jill was particularly interested in getting in touch with Christine and Lesley Hailey. She said none of the children were mean or naughty, as far as she could remember. “These kids were all good people and some were really intelligent,” she said. “We used to call Glen Mayclair ‘The Professor’.”
Jill started school at the age of three, as her sisters were already at the school and she had no-one to play with at home. “The teacher used to put me in the corner with some books and toys and let me play. That is probably why I learned to read so quickly. I must have been learning by just listening to the kids in the classroom, I suppose,” Jill said.
Jill left Whitianga in 1962 and was a data processing supervisor for NZI Insurance in Auckland. She and her husband Bryan, who also had Whitianga connections through the Schofield family, returned to Whitianga in 2000 to look after Jill’s family home on the Esplanade which was empty and “in need of some TLC”.
They ran a quad bike tourist business from the property for several years, but have since sold the property and are now fully retired.
Caption : Jill Warwick