School marks its 100th birthday

From air raid drills to swimming lessons

JARED NICOLL
Last updated 07:21 17/09/2012
Ollie Eyles
DEREK FLYNN
Family values: Redwoodtown School new entrant Ollie Eyles holds a letter retrieved from the school’s time capsule written by his father, Rick Eyles, 25 years ago about a soccer game.

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Former Redwoodtown School pupil Ruth Ross sat calmly in the hall as part of the school's 100-year anniversary celebrations, a far cry from diving into nearby trenches during World War II.

Mrs Ross, 78, was among hundreds who filled the school hall to hear the chairman of the school's centenary committee, Robert Burr, welcome past, present and future pupils in an assembly on Saturday as part of three days of celebration.

The school's junior kapa haka group Teina Kotahitanga warmed the breezy hall with a musical performance and poi-work before the senior group Te Kotahitanga performed a passionate haka led by Justus Morgan-Rattray.

The school's newest pupil Ollie Eyles, 5, and its oldest former pupil, Lew Andrews, cut a ceremonial cake made by Mrs Ross as pupils tried to spot their teachers in old school photos displayed around the hall.

Speaking after the assembly, Mrs Ross said she remembered when the school had about 60 pupils being taught in one building by two teachers in 1940.

It was during World War II and the school was surrounded by army camps at the A&P Showground, Omaka, and Delta Base in Waihopai Valley Rd, which made it a "prime target" if the Japanese air force decided to bomb the area, she said.

"We used to have to wear a cork around our necks so we could bite on it in case a bomb went off, it was to save our teeth and our ears from an explosion."

Pupils had to wear identity badges and take part in defence drills which involved jumping into five trenches set up near the classrooms.

"If there was an air raid we were taught how to get into the trenches.

"Unfortunately, there's very few photos from that time because there was no film for the cameras during the war years."

Times had changed dramatically and now it was nice to come back and catch up with old friends, she said.

She was accompanied by her brother, John Diaper, who was a year ahead of her at the school.

"It's a lot bigger now," she said.

"There never used to be a swimming pool and we used to share the bell with St Christopher's Church.

"The school only went up to standard two and you used to have to bike to Blenheim school for standard three and four."

Ollie Eyles later discovered a letter retrieved from the school's time capsule written by his father, Rick Eyles, 25 years ago. The letter was about a soccer game, a sport which both father and son were passionate about at the school.

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Ollie had most enjoyed playing outside with his friends.

- The Marlborough Express

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