The warmth and togetherness of a bygone era were recreated at a reunion of Kaitoke School pupils and teachers last weekend.
Joan Pritchard, a teacher from 1957 to 1969 and now nearly 80, was overwhelmed with the welcome she got from her former pupils.
One woman, who had come from Sydney, rushed up and threw her arms around Mrs Pritchard, saying: "You were my favourite teacher."
"It's so special for me. Just the warmth of the greetings that span all those years. I've taught so many children and they've come back and been so thrilling," Mrs Pritchard said.
Nearly 120 people registered for the reunion, which started on Friday afternoon at the school with a powhiri welcome ceremony, flag-raising, guided tours and high tea under a marquee.
It continued at Wanganui Racecourse on Saturday morning with mingling and displays, then a bus tour of the Kaitoke area in the afternoon, so that people could see the houses where their friends had lived.
On Saturday night there was a dinner at the racecourse, and on Sunday morning a commemorative service in the school hall, led by local woman Pam Erni.
The first Kaitoke School was one room and built in 1863 of toetoe, raupo and flax, with an earth floor. It was near what was then the coach road to Wellington and it had 11 pupils.
Their parents had taken up some of the earliest land grants in the district.
The school moved twice in later years. By the time Mrs Pritchard was a teacher there were two rooms and she used to pick up some of the children on her way to school in her Ford V8.
Others arrived on horseback, and some walked the main road in their bare feet or gumboots.
There was a mobile dental clinic the children called "the murder house", and neighbour Mrs Howells used to push-bike to school with hot muffins for the teacher on cheerless winter days.
When the school needed a swimming pool, parents got together and dug a hole for it.
It was a small and close-knit farming community. The school was one hub, and nearby Kaitoke Hall was another.
In the 1950s and 60s, that hall was the venue for fortnightly dances, Christmas parties, Country Women's Institute afternoon teas, indoor bowls and table tennis.
Pupils from that era were nostalgic for the dances. Morven (Abel) Denize and John Howells intend to hold one last Kaitoke dance in a year's time. But this one will have to be in the school hall because Kaitoke Hall has fallen into disuse and is for sale.
Other former students are keen - Keith Caldwell, a pupil from 1923-33, said he would return from his current home in Surfer's Paradise for that dance.
The school is a very different place now. It has five classrooms in modern buildings and many of the 98 children arrive from Wanganui on a bus.