The 60th anniversary reunion of Ōtaki College drew well in excess of 300 former students and staff on the two days of April 26-27.
Falling a week after Easter and only a day after Anzac Day, many former associates of the college from out of town and overseas took the opportunity to visit for several days. They met up with family and friends – and even fellow military personnel at the dawn service and RSA on Anzac Day – but it was the reunion that was the highlight for many.
For some, such as Sandy Smith, it was the first time back to Ōtaki for decades. Much has changed in and around the town, but what has been a constant has been the friendships and mateships forged when all of us went to school together.
Smiles led to hugs as recognition was confirmed, sometimes only after a glance at a name tag. Memories came back, and anecdotes of what we all got up to were compared, occasionally embellished for effect. Teachers’ names were to the fore – those liked and those loathed (no doubt in reverse for the staff who also attended).
It’s clear that much has changed at the college. It’s hard to believe that up until the mid 1970s, for example, the cane was still in liberal use by some teachers.
Although most of us still feel proud of our old school, pride was not a key part of what it was about then. Students tended to be manufactured through the system, considered good academically or with their hands, fit for home-making, or just “good for nothing”. We were more of a commodity than an individual.
That has certainly changed.
It will be interesting to hear what students of today say about the school in another 60 years.
Students in the first classes at college in 1959 and 1960 lead a parade from The Domain along the college driveway.