All but a couple of workaholics from the "class of '59" at Whangārei Boys' High School are now retired but not before fulfilling their English teacher's grand expectations.

Their head of English Eric Blow told them: "You fellows are supposed to be the top milk, if not the cream of Northland", and that was enough for all 16 of them to forge careers in government, judiciary, engineering, science, commerce, local government and on the dairy farm.

Now in their late 70s, they have written their life stories, remembering Blow's advice that "a precis should be like a bikini - brief enough to be interesting, but large enough to cover the subject".

In 1960s, they spread widely and most of them lost contact with each other for 45 years before David Hutley mounted a search and brought them together for four enjoyable reunion s- two at their old school, one in Rotorua and in the Gold Coast.

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At their latest reunion in Whangārei last week, eight were present while others couldn't make it due to ill-health and other commitments.

Two classmates have since died.

Whangārei Boys' High School principal Karen Gilbert-Smith with former students Tony Lane, left, David Palmer, Martin Perkinson, John Bell, Sid Ware, Jeff Johnson and Dave Hutley. Photo / John Stone
Whangārei Boys' High School principal Karen Gilbert-Smith with former students Tony Lane, left, David Palmer, Martin Perkinson, John Bell, Sid Ware, Jeff Johnson and Dave Hutley. Photo / John Stone

Those present at last week's reunion donated five books to the WBHS library — Talking About O'Dwyer, The No Bull Prize, The 28th Māori Battalion, Mainly Farming Yarns, and Ma Te Reinga.

Three books are about Hump Dyer who was their English teacher, while two books were written by Jim Rotherham.

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Rotherham was one of the 16 from the Year 13 class and said although they were not all close friends on the way through school and had different interests, it has been great learning about each other's backgrounds and comparing events they experienced.

The class of '59 has been sponsoring boys on the Spirit of New Zealand to learn leadership for 10 years as a way of giving back to the school that gave them so much and which taught them discipline.

Many stories abound from their school days but there's one that Rotherham remembers.

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Marty Perkinson was among the class of '59 who went on to become a professor of accounting. Photo / John Stone
Marty Perkinson was among the class of '59 who went on to become a professor of accounting. Photo / John Stone

Blow once refused to accept an essay when he tried to hand it in. Both stood staring at each other, until finally, Blow said in the most sarcastic voice: "I want you to put your name on it, darling".

Others in the class were John Bell who worked as a science adviser to the Australian Government, Adrian Simcock became New Zealand's High Commissioner to Fiji, Lars Johansen was an elite classical musician, and Marty Perkinson is a retired professor of accounting.

Graham Erceg studied to become an anaesthetist, Peter Allsopp, Dale Lacey, and David Palmer became engineers, Jeff Johnson was a town planner, Hutley and Tony Lane worked in IT, Hugh Canard and Geof Hayes were businessmen, and Rotherham and Sid Ware were dairy farmers.