Sixty years on ...
by Barbara Jordan
Merle Snell (left) and Barbara Jordan (right)
In 1953 I first met Merle when we began our Secondary Education at Hamilton Technical College. Sixty years on we are still friends and have enjoyed being instrumental in keeping our classmates in touch with each other over the years since then.
In 1978 twenty five years after starting at Hamilton Tech, Merle and I decided it was time we caught up with the class and set about tracking them down to organise a reunion, an event that was to be the start of a unique bond between us all.
By gradually contacting the ex-students we each knew and then the ones they knew we built up a register and eventually tracked the whole class down. Not an easy task given that in those days married women changed their names.
That first reunion, when we were in our late thirties was timely. With families at an independent stage we were able to commit to a weekend of celebrations. The classmates by then were scattered mainly around the North Island so travel was involved for many. It was a happy coincidence when one of our more flamboyant class members, dressed in a white flowing cape and fedora hitching along the Desert Road was picked up by another classmate.
Since that first reunion, periodically the call would go out and Merle and I would set things in motion for us to once again reminisce and catch up with each other's stories.
Nowadays we meet annually and have done so from the time we realised that being older meant most were in a position to be flexible with their time. We keep the first Friday in May free and congregate in Hamilton to catch up each year. It is not unknown for overseas travel and new hip and knee joints to be put aside to attend.
Spread further now some of our mates travel from Oz. Having a set date means they can take advantage of the 'specials' to fly across the Tasman.
This year it will be 60 years since the first day we were all thrust together as a class and we intend to make it a special event. Hopefully we will be able to visit our old campus.
Unlike the establishment that graces our city's prime site above 'the wall' today our 'Hamilton Tech' prepared their students to go straight from the classroom to paid employment or trade apprenticeships at 15 or 17 years. It offered courses in Engineering, Building, Agriculture, Commercial, Home Science and Professional Studies.
All that remains of our 'Tech' is Wintec House, where as a commercial studies class we learnt shorthand/typing - the area now occupied by the beauty parlours. The boys vied for positions on the 'fives courts' now the Atrium, and our swimming pool I believe has become the goldfish pond.
Nonetheless the place will still evoke the memories of our younger years. We watched the celebrated Waikato Winter Show as it took place in the Bledisloe Hall and the fairground below. We'll remember being called to assembly to learn that Hillary had conquered Everest. We'll remember how the boys in the class would own up to the girls' misdemeanours because it was more efficient for them to line up for a caning than to wait half an hour for the girls to complete detention after school.
Hopefully we will be joined by two of our favourite teachers Pauline and Joe Hughes. Their lifelong romance blossomed when she was our shorthand typing teacher and he was the boys gym master. Now happily in their eighties they too enjoy our celebrations.
Class reunion 2011
Merle and Barbara, 2012. Photo by Tracey Smith