Friday, March 22, 2013


So George Lowe has died. He was the last of them, the boys with whom I learned Latin at Hastings High School from 1938 to 1942. We did not know it then but we were a unique generation.

We were born in the 1920s. The high point of our fathers' lives had been travelling to France and fighting at Passchendale. They returned, married our mothers, begot us and endured the Great Depression.

But although our parents had left school at twelve, they were determined that their children would have a high school education. I remember the day in 1937 when our Standard 6 teacher, Mr Collinge, interrupted our Arithmetic lesson to tell us.
 "You have all been granted Proficiency. You won't have to sit the exam. Well done!"

 Notice he did not tell us Proficiency, had been abolished and the school leaving age had been raised from twelve to fifteen. He made us feel we had achieved something special. He took us for a hike to Cape Kidnappers to celebrate.

So the following February a wave of children who had expected to deliver telegrams,  work in the canning factory,serve in a shop, or stay home and help in the orchard hit the High Schools. Were they ready for us? I like to think so, because that experience of High School was like the opening of a door into a world crammed with undreamed of possibnilities and all that was required  from us was effort.

Every morning at Assembly we listened to music, over four years we heard everything from the Hallelujah Chorus to In the Mood. We learned to read in Latin and French; about the 93 elements and how they combined to make compounds; about Archimedes shouting 'Eureka!. as he ran naked through the streets of Athens and Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree in Cambridge.

In the increasing prosperity of those times we acquired bikes, second hand boneshakers, but we rode those bikes between Hastings and Napier  to go sailing in the idle along dinghies our fathers helped us build.

I don't think anyone from the 1938 Form 3A was surprised when we learned that the other New Zealander on Everest was our  quiet fair haired class mate, George Lowe.

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