Oldest old girl recalls school days

By Liz Wylie

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Eunice Newton (97) will be the earliest alumni attending the Wanganui Girls' College 125th anniversary next month.
Eunice Newton (97) will be the earliest alumni attending the Wanganui Girls' College 125th anniversary next month.

Eunice Newton remembers the wishing tree that grew in the school grounds of Wanganui Girls' College in Liverpool St.

As a young student named Eunice Chisholm in the 1930s, she remembers circling the copper beech tree that grew by the lily pond in the school grounds.

"We had to circle the tree, then we would crawl around it backwards," says Mrs Newton.

The legendary tree was believed to grant wishes for generations of girls until it died soon after the school was repainted.

Painters cleaning their brushes on its trunk were blamed for its demise but it is more likely to have suffered from having its leaves plucked by girls making wishes.

Mrs Newton will be attending the college's 125th anniversary celebrations next month soon after celebrating her 97th birthday. Not surprisingly she is the oldest old girl attending. The school has moved across the river since Eunice's day.

She attended the 100th anniversary in 1991 and has the anniversary tea towel which features the fondly-remembered tree.

After attending Queens Park School and Wanganui Intermediate, 13-year-old Eunice found the college daunting at the start.

"It was a fearsome place," she says.

"There were so many passages and stairways, I would get lost trying to find my classrooms."

As a day student, she says she was forbidden to go upstairs and visit boaders in the hostel but she broke the rule once.

"I had a friend from Patea who was a boarder and she was in her room feeling sick one day and asked me to go up and visit her.

"She was really insistent so I went to her room but the matron came up and I had to hide behind the door."

Eunice Chisholm (top left) hams it up for the camera with friends at Wanganui Girls' College.
Eunice Chisholm (top left) hams it up for the camera with friends at Wanganui Girls' College.

As a keen hockey player, young Eunice would contribute to the Wanganui Girls' College team's great success in 1933 of playing 20 games in a season and losing only three of them.

"I remember going to Petone for a game and I think we must have gone down on the bus," she says.

Fellow hockey players Eileen Paul and Lorna Metekingi are fondly remembered from school days and Mrs Newton remembers the names of others from the 1935 team photo as well.

Eunice Chisholm (second left) with the 1935 WGC hockey team that included her friends Lorna Metekingi (left) and Eileen Paul (second right).
Eunice Chisholm (second left) with the 1935 WGC hockey team that included her friends Lorna Metekingi (left) and Eileen Paul (second right).


Leaving school with her commercial school certificate, Eunice went to work at the National Bank in Wanganui.

She would marry her childhood sweetheart Ken Newton who worked for the Maori Affairs Department.

The couple would have two children - John and Susan - and would be married for over 70 years until Ken died in May this year.

Mrs Newton says she is looking forward to the college anniversary but hopes she will not find the current school buildings as daunting as the original ones were when she first went there.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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