Five friends remember what it was like to start at Longford Intermediate School the day it opened in 1972.

The women met at the school’s 50th anniversary, held at the weekend, a year later than planned because of Covid restrictions last year.

The friends Karen Pullar, Judith McGrath (Trapski), Sue Templeton (Willocks), Joanne Speden and Anne Braid (Falconer), completed their final year of primary school at the intermediate.

They keep in touch via social networking sites.

Even though it was only for one year, the pupils looked forward to changing schools because they were first-day pupils, Ms Pullar said.

‘‘To be going to a brand new school and to be the first, I think that’s what was exciting.’’

Going to Gore High School the next year was more ‘‘daunting’’, Ms Speden said.

Ms Braid did not wear a uniform, as pupils who were attending the school for a year did not have to, but her mother did knit her a green cardigan which was part of the uniform.

‘‘It didn’t seem to bother me though,’’ she said.

Some of the women had previously been attending country schools where there were many year levels in each class, so it was interesting to be in a class where everyone was a similar age, Ms Pullar said.

That made forming a softball team much easier, she said.

Childhood friends . . . Longford Intermediate School first day pupils (from left) Karen Pullar of Wellington, Joanne Speden, of Auckland, Sue Templeton, of Ashburton, Judith McGrath, of Invercargill and Anne Braid, of Christchurch, enjoy catching up at the Longford Intermediate School reunion on Saturday. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

The pupils travelled to Gore Main School for home economics and woodwork.

‘‘It was the first year we actually did woodwork as well as cooking and sewing,’’ Ms Braid said.

‘‘Previously, the boys did the woodwork and the girls did cooking and sewing,’’ Ms Pullar said.

‘‘It was pretty revolutionary to let the girls do woodwork.’’

Gore man Wattie Gee was a first-day teacher at the school.

He would tell his class there was a time for speaking and a time for listening.

‘‘I used to explain to them there’s times when I have to listen to you and times when you have to listen to me.

‘‘Do it properly and it saves a lot of nonsense.’’

He remembered teaching a lesson on the effects of smoking.

The pupils knew he smoked a pipe, so he took it out and pushed a pipe cleaner through it to show them the build-up of tar.

He told them ‘‘this is the stuff that can get into your lungs if you smoke cigarettes’’.

He also confessed to the pupils he had been caned five times at high school for smoking.

One of the pupils asked him if he had been a ‘‘naughty boy’’ at school.

‘‘I said I wasn’t an angel.’’

On staff . . . Former Longford Intermediate principal Marie Pollard and teacher Wattie Gee were colleagues at the school a year after it opened in 1972. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Mr Gee was also the oldest staff member at the reunion and cut the anniversary cake at the Saturday night dinner.

Former principal Marie Pollard first starting working as a classroom teacher at the school in 1973, and then moved through the ranks to become the principal in 1993.

She enjoyed teaching the intermediate age group pupils, Mrs Pollard said.

‘‘They’re a real challenge, some of them, and you see them change from childhood to emerging adolescence — that’s an interesting time.’’

When the school opened it was popular, especially with rural parents, where there were not many children at each age level, she said.

‘‘The rural people saw it as [providing] more opportunities for their kids.’’

Dana Turnbull (Bain), of Pukerau, not only attended the school in the 1990s but returned there to teach in 2002.

It was her first year of teaching and she taught a year 8 class.

‘‘For me, it was a really great grounding.’’

Many of those pupils she kept in touch with today, she said.

‘‘I like to say we were in the same class together, which isn’t actually a lie.’’

Reunion committee member Wendy Muir said it was a ‘‘bittersweet’’ reunion, given the school would amalgamate with Gore High School in 2024.

About 117 people registered for the event.

‘‘There’s been lots of laughter and lots of reminiscing.’’

The decade with the largest number of people attending was 1972 to 1981.

‘‘Probably the majority of those are first [day] pupils from form one and form two.’’