SENIORS: Senior staff and prefects of 1940.

As Whakatane High School’s centenary in April next year approaches, the Eastern Bay Life continues its monthly look into the school’s history. This week we cover the decade from 1940 to 1949.

1940

THIS is the year the roll passes100 for the first time. There are 119 students enrolled. Petrol restrictions put hold to a number of sporting exchanges. “On active service” becomes a new heading in the school magazine. In the first year of the war, 42 former students are overseas fighting for their country.

1941

THE highlight of 1941 is the opening of the new rooms, which doubles the size of the school. These comprised three class rooms, library, teachers room, boiler room, and a stoke room. This is an extension of the original A block that will later be burnt down, in 1980.

Due to so many young men being away at the war there is a shortage of workers to harvest the maize. It is the Whakatane District High School boys and girls that come to the rescue for one farmer in Poroporo. All the money raised is used to buy books for the new library.

Alan Stewart is awarded a Rhodes scholarship.

1942-1943

THESE are the dark years of the Pacific war, as the Japanese threat comes ever closer. As part of the war effort, to save paper and print, there are no school magazines, so these are very much the forgotten years in terms of historical records.

The new headmaster is Mr I B Hubbard.

The inspector’s report of April portrays some aspects of school life. There are three courses.

Professional, Commercial and General. All pupils are given singing while a large number of clubs function, for example, stamps, Maori carving, drama, young farmers, and natural history. The headmaster is teaching all the agriculture and military drill, a heavy load.

There is an active and industrious spirit in the school. The tone and discipline are very good.

1944

THE United Nations armies are on German soil. The Royal Navy lacks serious opposition on the high seas, the Luftwaffe are practically driven from the skies and steady advances are made over the Japanese in the Pacific.

At Whakatane District High School a speech contest is held. A school council is formed. The cadet unit gains an armory, and a learn to swim pool is opened. The first plans appear for the building of an assembly hall that will connect A and B blocks. The school roll is 214. Cricket regains the Baker Cup, the rugby XV are undefeated.

Lieutenant Colonel Jack Conolly, decorated with the Distinguished Service Order, visited the school. Jack had been one of the first staff members to enlist. He fought in North Africa and achieved distinction at the Mareth line when he led his battalion through positions that the tanks had not been able to pass. For this exploit he was awarded the DSO.

1945

THE war ends. Both Germany and Japan surrender to the allied forces. But joy is tarnished with sadness as news filters through describing the atrocities of Belsen, Bataan, Oswiecim, Burma railway, and the results of atomic warfare on the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The school becomes headquarters for a used clothing collection organised by United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. These clothes line the corridors before being sent to Europe to help keep the victims of war warm during their bitter winter.

1946

“THIS year must surely go down as one of the most unsatisfactory in the history of the school.” That was a quote from the editorial written by the headmaster. He would appear to have had good reason to complain.

One laboratory is inadequate to cope with 250 science students particularly when it serves as an ordinary classroom as well. More serious has been the staff shortage. Some classes have had as many as six teachers for a single subject. Changes this year have been so numerous that it will hardly be possible to chronicle them all.

However, school life goes on as usual and examination results are none the worse for the difficulties faced by pupils and staff.

1947

SCHOOL closes three weeks early this year, on November 22, due to a polio outbreak across the country. Rooms 7 and 8 are added, as well as a sick bay and girl’s cloakroom.

1948

THE polio epidemic continues into the new year and school starts late opening on March 1. In theory students receive lessons by correspondence but in practice little if any work is done. Because of the late start there are no athletic or swimming sports and no barracks week. No magazine is published this year.

1949

WHAKATANE District High School is disestablished due to the roll going over 300 and Whakatane High School is created. In 1919 there were 21 students, in 1949 there are 309.

The editor of the last magazine of Whakatane District High School has this to say;
“Whakatane District High School has achieved something worth while, that the new school should be able to take advantage of. A tradition of scholarship of which some evidence may be seen in the two Rhodes Scholars who received part of their education in Whakatane.

“A tradition of good sportsmanship on the playing field that shows cheerfulness in defeat and modesty in victory. A tradition of pride in the school. The parents of some of the present pupils in the secondary department received their secondary education in the young Whakatane District High School and as the years go by we should find more and more men and women who look back with affection to that school and its successor as their alma mater.”