My time at Kaingaroa Forest School …1939 to 1945
Compiled in December 2002 and September 2003 by Fred Johnson To Fred's Page
The great Kaingaroa Forest lies to the south-east of Rotorua. The headquarters of the forest is about 32 miles, 50 km, from Rotorua.
My father was a forester and was transferred there from Invercargill so I arrived at Kaingaroa Forest School during late 1939 and made the sixth pupil! It was a sole-teacher school and near to closing. When I left at the end of 1945 there were many more than twelve of us!
The original school comprised two forestry huts joined together to make one room. It was located in the complex of buildings that formed the forestry headquarters.
Another but smaller forestry hut was placed alongside to form a “playroom”. This photo is taken outside the door of the "playroom". The date is thought to be 1942 or 1943, before the move to the "new" school premises.
Seated cross-legged in the front: Judith Johnson (my sister).
First row: Esmay Fryer, Penuel Daniels, Donny Fryer, WHO?, Rodney Daniels, Nola Wrathall, Geraldine Wrathall. (Isa Dunnett = WHO??)
Second row: Bobby Collins, WHO??, Terry Fryer, WHO? (Jo Erickson and Don Ericson = WHO??)
Third row: Pauline Hetherington, Fred Johnson, June Fryer.
Toilets? The girls had to run home! The boys used a toilet that was nearby and used by the mechanics at the forestry's transport workshop and by other workers in the camp.
An open fire was used to heat the schoolroom. Feeding it with chopped-up wood was a chore that involved all the pupils. A lean-to shelter was built on the back of the schoolroom to act as the firewood store. The wood was delivered free by forestry truck but it had to be chopped and split, reduced it in size to fit the fireplace. Cleaning the fireplace was another chore.
The teacher when I first arrived, was a Mr George Cook. He was called up for "active service" in the Royal New Zealand Air Force in World War II. Later, word was received that he had been killed over Europe - aged 24.
You can read details at: http://www.cwgc.org and search for Cook, G W.
More complete details are here: http://www.aircrewremembrancesociety.com/raf1943/blincoe.html
His parents lived in Otorohanga. They sent a box of his books to our school for distribution among his pupils. My selection is a book called "Weeds of New Zealand" by E W Hilgendorf. It has: “G. Cook, Training College, Auckland”, in handwriting inside the front cover. I still have this book and treasure it. I have placed a short inscription inside the front cover giving this background.
More than 60-years on, on Thursday 4 September 2003, I visited the cemetery at Amersfoort in the Netherlands and took these photographs. The grave of Sergeant George Wood Cook is shown in the centre in this picture. Other members of the crew of his aircraft are also buried in the cemetery with two to the right in this photograph.
The words on the gravestone are engraved into the stone and are difficult to photograph using only the available natural light. This photo has been digitally processed to improve the resolution.
The inscription reads:
ROYAL N.Z. AIR FORCE
3RD FEBRUARY 1943 AGE 24
Mr Cook and the school pupils built an “arboretum” or "shade house" on some open land behind the school. It was a framework of sticks with a covering of sacks to produce shade for ferns and other plants to flourish. Mr Cook’s love of plants was an encouragement to all of us. He took us on “nature study” walks, bringing back plants that were dug into place for display and for study in the arboretum. Watering these plants in summer was a bit of a chore. The pumice earth didn’t help!
So in September 2003 it was nice to find his grave surrounded with greenery. He would have appreciated that.
The school "library" was a shelf at the back of the room. I remember when a new lot of books arrived by mail from Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd. It included "Milly-Molly-Mandy" and similar tales, all selected and ordered by the Teacher and the School Committee. The "School Journal" was received regularly, one personal copy for each of us.
Cleaning the school was done by two pupils appointed on a term-by-term basis. We stayed after school each afternoon and swept the floor and generally “cleaned up”. For this effort we received a small sum, paid as pocket money by the School Committee.
Sometime around 1943 or 1944, a “new school” was built. This was a single room with the luxury of an entrance hall, somewhere where we could hang our wet coats. There was a hand-basin in this entrance-way with water (cold) fed from a tank outside that held rain-water from the roof.
The site was where the present school is located, it was in the corner of an empty paddock. This “new” building in 2002 still existed and was used as a resource centre. A “play-shed” was built opposite the entrance door with two “long-drop” toilets beyond the play-shed. The paper in the long-drop was newspaper, carefully cut up to an appropriate size and hung on a nail behind the door!
I'm at the top on the left of this photograph, wearing a USA steel helmet, a left-over from the US forces occupation of the "Northern Boundary" of the forest for training. We're all drinking the awful re-constituted milk! This picture is taken at the entrance porch to the new school building.
This schoolroom was heated by a pot-belly stove. It was someone’s job to arrive at school early and to light the fire, a “monitor’s task”.
It was possible to completely fill the stove with pinecones and to get the stove roaring with parts of it and the chimney pipe glowing red-hot! The heat in the room became unbearable! (Safety? What safety?) Rules were soon made to ensure that conventional firewood was used and that the stove was never filled to more than half-way with cones! The pinecones were collected in sugar-bags by the pupils from under the nearby forest trees.
Someone discovered that you could light a piece of paper and watch it disappear down the long drops. After an event in which the accumulated paper at the bottom of the long drop caught alight, this activity was curtailed!
The teachers I remember are (my apologies if I have the spelling wrong!):
George Cook, George Wilkinson, Miss Lois Jolly, Miss Jacqueline Bull, Mr Shepherd.
Mr Shepherd lived in a forestry hut placed in a corner of the new school grounds. Previous teachers had previously "boarded" with one of the local families.
On one “Arbor Day” we planted trees around the perimeter of the new school. Some were noted as planted by individual pupils.
Pupils I remember during my time and in no special sequence are (again, my apologies for spelling errors!):
Pauline Hetherington, June Fryer, Esmay Fryer, Terry Fryer, Donny Fryer, Don Erickson (he had a younger sister, Jo?), Geraldine Wrathall, Nola Wrathall, Isa Dunnett, Penuel Daniels (she had a brother at school too, Rodney), Rangi Takuira and his young brother Desmond Takuira, Bobby Collins.
Top Row: Me (Fred Johnson), Esmay Fryer, Don Erickson, ? , Rangi Takuira.
Second Row: ?, Terry Fryer, Judith Johnson (my sister), Penuel Daniels, Desmond Takuira.
Third Row: Donny Fryer, Isa Dunnett ?, Rodney Daniels, ?.
Front Row: ?, ?, Martin Dunnett, ?, (another Fryer).
Being wartime, we did not venture very far, but I do remember trips to swim in “Kerosene Creek” and to Waiotapu School for a picnic and a rather primitive “sports day”.
We were regularly taken to the “Native School” at Murupara for dental treatment. The forestry’s ex-army ambulance was used to transport all of us there. The ambulance would return later in the day to take us home. The Murupara school’s pupils would stare in awe as the ambulance arrived to take the “Kaingaroa Kids” away! Not a good advertisement for the dental nurse!
The dental-drill the nurse used was pedal-driven. It was not a pleasant experience! I can still hear the cries from some of our kids protesting at undergoing this treatment/torture.
The “apples-in-schools” and the “milk-in-schools” schemes are remembered. We got dried milk, supplied in big tin containers enclosed in a wooden case. It was some-one’s daily job (another monitor) to make up the milk. It was awful stuff. Most of the Kaingaroa families had “house cows” so there was plenty of fresh milk and the dried milk was an awful and unnecessary imposition. We provided (and washed) our own mugs/cups. The hygiene standard was probably not very high! The apples arrived in a “40-pound” case in season and we ate our way through them, one apple each per day.
I can only describe my time at Kaingaroa Forest School as very pleasant days indeed!