Stokes Valley History


We continue with the twelfth in our series of short articles on the history of Stokes Valley. This month we feature the second of two sections on early education in Stokes Valley.

Appreciation and thanks is extended to Poppy Watts from whose book Stokes Valley Through the Years this information has been lifted with only slight modifications. If you would like to purchase either or both of Poppy's books, please e-mail editor@svn.co.nz for details as to how you may do so:

Stokes Valley Through the Years [1953] by Milton and Poppy Watts $10.00
This Was Speldhurst (The Story of an Early Stokes Valley Family) [2001] by Poppy Watts $16.00

Thirty Years Ago in Stokes Valley

Mrs Burgess, nee Miss Mavis Malcolm, sole teacher at the Stokes Valley School from 1921 to1923 has supplied the following story as one of her most vivid memories of her years there.

THE rehearsal came to a sudden full-stop as we turned to watch the woman approaching on foot up the drive. I went to meet her and to get away from listening ears. "Did you know, Miss Malcolm," said the visitor, "that the Vedder children will not be at the school concert? Their father has told everybody that he won't let them come."

This was catastrophe, pure and simple! I gave the messenger heartfelt thanks She had walked over a mile down the Valley to let me know. The children were dismissed as soon as possible and I turned my bike up the Valley instead of getting down to the many last-minute tasks to be completed before the school concert that same evening. Twenty minutes' riding up the Valley gravel road, past the flat in cleared grass paddocks, the hills tussocky bare on the faces and with scrub in the gullies, and an occasional home here and there brought me to the Vedder home.

A cartload of Stokes Valley kids off to school
A cartload of Stokes Valley kids off to school. Keith Thomson has the reins and his passengers include Jack King, John Chittick, Maynard King, Poppy Young (later Poppy Watts) George Chittick, Eric Thomson, Robert Chittick, Grant Young, Dorothy Hawthorn and Bruce Menzies.

Tired and hot I went to the back door and knocked. The father himself answered, and to his "Well?" I said, "They tell me you are not allowing the children to come to the concert tonight. Is that true?"
"Yes, you'd better come in."

In I went, and there was Mum, who greeted me with swollen red eyes and the plaint Father won't let the children come to your party," and then another burst of crying. This was serious business and I breathed deep and entered the fray.

 "Why not, Mr. Vedder? Have the children been naughty?"
 "No! When I says a thing I means it. No!"
 "Do you not think it right that you have to pay for tickets? Your children are getting prizes beyond the value of the tickets."
 "No! When I says a thing I means it. No!" "Will you and Mrs. Vedder please come as my guests, because you'll be proud of your children, Mr. Vedder. They've each got an item on their own, besides being in all the choruses. They want their father and mother to see them. They'll remember it all their days and so will you."

More tears and more "No! When I says . . ."
My dander started to rise to deal with the stonewalling.
 "Are you satisfied with the way the children have got on at school?"
 "That's got nothing to do with it. When I says..."
 "It's got a lot to do with it, Mr. Vedder. Neither your children nor I deserve this treatment after a year of honest work. If you don't come and don't. let the children take their parts, you'll be letting them down badly."
With cheeks flaming 1 got up to go, and as the door was closing I heard, "I'll consider it."

The school concert was being held in an empty residence belonging to Mr Thomson, the veranda of which had a recess at one end for dressing up. Gwen Thomson was pianist and helper and had persuaded her parents to lend their piano. It was a wonderful concert, and the first guests there - you've guessed it - were Mum and Dad, with Mum beaming. Every child performed with all the gusto in him with complete unselfconsciousness and with eyes fixed on his own special Mum and Dad in the audience.

Do you remember Bruce's little white flannels starting to fall down while he sang Where are You Going to, my Pretty Maid, twirling a cane madly, a straw cadie on his head, and eyes positively sparkling? It was a memorable night, and the first guests to leave were Mr. and Mrs. Vedder. I saw them go and chased them to ask, "Was it worth it, Mr. Vedder?"
 "Aye, it was very good."
And Mum lifted her face to kiss me and said fervently, "You ought to have been a member of Parliament."

Next morning I was seated at my table when in walked the children and put a parcel in front of me.
 "It's a fan", they said together. It was a lovely ivory fan with a card reading  "In memory of the first concert my children have been at or taken part in."

A Childhood Impression

The beauty of a clear, cold, frosty morning as I dawdled and walked the mile to the Stokes Valley School is one thing I feel sure will live in my memory for ever. The transformation wrought on a world I loved by a night of cold never ceased to thrill and excite me. Never shall I forget the picture of countless thousands of exquisite frosted cobwebs that hung from roadside fences and the great, spiky gorse bushes bordering the road. It was always a wonderful mystery to me that those webs had not been there the day before, my child mind not realising that they had been hidden from my eyes by the transparency of their delicate texture. With the coming of the frost each frail strand loaded with a thousand tiny sparkling icicles was a thread in a fairy fabric of that dainty, jewelled curtaining that veiled the whole countryside. What a privilege to feast one's eyes on such unbelievable beauty.

Where the day before had been dull, muddy puddles and uninteresting wheel ruts was firm, crisp ice patterned with a delicate tracery like lacy fern fronds. Perhaps I would lift it with fingers that felt no cold or tap it with the heel of my shoe to hear it crack and watch it splinter to its every edge. Most likely I would be late for school, but for me those frosty mornings were in no way associated with cold; they were another of those happy experiences that make for the exciting adventure of a country childhood.

Parents' Association

The Parents' Association was formed in the latter part of 1942 with the object of assisting the School Committee in its social activities and raising funds for school amenities. The first president was Mr T Delaney and the secretary Mrs W McCoy. The first function conducted was a fete at the school on 5th December, 1942, when 41 was raised. Equipment presented to the school included tennis racquets, football, basketball, filmstrip projector, and film strips. In March, 1945, the Association wound up its affairs, paying the balance of its funds to the School Committee.