Ann Somerville writes of Pakeho school, near Te Kūiti.
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Contributed by Ann Somerville
Just before you reach the King Country town of Te Kūiti there’s a bank of signs pointing west. It used to include a small district called Pakeho – these days it is not even
named. But if you take the turn and travel about 15 kilometres on a winding road west you’re there, you’re in Pakeho.
The Pakeho school that I went to opened its doors to six pupils in June 1946. Neither building permits nor resource consents were an issue at that time: farmers with children
to educate simply went and picked up a deserted school from nearby Troopers Road. (The original Pakeho school opened in 1917, and at its peak had a roll of 29 children. It closed in 1928).
My sisters and I rode horses two miles to school each day. The horses grazed in the horse paddock during the day, and after school we lined up on the gate, ready to make a flying leap aboard. Pupils at Pakeho school had garden plots, and the older children spent some of the day teaching the primers. Over the years teachers boarded with my family: one, the late Ian Johnstone, rode to school on an ancient racehorse called Rainbird. There were knowing nods at his townie’s habit of leaning inwards when Rainbird went around a corner.
The end of the Second World War saw a surge in the numbers of settlers in Pakeho. By the early 1950s nine families had been aided onto farms created from three large ones, as part of the government’s far-reaching servicemen’s resettlement programme. ‘Rehab’ families were welcomed into the district with typical country warmth, joining older settlers like the Nicols, Boddies, Cleavers and Lembergs. A new and larger Pakeho school opened on 12 October 1953, reflecting the increasing numbers of children in the flourishing district. There was a huge feeling of community at this time, of enthusiasm for brave new beginnings and faith in hard work.
The road to Pakeho is now sealed. Cars speed over it to lifestyle blocks. The school has long gone, but the memories linger. In 2004 Pakeho school celebrated its 50th jubilee, and a round-up of old-timers and former pupils, aided by photographs, remembered the heyday when the school and nearby hall were the hub of local life.
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