Janie Taylor still remembers her first day at Te Miro School in the 1970s.
“We had a really stripy carpet – that’s such a vivid memory because I guess we spent a lot of time on the mat – and I remember playing on a really cool A-frame fort and climbing the big rimu tree out the front,” she said.
Today the fort has gone but the rimu tree remains and her children Kate (seven) and Tom (five), who now both attend the school, have just as much fun climbing it as she did.
Three generations of Janie’s family have been through Te Miro School, which lies in rolling hill country 24km northeast of Cambridge.
“It’s always been like one big family here,” Janie said, recalling many hours spent climbing trees, playing sport, swimming in the pool, building huts and riding horses to school.
“I feel so lucky seeing my children here now, having a great time with their friends in the way I did. I hope that in the future it means as much to them as it has done to our group that went through together.”
On March 6, Janie and more than 300 others will be celebrating enduring friendships at one of the biggest parties ever held in the area – the Te Miro School and District Centenary.
Open to all of Te Miro’s past and present students, staff and residents, the event was planned for last year but was postponed because of Covid.
“Barring any further restrictions, we are going ahead and we’re very excited about it,” said Janie, a member of the committee that has spent the past three years organising the celebrations.
“The fact that we’ve had more than 300 people register at a very uncertain time with Covid really indicates the depth of feeling people have for this school and this community, even those that no longer live here.
“We’ve been blown away as organisers about how well received it’s been, because often larger schools struggle to get significant numbers like that for jubilee events.”
Registrations are still being welcomed via the school website, www.temiro.school.nz or by emailing [email protected]
A full day of events is planned, including speeches, lunch at the school and a dinner and dance in a marquee in the grounds of the historic Te Miro Settlers Hall.
“One of the highlights of the day will be bus tours of the district with a local history commentary by local resident Matt Keyte, a past pupil from the 70s, whose children are the fifth generation of Keytes to live in Te Miro,” Janie said.
“We’ll be planting three commemorative trees and we are hoping to have Betty Hall, who is 96 and whose great-great-granddaughters are at the school, cutting the cake with another of our oldest former pupils, Rose-May Scott. This district is full of stories and full of characters and many past and present residents have a huge amount of love and respect for this place.”
Te Miro School opened on March 8, 1920 with one teacher, one classroom and a roll of 10 children.
Today it caters to 46 year 1-8 students aged between five and 12 and has four teachers, two teacher aides and three classrooms.
Michaela Phillips, Te Miro School’s teaching principal since 2018, estimated 60 per cent of students came from local farming families.
“It’s an awesome community and I think what we’re trying to do here as a team, in partnership with our community, is build a culture that really cares about the environment and about each other,” she said.
The Te Miro district itself has a proud Māori history, having been home to Ngati Haua leader Wiremu Tamihana, who was involved in establishing the Maori king movement, and King Tawhiao, the second Maori king, who established a meeting house there in 1890.
Originally known as Maungakawa, the area first started being called Te Miro when the Government purchased 12,000 acres of land in 1916, from James Taylor, Janie’s great-great uncle. In 1918 the land was offered to returned soldiers by ballot.
“Today four Te Miro families are descendants of WW1 soldier settlers and representatives from all of those families will be at the centenary on March 6,” Janie said.
“Descendants from the three families who owned land in the district prior to the WW1 settlement still live in the area and will also be at the event.”