The majority of Parkvale School's centenary celebrations were too big to be held at the Hastings school over the weekend.
Principal Mark Gifkins said former pupils had flocked from throughout New Zealand, with some travelling from Australia.
"It's a fantastic occasion with huge attendance from all of our past and present pupils," he said.
He said the turnout could have been because children's primary school years were very special.
"Listening to the stories last night: the teachers they remember, the friendships they created at that time, I think that primary school is the one they all love and they all cherish," he said.
The oldest former student at the centenary was 101-year-old Claude Davidson.
One of his strongest school memories was when the 1931 Hawke's Bay Earthquake struck, with many aftershocks.
"I could take you to the spot I was standing," he said.
"The swimming baths had no fence around it and the water shot up high and a cow jumped over the fence at the bottom of the paddock.
"And we rushed out there and the waves were coming through the paddock – we waited for the sea to come through.
"Teacher said to us 'You are not allowed to go to town – you go straight home'. So another chap and I walked home counting all the chimneys that were still standing.
"All the cars came out of the garages, where they hadn't had the handbrake on, it rocked them and pushed the door open and they came outside."
His family was forced to camp in their garden, rushing inside between quakes to recover property.
The centenary was a focus for all school classrooms, diving deep into local history.
Year 1 teacher Anne Flaherty spent a day as a strict Victorian-era teacher, to the amusement of her students.
"I was pretty bossy. It was quite fun pretending to be that teacher for the day," she said.
The centenary celebrations proved an excellent chance for many ex-Parkvale students to relive their childhood days, for a night, amongst their old pals.