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The Ups And Downs of Jeremy James

Avon Primary School: Form 1 & 2 (1970-1971)


We really felt like we had achieved something when we moved up from Standard 4 to Form 1.  By now we had completed 4 years in the Standards and we had finally made it to the Forms!  At the same time, we had reached the 1970s and we were leaving the 1960s behind.  We were starting to feel very grown up, even if we were only 11 years old, going on 12.

Our teacher in Form 1 was Miss Ryrie (Janice Ryrie).  By now our class, and the one below us, had got too big, so the headmaster Mr Fitzpatrick (Bob) decided that some of the overspill would be put into Form 2.  Consequently, for this year, we lost; Janet Sulzberger, Lynette Little, Rebecca Western, Terril Benton, David Rogers, Murray Reed.  They spent the year with their own table in the corner of the Form 2 classroom next door with Mr Neve.  The rest of us remained in Form 1 where we in turn were joined by a small group form Standard 4 which made our class size for that year 40. 

In our classroom all our desks were put into little groups and I remember sitting next to Virginia Haimona.  She was a lovely girl and I remember that she was exceedingly good at sport.  I can’t remember who else was in our small group.

This was also the year that I started wearing glasses.  Initially this felt a bit odd but it was certainly great being able to see things a lot more clearly.  Some of my friends told me I looked like a professor. 

It was in 1970 that the Apollo 13 space mission had a breakdown, while on their journey to the moon.  James Lovell said the immortal words "Houston, we've had a problem".  Everything was touch and go for a few days, while the astronauts had to continue all the way to the moon and back and then attempt to make a safe return through the earth’s atmosphere.  Eventually they splashed down in the Pacific while the whole world was watching the event on TV.  We all breathed a sigh of relief when they made it back in one piece.

Another event, was that the Kapuni Gas Field started producing gas.  Kapuni was only about 16 miles (25km) away from our house and sometimes we would drive over in the evening to see the massive flare burning away.  There wasn’t a visitor’s area or anything like that, but you could walk along the fence line and stand quite close.  The noise was deafening, and the heat was incredible.  I used to stand there trying to figure out why they were burning all that gas.  Surely they would be much better selling it or using it to heat some water.  I couldn’t figure out the answer to this question.

By 1970 I absolutely hated school and all I wanted to do was to run away but of course there was nowhere to run to.  Geoff Neve decided that I needed to have something that would be mine, something I could take a pride in.  He made me ‘Science Monitor’.  My job was to look after the science trolley which had an array of items for carrying out science experiments.  Looking back, this was a brilliant move.  Here at last I felt special and I felt appreciated.  The job actually required me to do very little, but it felt good all the same.

This was when I developed an interest in Chemistry.  Together with Nigel Aldridge we learnt how to mix up potassium nitrate, sulphur and charcoal to make gun powder.  When we set a match to it, we were able to watch a very vigorous chemical reaction.  Not quite a bang, but certainly a spectacular fizzle.  The bangs came at Guy Fawkes each year (5 November) and we were all given firecrackers to let off and create mayhem with.  There were often accidents.  My sister got very badly burnt in her face when her skyrocket took off sideways and glanced off her cheek.  These days parents don’t seem to give fireworks to their small children.

Nigel Aldridge was an interesting person.  He had been brought up in New Plymouth but had also lived in the South Island.  We were very impressed by this, as most of us had never been to the South Island.  To us we thought of it as a foreign country.  Nigel’s parents had split up and he was possibly the only other pupil who was being brought up by a solo mother.  I remember going to play at his house and his mother was a very nice lady.

One thing that did go well at this time, was singing.  We had quite a few kids in the class who had very good voices and for a few years we became quite accomplished.  In the core of the group were Rebecca Western and Steve Crowe who were both excellent at singing and at strumming their ukuleles.  We all had a great time singing ‘Knock Three Times’ by Tony Orlando (Dawn) and ‘Try A Little Kindness’ by Glen Campbell.  The other thing that had helped bring this along was our time with Mr Clarkson and moving forward Mr Neve was an amazing musician who was very accomplished both on the guitar and the piano.  He also taught some of us to play the recorder.



‘Candida’ by Tony Orland of Dawn (1970)



‘Try A Little Kindness’ by Glen Campbell (1970)


It was this year that we did a production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’.  Carolyn Maaka (Barbarich) reminded me about this, as she says she has a great memory of us all singing the song ‘Follow The Yellow Brick Road’.  I played the Tin Man, Steve Crow played the Scarecrow and Joseph Sheehan’s elder sister Carmel played Dorothy.  The character I remember best was Karina Thayer who played an excellent portrayal of the wicked witch.  I can still picture the way she lurked across the full width of the stage, with her arms extended forward, as she wiggled her fingers and cast her wicked spells.  Some of the younger pupils in the front row were so frightened that they jumped right out of their seats and ran out of the hall, absolutely terrified.  Towards the end I was blown up in an explosion off stage and then had to run on stage looking blackened and dishevelled.  To achieve this look, one of the girls rubbed black shoe polish onto my face.  Apparently this looked great but I do remember afterwards finding it very difficult to wash it off.  



‘Wizard of Oz’ with Judy Garland (Film 1939, LP 1968)


For Christmas that year I finally got a bicycle.  Initially Mum would only let me ride it up and down Sole Road but this was no great problem with me.  Sole Road was a ‘no exit’ road and went west to east following the slope of the mountain continuously downhill for a distance of about 1.3 miles (2km).  Cycling down was exhilarating, as it was high speed all the way, but once I reached the end there was nothing to do but cycle back.  It was tough having to cycle uphill for 2km, but I suppose it helped me keep fit.  Most of all, riding my bike gave me a sense of freedom and a feeling of accomplishment.  Eventually Mum relented and I was allowed to cycle on the main road and go all the way into town and that was even better.  I must point out there were no bicycle safety helmets in those days as I don’t think they had even been invented (in 1994 the wearing of cycle helmets became compulsory in NZ).


1971:  Jeremy James and bicycle at Ngaere.


I should mention here, another family that Mum had become good friends with over the years, was the Walker family (no relation to Denis Walker our landlord).  Peter and Jill Walker had a large family of nine children, and they all went to Avon School.  Caroline was in Hilary’s class and Prudence was in my class.  We often played together, and they also had dogs, so trips to places where we could walk the dogs happened quite a lot.  Over that Christmas 1970-1971 the Walker family left Stratford and moved to Wanganui, which was about 75 miles (120km) further down the coast.

School started again at the end of January and we were all back together with a class of 33 pupils.  Our teacher was now Mr Neve (Geoff) and I must say I probably wasn’t his favourite pupil but looking back he was a very professional teacher and I am sure we all benefited.  He was another person who had been badly affected by the War.  His father had been a pilot but was killed when he crashed in a Bristol Blenheim bomber in northern Nigeria in 1942.  I understand that Geoff was just 5 years old at the time.  It must have been absolutely devastating for his family.

I haven’t mentioned this previously but back in those days we had a large blackboard at the front of the class and the teacher would write things up using sticks of chalk (no white boards in those days).  There was also a phrase “chalk it up” which meant to record something in writing for other people to see.  Once the blackboard was covered in text and diagrams, the teacher (or some of the pupils) would pick up a ‘duster’ and rub all the chalk off ready for more things to be written.  This also had an associated phrase “done and dusted” which meant that all was done and understood, let's move on.  These phrases were often heard in daily life outside the classroom but of course are seldom heard today.

Carolyn Maaka says she always remembers that you had to stay alert in Mr Neve’s class because if he saw anyone daydreaming, he would sometimes pick up the duster and throw it across the room at the offending pupil.  He was a very engaging teacher and the dispatch of the duster every now and then certainly woke us all up.  I suppose teachers are not allowed to throw dusters any more, health and safety etc.  

A new person who joined us this year was Sarah Stewart whose parents had emigrated from the UK.  This was quite a novelty for us, as up until then I don’t think we had any foreigners in our class (we had all been born in New Zealand).  We used to tease her a lot about being a ‘pom’ but she was a lovely person and I think we all liked her.  I remember her mother came in one day and gave us a talk about the United Kingdom and how her family used to like eating Wattie’s canned pears (made in New Zealand since 1934).  She also told us that she was actually Welsh and in addition to speaking English she could also speak the Welsh language.  We were very impressed.  Sarah was one of those people who passed through my life only for a very brief period and I have often wondered what happened to her.

In this, our last year at Avon School, we all did what was called domestic studies (or manual studies).  This involved a bus trip down to Eltham, once a week, to attend the ‘technical school’.  The girls were taught cooking and we boys were taught woodwork.  I really enjoyed the woodwork and I found I could achieve a reasonably high standard.  We did various little projects including building a tie rack and also a box for shoe cleaning materials.

I think the reason I was good at woodwork, was because of all the little projects that I built at home.  In our garage we had lots of tools that had been kept from the farm.  Large items like the welder had been sold off in the auction in 1963 but most of the other tools had been kept.  So really, I had my own workshop with quite an impressive array of tools.  Our neighbour, and landlord, Denis Walker was a lovely person who took the time to give me help and encouragement whenever he could.  I learnt a lot from him and he was always bringing me wood from packing crates that he had got from the Ngaere cheese factory where he worked.  For Christmas and birthdays, he took great delight in buying me a brown paper bag full of nails and I had great satisfaction using every one of them in a wide range of homebuilt projects.

In those days most of us young boys used to build things and one of the projects that Murray Wharton and Joe Sheehan had done was building a canoe out of a sheet of corrugated iron.  Murray’s father had built one previously but Murray and Joe then built a second one, so they could both canoe down the river.

Most of the houses in New Zealand had roofs covered in corrugated iron, often referred to as a tin roof.  These roofs were made of overlapping sheets, each approximately 7ft by 3ft (2m x 1m).  It was always incredibly noisy when it rained, particularly if you were lying in bed at night but at the same time you sort of felt a feeling of comfort, being safe and warm inside, while nature was creating mayhem outside. 

These roofs had to be painted every few years, but this was not too much of a problem, as most of them were not very steep and you could climb up on a ladder and then walk over the whole roof.  After about 50 years the sheets of iron would start to rust and consequently the roof would begin to leak.  It was then time for a new roof, which would require all the old sheets to be removed and new ones nailed down in their place.  Because of this, there were often old sheets of corrugated iron lying around.  People would re-use them for smaller projects like wood sheds and bike sheds, even fences.  In Taranaki you never threw anything away, you always found a use for it.  These days this is called recycling but that word didn’t really exist in the 1960s.

Anyway, Murray and Joe had got one of these sheets of corrugated iron.  They were careful to select one with the least number of holes in it.   They then beat all the corrugations out of it to make it as flat as possible, then they folded it right down the middle of the whole length, to create what then started to look like the beginnings of a canoe.  The next step was to get a 12 inch length of 4b2 wood (4 inches by 2 inches) for the bow, and nail one end of the sheet around this.  Then a larger piece of wood was fixed at the other end to make a stern.

By now their sheet of tin really was looking like a canoe but of course it still had lots of places where the water would be able to leak in.  What they then needed was a tube of mastic, but I don’t think that had been invented then either, however, the road outside was made of stones held together by tar.  In those days “tar-seal”, as it was called, was great stuff but in the hot summer months you would get patches of black tar that would turn to a sticky mess.  Murray and Joe spent some time out on the road scraping off some of the tar patches and they then used this to fill all the holes in their canoe until it was reasonably watertight.

They could have made some proper paddles, but the canoes were quite small, so they didn’t bother, instead they just used some pieces of wood that they held in their hands.  No thought was given to life jackets, as back in those days people didn’t think about things like that very much.  Murray and Joe carried their canoes across their paddock and launched them on the river.  They climbed in and then sailed off going with the current on quite a long journey, all the way down stream to the Old Ford (near the scout hut).  This was a distance of about 1.3 miles (2km) and apparently it took them quite some time, but they made it and Murray’s father met them at journey’s end and then took them home.  Wow!  What an adventure!  No sane parent would allow two 12 year olds to do this today.  I would have loved to have been involved in their canoe project, but I didn’t get to hear about it until much later.  I was extremely impressed.

On TV this year, and in previous years, I remember a regular item of news was about the Vietnam War.  This was a bit of a fiasco that the United States had got involved in, and Australia and New Zealand subsequently got dragged into it.  People often look back at the politicians and feel it was all their fault, but it is not as simple as that.  It was more just a combination of events that played out over quite a long period.  New Zealand was actively involved from 1964 to 1971 and over this time 37 New Zealand soldiers lost their lives.  On the news there were reports of operations and casualties but as we got towards the end of 1971 it slowly fizzled out and I remember seeing the coverage on TV showing people leaving the United States Embassy on the last helicopter out of the place.  It all seemed a bit far away to us.

Another item in the news was the civil war in East Pakistan.  Independence was declared and a new country called Bangladesh emerged but lots of people were starving as famine ravaged the country.


1971: Set of stamps to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the famous New Zealand Physicist, Lord Rutherford.


The Post Office issued some stamps to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the famous Physicist Lord Rutherford (1c and 7c).  Ernest Rutherford had been born and educated in New Zealand and then moved to England, where he became a very active scientist involved in all sorts of experiments involving radio waves and subatomic particles.  At school we were told that Lord Rutherford was the first person to split the atom and this conjured up visions in my mind of him sitting at his dining table with a very fine knife but of course it was a lot more complicated than that.  Ernest Rutherford really was one of my heroes and if he could do all this then surely we could too.

Another New Zealander who went off and did great things was the racing driver Bruce McLaren but in 1971 we got the sad news that he had been killed in a crash.

Back in our class at Avon School, Mr Neve organised a really great field trip up on the mountain.  We travelled up in the school bus and we were also accompanied by another man, I don’t know his name, but he was an expert on all the native trees and plant life.  He told us about how the plants were adapted for their individual environments (I already knew this because my Mum had taught me). 

He also told us about a vegetable caterpillar (my Mum had not told me about this one).  He actually managed to dig around in the ‘bush’ and find a mummified example to show us.  

The vegetable caterpillar is really a caterpillar that gets eaten by a fungus.  The caterpillar is the larval form of a moth (Aoraia dinodes or Dumbletonius) and this would be happily eating leaves on the floor of the bush but, without it knowing, it accidentally consumes a tiny spore of the fungus (Ophiocordyceps Robertsii).  The caterpillar then goes underground to have a rest and start thinking about metamorphosizing into a moth, but no such luck.  The little spore starts to multiply and quickly eats the unsuspecting caterpillar, from the inside out, and then grows a small stem through the head of the caterpillar up above to the surface.  From there all the newly grown spores are scattered around the floor of the bush ready to wait for another unsuspecting caterpillar.  I felt a bit sorry for the poor caterpillar, what a way to die, but this of course is all part of the circle of life.

Another thing we were told about was the peripatus, or velvet worm.  This is a small worm or insect which is really a bit of both. They are often referred to as ‘living fossils’ as they are remarkably unchanged from 500 million years ago.  They are about 5cm long and live for about 5 years, feeding on insects.  Very unusual and we did not find any on our trip but my mother had once shown me one that she found in the garden.


1971: Avon School, Form 2, Trip to Egmont National Park (Mt Taranaki).

Female: Left to Right
Carolyn Maaka, Raewyn Bates, Pam Murphy, Terril Benton, Karina Thayer, Gayll Buckthought, Elizabeth Capper, Heidi Drescher, Sarah Stewart, Virginia Haimona, Lynette Little, L'raine Hill, Rebecca Western, Pauline Staveley, Janet Sulzberger, Verna Shelford.

Male: Left to Right
David Rogers, Graham Payton, Philip Mills, William Roa, ????, Murray Wharton, Nigel Dey, ????,    Steven Crow, Peter Couchman, Jeremy Heath-Caldwell, ????, Stephen Thomas, ????, Geoff Neve.


As we were driven up the mountain road in our bus, we were told how the plants changed as you get to higher altitudes (the plants get smaller).  The road took us up to the Plateau, which is located at an altitude of 3,845 ft (1,172m) and here the plants are just shrubs, not much higher than 6ft (1.8m).  Mr Neve gave me a very special job, which was to boil some water on a small gas stove and record the temperature at boiling point.  We noted that water boiled at a lower temperature and this was due to the air pressure being lower (as identified by John Dalton in 1803 when he produced his Law of Partial Pressures).  It was very handy having a mountain for us to carry out this experiment.

Denis Wheeler has reminded me that he and Murray Reed were not allowed on this particular trip as they had been naughty.  None of us can remember what their particular misdemeanour was but apparently while we were up on the mountain, they had to stay at school and sit in Mrs Bulmer’s class (poor guys).

Another trip that Mr Neve organised for us, was a visit for a few days to Palmerston North and from there a day trip down to Wellington (our capital city).  I am fairly certain that the whole class got to go on this trip including Murray and Denis.  We went by train from Stratford and there was an excellent photograph taken of the whole class on the platform at the Stratford Railway Station.  Some of the parents also came with us including Murray Wharton’s dad (John Wharton), Murray Reed’s mother (Essie Reed) and Stephen Thomas’ mother (Elva Thomas). 


1971: Avon School, Form 2, Trip by Train to Palmerston North.

Standing: Murray Reed, Gayll Buckthought, Murray Wharton, Elizabeth Capper, Rebecca Western, Janet Sulzberger, Lynette Little, Terril Benton, Steven Crow, Raewyn Bates, Barry Jordan, Geoff Neve, Stephen Thomas, Christine Tolland, Peter Couchman, Sarah Stewart, Pauline Staveley, Nigel Aldridge, Karina Thayer, Pamela Murphy, Philip Mills, Eric Hayward

Crouching: William Roa, Graham Payton, Heidi Drescher, Jeremy Heath-Caldwell, David Rogers, Nigel Dey, Bruce Vickers, Joseph Sheehan, Denis Wheeler, L'raine Hill, Virginia Haimona.


Mr Neve had previously taught in Palmerston North and so, through his old school, he arranged for us to all be billeted in other pupils' homes.  I had never been billeted before, so this was another word added to my vocabulary and it was also a great experience.  I stayed with a boy called Bernard Fowley whose parents were very well off and lived in a really great house.  Bernard had some fantastic models of the space rockets and the Apollo 11 landing craft.  It was wonderful to meet such intelligent people and I remember having quite a detailed conversation with his father about the future need for recycling glass bottles  These people were of course townies but very different from Stratford townies and they certainly were not country folk.

While we were in Palmerston North we visited the school and had a dance in the evening but I don’t remember much about that.  We made an interesting visit to a Flax Mill near Foxton and we also visited the Royal New Zealand Air Force base at Ohakea.  We drove through the main gate and as we passed a grey Vampire jet mounted up on a post, we really felt we were arriving at a very special place.  Inside the base there was a massive hanger and we were shown some of the old aeroplanes including a DC3 that the Queen had flown in when she had been on a royal visit quite a few years earlier.  We also saw an Orion maritime surveillance aircraft which had 4 engines and sticking out from the back of the tail was a funny looking pole.  The planes that I enjoyed seeing the most were the Skyhawk jets that could fly at 673mph (1,083km/h).  The RNZAF had taken delivery of 14 of these aircraft only one year previously (1970) so they were very new.  They were to use these aircraft up until 2001 when they were finally taken out of service.  I particularly remember being shown some of the electronic units inside that made them work.  The nose was just a piece of fiberglass but underneath was a miniature radar.  Incredible stuff.

The trip to Wellington was very memorable.  Mr Neve hired a bus and he also shared some of the driving with the bus driver.  We were very impressed to see that Mr Neve, as well as being able to play a piano and the guitar, he could also drive a big bus.  Years later I found out that he could also fly an aeroplane.  Amazing guy! 


1971: Avon School, Form 2, Trip by Bus from Palmerston North to Wellington.

Female: Left to Right
Karina Thayer, Pam Murphy, Lynette Little, L’raine Hill, Sarah Stewart, Pauline Staveley?, Rebecca Western, Gayll Buckthought, Heidi Drescher, Raewyn Bates, Terril Benton, Christine Tolland, Janet Sulzberger, Virginia Haimona, Elizabeth Capper?, Mrs Thomas (Elva), Mrs Reed (Essie),

Male: Left to Right
William Roa, Mr Wharton (John), David Rogers, Steven Crow, Nigel Aldridge, Joseph Sheehan, Stephen Thomas, Jeremy Heath-Caldwell, Philip Mills, Peter Couchman, Bruce Vickers, Geoff Neve.


In Wellington we had a ride on the Cable Car up the hill and from there we were able to view all of the city including seeing the ships in the harbour.  We then visited Avalon which was the TV station and we saw Philip Sherry reading the news.  After that we went to Parliament where we were met by our local MP David Thompson and also the MP Les Gander (my dad’s boss 12 years previously).  I did take the trouble to introduce myself to him but I am not sure if he really knew who I was, after all I was only a 12 year old little squirt!  Or maybe I got David Thompson mixed up with Les Gander, in which case David Thompson would not have had a clue as to who I was!  Eventually we all made it back to Palmerston and the next day back to Stratford.  A great time had by all.  Thank you Mr Neve.

Janet King (Sulzberger) and Denis Wheeler have reminded me that a few weeks later we had a presentation in the school hall for our parents to hear all about our adventure.  Apparently, Denis gave an overview of our visit to the Ohakea Airbase and he said how much we had enjoyed seeing all the Skyhawks on the “tampax” (should have been tarmac).  Apparently all the parents roared with laughter.

One other thing to note about this trip, is that Mr Neve lent me his camera and this was the first time I ever used one of these little boxes of magic and it gave me the opportunity to figure out how cameras worked.  This particular camera was probably about 5 years old and was now a spare, as he had recently bought himself a more modern one.  As I mentioned earlier, cameras in those days were not digital and they did not have a memory.  Instead they used film and there were a number of variables that had to be considered before you took a photograph. 

First you had to note the speed of the film and this was designated by a number written on the side of the film cartridge.  Standard film was 100ASA, as this was the best compromise between speed and detail.  200ASA film did not need as much light (exposure), so it could work at higher shutter speeds giving less blur, but the image would be more grainy in appearance.  50ASA would be slower and so would require a longer exposure time.  Any movement would produce an unwanted blur, but the image would be less grainy (finer detail).  As a general rule, if you were taking photos of a sport event, it would be good to use a fast film like 200ASA or 400ASA but if you were taking a picture of a flower, you would get the best results by using slower film like 50ASA.  Of course, this was all a bit complicated, so most amateur photographers just used 100ASA all the time and made the most of it.

The film was very expensive, especially if you bought colour (black & white was cheaper) and later on you would need to pay extra to get it developed (printed).  The film came in a small box, inside which was a special sealed tube and inside that was the film cartridge.  You opened up the back of the camera and placed the film cartridge inside and threaded the end through.  Then you closed the back and wound the film along 2 stops (frames).  The camera would then be ready to go, once you had set the shutter speed, exposure and focus. 

To help determine these settings, you had a separate item, which was a light exposure meter and this had a very complicated looking dial on it.  So, for a moment you would put the camera down and you would concentrate on the light meter, setting the dial to the correct position for the film speed and your desired shutter speed.  For general use you would go for a speed of 1/125 second but for a moving subject you might select a faster shutter speed of 1/250 second or even faster.  For a stationary subject you might use a slower speed of 1/60 second.  Having chosen the speed, you then read off the reading and this gave you an aperture setting for the camera lens.  You then put the light meter down and you once more picked up the camera.  You set your shutter speed to the desired number, then you set the aperture setting to the calculated value.

As you have guessed, this all took quite some time and if you were unlucky your subject might have completely disappeared during this interval.  Assuming your subject was still there, you were now almost in business.  You would take a quick guess as to how far away the subject was and you then set the focus dial to the required distance.  Then you pointed the camera and clicked the button “click!”.  Big smiles all around.  Immediately afterward you pulled the lever across to move the film along and set a new frame ready for your next shot.

As I mentioned, film was very expensive, so you only took a photo when you really wanted a particular shot and you certainly did your best to keep wasted shots to a minimum.  A film would have either 24 or 36 frames, so eventually you would have shot the lot, and the film would reach its end and would go no further.  At that stage you would pull up another lever and wind all the film back into its cartridge, then open the back of the camera, remove the cartridge and place it inside its special sealed tube.  Next time you were in town, you would take the film to the chemist (Sturmer’s Pharmacy in Stratford), as they were the people who developed films in those days.  A week later your photos would be ready for collection.

There were numerous things that could go wrong, but I would need another 5 pages to cover that, so it might be best if I stop here.  A few years after this, a new type of camera called an “instant camera” or “instamatic” came out and these cameras were point and shoot with no dials to be set.  This was great but the quality of the image was always very poor.

Around this time Mum decided that we needed to learn more about money, so she set up bank accounts for us and we got an allowance of $2 per week, paid by direct debit into our bank accounts.  At home we all mucked in and did our various jobs around the house, washing dishes etc and this money was a sort of recognition of our contribution.  While it was not a lot of money, to us it was fantastic.  We could now go out and spend, but we knew the value of money, so in general we concentrated on saving and we kept the spending to a minimum.  I think we all learned a lot from this exercise.

Another big difference when comparing the 1960s to the present day (2020) is that people back then rarely lived on credit.  Most things were paid for with cash or by writing a cheque.  I remember that when my mother sold her Morris Mini car and bought a Morris 1100, she paid part of it with monthly instalments spread over the year but other than that, I don’t think she ever bought anything else on credit.  Most people just lived within their means, as there was no easy way to borrow money and we certainly didn’t have any financial adverts on TV telling us anything different.  Credit cards did not exist and they weren’t to appear until the late 1970s.


1971: Avon School, Form 2 Photo.  Teacher Mr Neve (Geoff Neve).

Nigel Dey, David Rogers, Barry Jordan, Philip Mills, Peter Couchman, Murray Reed, Murray Wharton, Stephen Thomas, Eric Hayward, Nigel Aldridge, Geoff Neve.

Denis Wheeler, Dianne Rogers, Terril Benton, Elizabeth Capper, Janet Sulzberger, Verna Shelford, Pauline Staveley, Gayll Buckthought, Sarah Stewart, Shirley Ngarau, Pam Murphy, Bruce Vickers.

Jeremy Heath-Caldwell, William Roa, Heidi Drescher, Lynette Little, Karina Thayer, Christine Tolland, Virginia Haimona, L'raine Hill, Rebecca Western, Graham Payton, Joseph Sheehan.


Eventually my eight years at Avon School were coming to an end.  It was time to move up to Stratford High School which was located right over on the east side of town, on the north side of the Patea River.  It was the only high school in Stratford, so it was geared up to take everyone, of all abilities. 

We had been there a few years earlier when the Governor-General, Sir Arthur Porritt had made an official visit to Stratford.  That had been a great experience, so we had very positive feelings about the High School.  The Governor-General had stood up and made a short speech and told us he was very pleased to see us and that we could all have an extra day’s holiday.  In our eyes, anybody who could award us a day off school was obviously a great guy.

We now had to visit the High School once more, this time to sit in the big assembly hall and complete our entrance exam.  The reason for this test was to grade us, so that we could then be streamed into the right class.  Of course, we did not really understand any of this but the exam itself was multichoice and for me, this was fantastic.  No requirement to write anything.  I just had to tick the right boxes.  It was a doddle.

In addition to the stamps celebrating the anniversary of Ernest Rutherford’s birth, there was also a stamp to mark the 50th anniversary of the ‘Rotary International’ in New Zealand.  I had no idea what the Rotary Club was but I do remember a gold Rotary symbol up on one of the power poles, visible as you drove into Stratford.  As it was in gold, I assumed it must be something very special.  Years later, around 2008 I joined Rotary and have been an active member ever since.


1971: Stamps commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Country Women’s Institutes and the 50th anniversary of Rotary International in New Zealand.


A very special stamp that we all loved in Stratford was new 23c stamp which depicted a picture of our mountain with the view taken from near Stratford.  How better could you get than that!


1971: New 23c stamp showing Mt Egmont (Mt Taranaki).


Another thing that happened in 1971 was that my grandmother Violet Heath-Caldwell died but we were not in contact and so did not find out until a few years later.