My first foray into education was brief - an hour in fact.
Born in 1937 in Blenheim, but living in Nelson since I was nine months old, it was now 1942 and my Dad (who was too old to go to war but wanted to do his bit) had gone to Fiji working as a labourer on the new airport, so my Mum and I went to live with a family called Glass while he was away. They lived at the end of Provincial Lane opposite Mr Brough, a carrier and who kept his horses and carts in stables there. It was a tiny house that backed onto the ‘Munies’ swimming baths which I could get to through the chook yard at the back of the house. This house is still there, although no longer a private residence. Tasman Street School was a short distance away and it was there I began my learning of the three RRR’s.
On my first morning at school everyone disappeared at morning tea break. I obviously hadn’t heard whatever instruction was given, so home I went, my education complete as far as I was concerned. No further memories stand out except the teacher gave me a smack for standing back to admire the O’s I had printed on my individual wall blackboard.
While we lived with the Glass family, Mum sent me to dancing lessons, at a small lodge hall, for a shilling a lesson, just about where ‘The Little Rock Cafe' is now, near what was called four spirits corner back then, in Bridge Street. These weren’t successful either as I couldn’t do a particularly complicated leg action (to me anyway) so my career as a dancer was short-lived as well, although my education did continue.
When Dad returned from Fiji we went to live at 222 Vanguard Street, which now backs onto Victory School, but then I had to walk to Hampden Street School. Quite a hike for a little kid, especially as I went home to lunch as well. One day Mum gave me a big bag of peaches to take to school, so at lunchtime I sat down to eat and enjoy them. Dad arrived in a panic on his bike to see where I was. They were my morning tea, not my lunch as I had thought, it seemed logical to me at the time.
Another vivid memory from then also, is sitting in class and in desperation wetting my knickers, too scared to ask ‘to leave the room’. Our next shift was to 99 Washington Valley on a short term, but it ended up as our permanent home. Auckland Point School was next for me. On my first day I sat at a desk and put my lunchtime sandwiches safely in it. After morning tea I sat back at my desk and was told by a kid “You’ll get into trouble, that is so and so’s desk and they are away sick.” Ignoring this I got on with it, but was horrified at lunch-time to find my sandwiches had been pinched. Of course it was the wrong desk.
First days just didn’t do it for me. Every morning we stood outside at an assembly in front of the school, which incidentally was the old two-storey elegant concrete building which was to come down in later years due to earthquake risk. The Union Jack would be unfurled with due ceremony. We would be admonished not to feed our lunches to the seagulls, abundant in our then seafront position, and our day had started.
We went over the road and crossed the bridge to the big green expanse for exercises, now where the Trafalgar Centre is. At playtime, under still existing Phoenix Palms fronting the school, was an excellent spot to play marbles which we all did with great competitiveness. Every morning two of us would take turns to carry a box from room to room saying "Any money for the box' . This was for the Returned Servicemen. At home we had little cloth and paper collecting boxes to put donations in for Barnardo's, which were taken to school to be emptied.
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Updated: April 2020
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Further sources - School Daze!
- Gee, M. (1978) Nelson Central School : a history Nelson [N.Z.] : Nelson Central School Centennial Committee*
- Marris, J.S. (1980) HAMPDEN Street School, Nelson reunion Nelson, N.Z. : J.S. Marris
- Stade, K. (2003) Aim high = Ki runga rawa : the story of Nelson Central School, 1878-2003, 125th Jubilee Nelson, N.Z. : K. Stade*
- Street, I.E. (1932) The history of education in Nelson Province, 1842-1877 : (embracing the period from the early beginning to the establishment of a national system for New Zealand) Dissertation: Thesis (M. A.) : Canterbury University College
*includes information about early development of all Nelson central area schools
Baigent, L E H (1957) An early incident Journal of the Nelson Historical Society 1 (2),14-15