Graffiti in walls a reminder of past skylarking

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Good old days...Former Gore High School pupils Doro thy Dodds, Ron Hargest, Wattie Gee and Barbara McRae took the chance for a final look at the buildings on Richmond St where they spent their school days and are due for demolition. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

The Gore District Council has decided to demolish two former Gore High School buildings at the school’s old site in Richmond St. The Ensign reporter Sandy Eggleston met former pupils Wattie Gee, Ron Hargest, Dorothy Dodds and Barbara McRae outside the buildings and listened to stories of their school days.

He cannot remember engraving his name on a building but there it is – W. Gee.

Names of other former pupils, including T. Farry and C. P. Robertson, are etched on the inside of weatherboards on one of the former Gore High School buildings due to be demolished.

The names became obvious after vandals damaged the inside lining of the building.

The Gore District Council last week approved demolition of the buildings, amid fears about ongoing vandalism and decay.

The boards will be given to the council’s heritage department.

Mr Gee said the names were on the inside of the building which was the sixth form lounge in his day.

“It is possible I may have done that but I can’t remember,” Mr Gee said.

He was not in the habit of writing his name on buildings, although he did sign the wall of Argyle Station’s woolshed in 1940.

Whether the inside of the building was lined or not he could not remember but if they were he was not sure how the boys gained access to the boards.

Before that, the building had been the metal work room.

There were bars on the rafters and the boys would pull themselves up and “try and chin the bar”.

He recalled the time he and a friend, Brian Scobie, were punished with a length of laboratory tubing for making noises in class.

“We went out to the dunnies to compare our marks – it definitely¬† left a red mark.”

It was not the only time Mr Gee received punishment.

“I got caned five times by the rector for smoking.”

Mr Gee started at Gore High School in 1940 and after completing sixth form went to Dunedin Teachers’ College to train as a primary teacher.

Ron Hargest, Dorothy Dodds and Barbara McRae started at the school in 1946.

Mr Hargest said the pupils had a good relationship with their teachers.

“We eventually all became good friends with our teachers.

“We loved our teachers.”

At interval and lunchtime, the boys and girls had separate outside areas to gather in.

One Monday in assembly, one of the teachers, Maggie Durward, caught sight of Mrs McRae’s sister Shirley, who had put a rinse through her hair at the weekend.

“In front of the whole school Maggie Durward called my sister out and said ‘whose that glorified gorse bush?’,” Mrs McRae said.

There were strict uniform rules.

“You had to wear your gloves and your hat and your tie,” Mrs McRae said.

“The girls had to kneel while Maggie Durward saw that their gym frocks were the correct distance off the ground,” Mr Gee said.

“The boys weren’t allowed to have long hair,” Mr Hargest said.

“No earrings for girls,” Mrs Dodds said.

Girls had to wear their gym frocks to the school social, Mr Gee said.

“And long black stockings,” Mrs Dodds added.

“It was amazing how glamorous some of them could look in a gym frock,” Mr Gee said.

“No meeting boys at the gates after the socials either,” Mrs Dodds said.

One teacher, Kennedy Black, came from Invercargill to take the pupils for singing lessons in the other prefab which is now due for demolition.

“He used to arrive every week drunk as a skunk,” Mrs Dodds said.

“He used to froth at the mouth too,” Mr Gee said.

“He was a good singing teacher – he used to get wild if you didn’t get it right,” Mrs Dodds said.

Mr Hargest caught the train to school.

“When I got in there here was a line of boys with gym shoes, so I had to walk the length of the carriage and they would give you a wallop as you walked along,” he said.