None of the kids at Eltham School in Taranaki could guess how many times 96-year-old Jack Smith had climbed up Mt Taranaki (466).
But they lapped it up when 1.62m Jack mentioned there was no Fonterra Milk for Schools programme when he was at Eltham School – but there was a milk programme when his 1.98m son, Darryl, went.
"That's why I am so short and he's so tall," joked Jack, well aware of the benefits of milk in schools.
If the thought of a 96-year-old at primary school is puzzling you, Jack turned up at Eltham School after being invited to tell the children about life when he went to school there all those years ago.
He will be there too ("if I am asked") when former All Black skipper Richie McCaw helicopters in to make a special delivery soon, part of a high-flying promotion celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Fonterra Milk for Schools programme.
McCaw will visit four primary schools to deliver the milk on different days. Other schools have yet to be chosen and applications for McCaw to make a chopper visit don't close until March 19. Primary schools can be nominated at www.richiesmilkrun.co.nz.
Jack enjoys telling the kids about school life in an era they can't imagine. A dairy farmer himself (he and Darryl jointly own the farm), he has had a hugely varied life – farmer, air force man, telegraph linesman in the Yukon, a carpenter, a guide and a search and rescue worker.
"There were no cars, no buses when I went to school here," he says. "You walked – though I did get a pony once to go to school on."
His interest in Mt Taranaki has been lifelong – and led to him being chief guide at the local alpine club as well as volunteering for search and rescue duties.
"I was always interested in the mountain, even as a boy," he says. "I would go up the odd time but then my brother and I would milk the cows, then ride our bikes to Dawson Falls, race each other up the mountain and then get home again in time to milk the cows again."
However, it wasn't until he became a guide that he made the bulk of his 466 journeys to the summit of the mountain: "Lots of people expressed an interest but never went," he says. "Sometimes people just needed a little push so I would just show them up there."
"I have been milking cows since about 1931, though I am too lazy now," he laughs. "But I know what it does. I believe in the milk."