Eighty-five years ago a small boy named Maurice Aldridge was at Hastings Primary School when he heard a "terrible noise".

Born and bred in Hastings he was a firsthand witness to the 1931 earthquake.

"I remember the quake. A terrible noise. I kept falling over on my hands and knees. I remember one of the nuns Sister Isidore, she ran out - and I looked up and the spire of the old church was waving like a reed in the wind."

What bought the 90-year-old to the offices of Hawke's Bay Today was his desire to share a set of single page Herald Tribunes printed in the aftermath of the disaster.

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He said at the time his mother collected the special "Earthquake Editions", of which he still has all but two editions.

He said he had total recall of the day.

He said when he stood up he could no longer see the Methodist Church roof and spire, which stood about 300 yards away from the school's fence line.

"I could see the municipal theatre buildings which we normally couldn't see," he said. "I couldn't understand where that Methodist Church had gone because remember I was only a young kid I didn't even know what it [the earthquake] was."

He said one of his most vivid memories happened about five hours after the quake.

"About 4 o'clock in the afternoon I can remember this terrible, terrible wailing and I went out into the road to see what it was," he said.

"And in the middle of Caroline Rd (where he lived) was Mrs Jenkins. Her two eldest daughters had their arms around her.

"I will hear until my dying day the wailing of Mrs Jenkins."