Karamu High School in Hastings opened its doors for the first time in 1962 and last weekend former pupils, some as far away as England, returned to celebrate its jubilee and 50th birthday.
There's not much left of the original school buildings but those attending the celebrations were happy to see their old place of learning had been transformed into a modern school, thanks to a two-year redevelopment project. The talking point was a giant steel sculpture of the school's name sake, a karamu tree, built by one of school's former pupils and well-known Hawke's Bay artist Jacob Scott, for the 50th birthday.
The sculpture was presented to the jubilee on Friday morning where about 500 past pupils and their families had come along to see the new-look Karamu High School.
Mr Scott said the school approached him about a year ago to design something special for the jubilee.
"So I thought about turning the school's emblem into something 3D. The original emblem was designed by Jeff Fuller, who was an art teacher at the school and I believed he passed away last year."
Mr Fuller had also been Mr Scott's art teacher during his time at the school, from 1965 to 1969.
"The name of the sculpture is Te Tira Ora O Te Karamu and it is about the branch of the karamu tree, which is a coprosma, and its ability to be a spiritual and mental cleanser.
"It's about the school and all of the people that have been through it, who have sheltered, learnt and been nurtured here. It's also a celebration of whanaungatanga (relationships) and revitalisation at the school."
Mr Scott said he still had fond memories of the school and enjoyed hearing the stories of other former pupils during the two-day celebration.
"I remember it was co-educational, that was a big thing in those days and I think it was one of the first co-ed schools in Hawke's Bay.
"By the time I got to the school, it had its first 7th form and we might have had about 1000 pupils there.
"All of the old Nelson block, two-storey buildings have gone but it's great the principal Martin O'Grady convinced others to rebuild the school over two years."
Pipfruit New Zealand director Peter Bevan also attended the school from 1963 to 1967 and made lifetime friends with class mates such as Mike Williams, former Labour Party president and broadcaster Paul Holmes, who was the guest speaker at the jubilee dinner on Saturday night.
"My strongest memory was that I looked forward to going to school. It was the centre of our lives for five years and it was a brand new school. There was no bullying because there were only form three and four classes there at that time.
"So really the future culture of the school was in our hands.
"I think it was the leadership skills you developed at that school which you took throughout your life as well as developing relationships with people.
"Some of the best friendships I still have today were developed at that school."
Deputy principal Wayne Wooster said over 1000 people took part in various events to make the jubilee, coming from all over New Zealand, Australia, Canada and England.