Kohimarama Primary School

Kohi School logo

The view of Rangitoto Island from Kohimarama beach, in Auckland Harbour.

It all started in Auckland New Zealand on the 3rd of January 1933-on the North Shore of Auckland City. Dad was a telegraphist with the Post Office and Mum was a nurse. They had a section in Selwyn Ave Mission Bay (on the Auckland side of the harbour) and built on it –with the aid of Dad’s brother Norman, who was a carpenter-of course this was before WW2.

After shifting into our new house, and a couple of years later, I went to Kohimarama Primary School at the age of five.

While the building was going on Mum Dad and I lived in a house directly over the road from where our house was to be. Norman was very fussy in the materials to be used in the construction–and often was the time when he did not accept sub quality materials — especially timber. He would be laughed at today for doing such a thing–as we should know from the inferior products that are used today–built in obselescence I would call it. One thing I am reminded of at this stage — when I was 18months old I tried and nearly succeeded to drown some kittens of the next door cat—but in future got on well with the neighbours.

And the World War 2 arrived.And my sister, Annette Hannah, my only sibling, was born on December 1st. 1940. Dad was really tied up with communications, in the telegraph, as far as the War went and was on call as well as working extremely long hours at the Post Office where he was an expert on thhe morse key, and on his retirement in 1957 was the fastest morse key operator in New Zealand at 42 words a minute, and also was known for his easy to read style.

And of course when the Japanese came into the War the pressure was really on. And the tension was felt in the office and from afar.There was a real fear from the Rising Sun.Which the adults were more aware of.

As far as school was concerned there seemed to be no disruption to the routine. Most probably we ( the students ), were too young –in the early days of the war– to recognise the horror of the most devastating disruption the had ever encompassed the Earth. There were teachers with names like Miss Gezzie, Mr Atkins–Tommy–of course. The headmaster was Mr.Carr–known as Nobby.

All year long we went to school in bare feet–a great idea–but the girls had their feet covered. In the summer we went to Kohimarama Beach to swim-supervised by our teacher–the toilet there had a joke written on the wall-“Here I sit lonely hearted paid a penny and only farted”.Also there was the other “Toilet Joke.”–“When into this place I enter, to dispose of what I eat, place it in the center ,and not upon the seat”

One of our teachers took a very grim outlook to one of the students– Jimmy Green–and at any excuse he would give Jim a “Half Dozen”. When I think of this now I think of a very sick situation. The name of the teacher was, Robert Charles Smith–R C, for short, but not for long—Arsey that is.

In 1943, I was riding my bike and in the process fell off. I hit the road with my mouth open and happened to break one of my front teeth, This required a root filling, a gold post and core and a crown, which was in that new material Acrylic. As this material was in its infancy it was not very hard, and tended to discolour. As it would happen 10 months later I was riding a friends bike, which was a fixed wheeler, riding along I forgot this and tried to stop peddaling, of course I came off again, and believe it or not broke the crown. Dad was a little upset by this and said I had to pay for the new crown myself. This was done by getting a job delivering groceries for Mr. Taylor, the local grocer, after school. This was the first job I had, aged 10.These events seemed to say that the said John was accident prone, which I was!!!. A few months later I was up the road at Jo Brown’s house when I saw a birds’ nest in a tree. Being me, I climbed up the said tree and out onto a branch–which promptly broke. Falling down onto the ground I received a broken arm–greenstick fracture to the radius or ulna– or both. Jo Brown was a lady who lived in a large house—she and Freddy, her husband had no children– she had some Maori Heritage in her a was a nice lady . Of course this was during the War, and in the hospital I was put into a men’s ward to keep space for wounded soldiers elsewhere. The fracture was hard to set and I had a few anaesthetics during the next week. By the way the anaethesia was chloroform and ether–pleasant ? –a definite no !!

In my last year at “Kohi” school I had a job at the local Chemist, which entailed deliveries–and mixing ointments–which the apprentice thought was a good idea as it really required a lot of physical work. At the end of the day it was delivery time , on the bicycle and the Manager of the shop made sure that there were a few deliveries to do , and the further up the hills of Mission Bay the better. I remember one of the parcels was OrthoGynol and that , for sure, had to be delivered that night. The shop was on the waterfront at Mission Bay and was a great place to work, a few hours a day.

Talking in the chemical field–one of my fellow students acquired a severe infection and was one of the first in Auckland to receive Penicillin as a treatment for his condition. He had many injections and his upper arm looked like they had been wounded in battle. Also at times I delivered the “Auckland Star” newspaper.

The war effort was in fullswing and, as students we took up the task of making up camoflage nets, and of course soon became experts in fabricating knots to form the webbing of the quite large nettings. Near to Mission Bay at Glenn Innes there was, a U S Army base, and boys being boys a group of us used to go there, on our bikes, and forage through the old and used material. This was in the form of rubber inner tubes for tyres –which we used to make shanghais, and was there a lot of empty Coca Cola bottles which we lined up for Target practice with our shanghais.

A friend of mine–was schoolmate–Peter Clifton–who lived in St Heliers and went to Kohi School, often used to ask me to his home. The first time I went, aged about nine, was via the Holgate Street Steps. At the top of these steps was sign-Pedestrians Only. I mixed this word up for Presbyterians, and thought that as I was not one of those, the steps were out for me. But it did not take long for the mixup to be rectified, and I proceded down the steps with glee. There was also Norman Atkins-no relation to our teacher– Norman was a great drawer, and his images of the Spitfire aircraft were excellent–here is a photo of one —-and also the Hurricane

The war was over — after the dropping of the A Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki–in August 1945. Of course we were given the day of school and I headed to the City — where, even though I was only 12yrs old– we joined in the crowd– which blocked all the traffic in the main streets. There was the sound of a klaxon horn, which could be heard from a great distance. And the beer was really flowing–with all the other alcoholic beverages–and the girls were in great demand, for a cuddle or a peck on the cheek. And it took a few days to clean up the mess in Queen Street–and what a mess it was.Of course this was my last year of School at Kohimarama Primary—Which had the motto–Enter to Learn Leave to Serve. If my memory serves me right,I was at this school for seven years.  There were many students down the years whom I made friends with — the near neighbours ! The Taylors -Patriach–Emil, Matriarch–Myrtle, and the Seven Sons

John McGeachen and David Taylor held by fathers Doug and Emil.

David, John, Paul, Max, Ian, Alan and Ralph. Their residence was up the road, by two houses, from our place. Then across the road and up a few places were the Smiths, Mr. and Mrs.—then, Iris, Joyce, Betty, Gweny, Gordon, Murray and Percy.I went to school with all these students, and I must add that there were a few Girls in the Classes but of course that was on a need to know basis.

During all these years of course there was the Saturday Afternoon at the Movies. All the school kids were given 9 pence for the “Arvo” Sixpence for the Movie and Threepence for an ice cream. There were shorts, a serial–The Green Archer–The Lone Ranger–The Shadow–etc etc. By the way if you were naughty during the week you could be banned-by your parents– from attending–a very severe penalty.

The Standard Six was the end of the Kohi School sojourn–that was in 1945–and then it was on to New Plymouth Boys’ High School–in1946.

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