Class of ’86

I received an email not long ago asking for stories and fond memories from my old primary school on Waiheke Island – Te Huruhi School. This year Te Huruhi celebrates it’s 25th Jubilee. Although the school wasn’t officially opened until March 1987, my standard four class of 1986 was moved into the new school buildings part way through that year. You could say that the Class of ’86 was the first class to graduate.

Our teacher was a woman named Shonagh Byrne and she would later become Principal of the school. Being part of a new school was exciting. Although some existing buildings from the old Area School were also used they now had new functions. There was a music room and a new library. The classrooms themselves were not dissimilar to any other primary classrooms around New Zealand. Just a cluster of pre-fabs. But what we got to experience was something a lot of children elsewhere wouldn’t know. Everything in the classroom was new.

Desks, chairs, blackboards (or new fangled whiteboards even). Everything in that room had not been used before. Where other students in other schools would be going from one classroom to the next and one piece of used furniture to the next, we were the first to sit at those desks. I almost felt special. In our old classroom the desks had the initials of generations of juvenile romantics carved into them. The coat racks had one name tag after another incrementally stuck under each hook and to peel each one off would be like revealing the classrooms ‘family tree’.

In the new class the thing that struck me was the smell. It was that ‘new car’ smell. All fresh paint and new plastic. No over ripe bananas or petrified mandarins had yet tainted the air. We were groundbreakers on our own new little patch of the school.

Huruhi Bay, Waiheke Island.

What impressed most was the schools location. Situated on a particularly scenic peninsula the school is in an elevated position and has excellent views of Auckland’s inner harbour. I couldn’t think of another school I’d seen that had a better location than ours. Sometimes we would watch the See Bee Air sea-plane land down at Surfdale beach only hundreds of metres away. It was a prime position. On another occasion during Physical Education a water spout formed just outside of Te Huruhi Bay. To me it looked like a tornado and I gave a concerned look to our teachers. They didn’t seem too bothered by it and the softball match continued. Nothing much phases Waihekeans I guess, it’s the lifestyle.

Around the same time that Te Huruhi opened Waiheke began to experience a rise in popularity as a destination as the Quickcat fast ferry service was added. Waiheke had become a commuter destination and with that, a new option for young families. The school was a timely addition and the new growth would give the school a healthy role for the next two decades. So much so in fact, that in 2009 a new primary school (Waiheke Primary) had to be opened to cope with demand as Waiheke’s population expanded eastwards.

1986 was an important year for Waiheke Island and although I was only a student at Te Huruhi for less than a calender year I felt proud to be one of it’s first students. In 1987 I began at Waiheke High School and as I was introduced to my fully engraved desk and wobbly coat hook and the smell of long lost lunches filled my nostrils, I think I came to realise schooling as an important institution and not just some place you told your mother on a regular basis that you didn’t want to go.

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