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School Day Memories - Thelma Salt (nee Rowell)
Currently living in Gatton, Queensland.

I can’t remember my first day at Stanley Bay school which would have been in 1924, but I do remember the early days as being very happy. Mr Gasparich was the Head teacher and he was very popular with the pupils and staff.

I was one of five sisters who attended the school. We lived in Summer Street, so we didn’t have too far to walk to school. As a family there wasn’t a lot of money so when I got a hole in my black stockings I would rub black shoe polish on my leg under the hole. It did the job!

Stanley Bay wasn’t a large school and didn’t have a swimming pool, but we still had some good swimmers who won many races against other schools. We did our swimming off the ferry wharf. We did very well in other sports too and as a school we had a lot to be proud of.

I always enjoyed our cookery day. We had to travel to Devonport and walk a short way up Mount Victoria. The boys did their woodwork classes not far from us and were always waiting outside to taste our baking. I remember one day, a friend who cooked with me and I thought if we put more flour in a cake mix it would make a bigger cake. Well what a disaster! I really don’t think the boys enjoyed our cooking that day. Sometimes we would spend our bus fare on a pie from the home bakery, then we had to run most of the way back to school.

I had a great day at the 75th Jubilee and felt very proud when I marched down the street to the school with the other old pupils. My health prevents me from attending the 100th reunion, but I wish everyone a very happy reunion and I know you will all have a lovely time.

Memories from Bruce Logan

Your email made me think about the huge changes in the lives of children since I was at school. In those days, 1934, there were very few cars, very few radios and no TV, no Harbour Bridge, practically nobody had a fridge, certainly no washing machines etc.

There was a long wharf at Stanley Bay where we could catch a ferry to Auckland. Where the Naval Base is now is where I caught my first fish. All the children from SBS used to walk down to Stanley Bay and we all learnt to swim there. Our life saving team won the Life Saving competition so often they got to keep the Life Saving Reel. It is probably still round the school somewhere.

Everybody had a hobby, was into sport or learnt an instrument. When the teacher first came into the room the whole class stood as a matter of respect. Very occasionally if a pupil was very disrespectful or given to making trouble in the playground they were sent to the headmaster and sometimes given the strap, consequently I don't remember any bullying happening. (With to-day's laws this could not be a subject for conversation with the children.) There was a very happy atmosphere in the school and the ages mixed together in their play more than they do to-day

SBS used to go up to Form 2 when I was a pupil so there was a wider age range those days. Mr. Bullians, the headmaster was my teacher in Form 2.


My time at Stanley Bay Primary School was from 1937 – 1943, a time for which my memories were only favourable. Teachers I recall from that period were: Miss Matthews, Miss Armitage, John Elmsley, Lou Barton, Garth Turbott, Mr Tunnicliffe, Mr Burgess, Mr Bullians, and a relieving teacher – Mr Allen.

The school motto was “Who does his best does well” which I notice has been expanded, but I do not think it adds anything, in fact it may weaken the effect.

The school at that period was two parallel buildings, with a basement in the right hand building , which was used for storing bicycles and, in the summer, the storage of cases of apples supplied by the Government – this was in addition to the ½ pint bottles of milk daily, which was drunk in the mornings. The apples were divided into class lots and delivered to classrooms in the afternoon by the Std 6 pupils. I recall that on the outside of the boxes was the Count number; the smaller numbers indicated larger sized apples, which were reserved for Std 6 – a type of bonus for the delivery system.

The girls played in the top playground and the boys in the lower playground. As these were asphalted, skinned knees were a regular occurrence, especially when the boys played King of Sene. As the Park was just down a right of way across Glen Road, cricket and rugby were played there until the Army took it over around 1942 for an antiaircraft base as the Naval Base was nearby. Should they have had to fire the guns, these would probably have sunk into the ground, which had been reclaimed from the mud of Ngataringa Bay!

Swimming was at Stanley Bay beach which had the ferry wharf in the middle of the beach, going out into the harbour. When we swam for the Proficiency Certificates, those doing the 880 swam to the end of the wharf and back, the 440 was to the halfway shed and back, and the other shorter distances were along the beach – all had to be done at high tide as the tide went well out.

In late 1942 or early 1943, the wharf was taken over by the Navy, extended for another 100 yards and an American Liberty merchant ship, the “William Williams”, was brought there. It had been torpedoed, with the torpedo having gone straight through, and did not sink. Consequently we lost our ferry service, and were given free bus rides into Devonport, thus Stanley Bay became known as Charity Bay.

After the Japanese entered the war in 1941, it became imperative to have air raid shelters and a row of concrete block shelters with reinforced concrete roofs were built along the top of the lower playground by Harry Anderson, one of the parents. What they would have stopped was very problematical! Each student had to wear a pouch in which were earmuffs and a rubber, the latter to put between your teeth when bombing took place to absorb shockwaves, and you wore a name tag around your wrist.

The Std 6 pupils had other duties, particularly in regard to incendiary bombs, and I remember I was assigned a wooden long handled shovel, working with someone else who was to put a load of sand over the bombed area and I was to shovel all this into a metal bucked to clear it away.

Another memory was the return of the “Achilles” from the Battle of the River Plate”. Some of the more senior pupils were taken to an empty section at the top of Russell Street, overlooking the Naval Base. As the ship docked, we all cheered, but I doubt whether our juvenile voices were heard down on the dock.

In Std 5 & 6 we had Woodwork for the boys and Cooking for the girls, these classes being held in classrooms alongside Devonport School. I can’t recall how everyone went there and back, but quite a few of us had bicycles and rode there. The Woodwork teacher was Mr Lazelle, who was a bit of a tyrant. When we return to school afterwards, on most occasions the girls were only too happy to unload their cooking attempts to the boys, who were only too pleased to devour the “delicacies”.

Most of us went to school barefooted, it being not too long after the Depression, and even in winter, frosts, hail and puddles never worried us. One of my best subjects was Arithmetic and I regularly scored 100%, being rewarded a couple of times with a half day off. When I was in Std 6, our teacher was the Headmaster, Mr Bullians, who was retiring at the end of the year, and frequently I was told to take the class during Arithmetic so that he could attend to other things.

My greatest joy was being awarded the Dux Medal in 1943.


Stanley Bay was a busy place in 1942 when we shifted there. Our country was in the middle of a war and with the Naval Base nearby it meant the school had a full roll. We came up from Dunedin as my father was in the navy so I knew no one but the kids were friendly and it wasn’t long before I was one of them. Miss Evans was our infant teacher and she was strict but fair, I remember having to move my seat to beside one of the boys because I talked too much.

Miss Armitage was our teacher for the second year and then we were across the playground to the standard’s building where I remember Miss Callahan and Mr Davies. Mr Davies was a really fun teacher. I was very proud of being picked to be one of the ‘dishes’ girls. We did the staff lunch dishes while the rest of the class worked. Mr Davies would come in and spin saucers in the sink with us. Most of the classes had about 10 pupils so it was always at least two or three levels in each room. The playgrounds were strictly segregated, standard girls on the top one, standard boys in the north playground and primers between the buildings and in front of the air-raid shelters.

Once a week we had an air-raid drill, all the classes formed up and walked smartly into the shelters. Some of the ships built during the war at the Clyde shipyard in Scotland arrived here with the chalked message ‘Kilroy was here’ chalked on the bulkheads. Apparently one of the dockyard workers, Kilroy by name, was the culprit. One of the senior boys began writing this slogan, in chalk, on the local footpaths and some of us younger ones copied. We were called before the headmaster, Mr Rushbrook, this was a very serious offence. After a stern warning we were let off but the ‘big boy’ suffered a strapping. There were shortages during the war, I remember buying my first gym-frock using up some of our clothing coupon allowance. Some foods and petrol were also rationed and some ingenious mixtures went into car petrol tanks to keep them running.

Once a year the Traffic Officers visited; besides talking to each class he went under the north building to inspect our bicycles. Green sticker OK, yellow sticker – work to be done, red sticker – don’t bring this bike to school again, my young brothers was in the later category but he still kept on riding it.

On Anzac Day most of the pupils would meet up in Calliope Road to March down to the War Memorial in Devonport for the Anzac service. On Arbour Day those of us who had Dad’s overseas were allowed to plant trees in the park alongside the tennis courts. I was really quite upset to return a number of years later to find somebody had pulled out the entire row, including ‘my’ tree and replaced them, unaware of their significance.

The headmaster Mr Rushbrook taught standard five and six. He enjoyed reading to us and endowed me with a love of books. In these classes we went once a week to Devonport School for cooking and woodwork/metalwork classes. One hated trip to that school was to visit the ‘murder house’. I’m sure no one has fond memories of the old foot treadle drills the dental nurse used.

In 1948 the polio epidemic hit New Zealand and all the schools were closed for around three months. We did our schoolwork by correspondence but as it didn’t take long each day we had plenty of spare time. We were not to go out at all or play with other families and swimming at the beach was forbidden. As we lived in Second Avenue we often sneaked down to the little bay there to swim. Another no-no was the naval dump. This was where they now have their sports fields and it was a treasure trove. Getting there was a muddy business wading through deep clingy mud but well worth it to retrieve shiny buttons and badges. As far as I know my shiny hoard could still be where I hid it in the garden of our old house as we moved away in 1949. Our mothers would have had a fit if they knew where we had been and I’d hate to think of my grandchildren doing it now.

Stanley Bay kids were good swimmers; on swimming sports day each year most of them would enter the appropriate races. Big kids swam from the ‘half-way-shed’ on the old wharf into the beach, which wasn’t bad for untrained 10 –12 year-olds. Stanley Bay was a wonderful place to grow up. Beaches all around, a very safe community where we could wander at will on our bikes or around the rocks. Tennis courts, the hockey field and our wonderful little beaches.

I enjoyed my primary years at Stanley bay school where I believe we were all on a pretty level social footing, the word 'racial' hadn't been invented and neither had shoes and socks, but then we had big pot belly stoves in each room to warm up and dry out, probably long outlawed by OSH I would think. Sport was a forgone conclusion. If you lived in Stanley Bay you played Hockey. Devonportites were Rugger players. I'm talking of the boys of course. We did play rugby for our school a couple of times a year.

Why this sticks in my mind after all these years I don't know? One afternoon as I ran down the corridor and leapt over the concrete steps, I picked up a huge splinter in my foot, which felt to a young boy like a plank of wood. So off to the 'doc for removal. But, what I remember so clearly is that shortly after that,all classrooms and the corridor floors in one building were sealed with about an inch of roading hotmix, .ie tarseal. Guess what? it never went hard. every time you sat on a chair the legs sunk down to the timber floor. It was eventually scraped up and barrowed to the house next to the school front playground., where it became permanent black grass.

Some may also remember the owner of that house in Russell St. spent most his life 'saving things' from the Naval dump.
Looking forward to the reunion

Regards, Gary Spraggon

Memories from…
Lorraine Sobotka (nee Snell)

I started Stanley Bay School when I was 5, in 1962 and remained there until I left at the end of 2nd form. I had an older brother and sister who did the same and I was guaranteed to have the same teachers. This was different to when my children went to school and perhaps had 2-3 different teachers in one year. Back then you knew exactly who you were going to get and exactly what they were like.

I remember:
· Assembly in the morning, hoping the seagulls perched on top of the building would not poop on your head (which they did to me once) and then marching single file into your classroom.
· The motto on top of the building “He who does his best does well”. I believe that has changed now to ‘those’ to be more politically correct no doubt – but we never worried about things like that back then.
· The Houses – Philomel, Achilles and ???
· Ken Matthews playing his piano accordion and us kids dosae doeing around the court.
· Mr Phillips was the Headmaster
· The milk shed and the warm milk that you had to drink. I don’t drink milk to this day!
· Playing four square, skipping, spinning tops and marbles at play time – and spin the bottle!
· Going to Stanley Bay Beach for swimming lessons. Diving to get a brick thrown in by the teacher.
· Going to Devonport to see the dental nurse – something to look forward to. Then I remember we got a dental nurse of our very own – even better!
· Field Trips away from home for a week when you got to Form 1 and Form 2 – they were fun…
· Climbing up to peer in the top windows when we had been sent out of the room so someone could get the strap in private (how civilized)
· Listening to the landing on the moon on the radios that were perched high up in the corners of the room.
· The annual sports day at Stanley Bay Park
· Wetas in the outdoor loos
· Gym slips and rompers

Those were the days.

I’m now 52 and working full-time as a Human Resources Manager in Pt Chevalier, Auckland and living on a lifestyle block in Waimauku. I have two adult children and two young grandsons.

Looking forward to the Reunion.
Lorraine Sobotka (nee Snell)

Graham Hutton, Brisbane, Australia

"I was at Stanley Bay School briefly, as is the life of an armed services child, spending my form 1 and 2 years (Year 7 and 8) there during 1968 and 1969. Both classes were a composite of the two year levels and included an interesting social mix of the ‘Stanley Bay’crowd and navy children.

I remember my teacher, Ken Matthews, a good teacher, and I wonder where he is now? On one occasion he took us on a field trip down to the Waikato to visit geothermal power stations, the Huka Falls, and Mere Mere. We put together a project on the river, the region, and the power generation, and forestry (as I recall) in the area. It was a lot of fun and a coming-of-age experience for most of us.

Ken also organised the schools hockey team, which my brother John and I both played. We competed in an Auckland wide competition. Another brother, Warwick, also attended the school during these years. He died in a motorbike accident in Townsville at age 21 .

I now live in Cleveland, a Bayside suburb in the Redland Shire near Brisbane, with my wife and 2 dogs. Both of my daughters are living away from home so we are empty nesters at last!! I run a successful financial services business and have been doing so for more than 20 years. It is a real family affair with my wife and eldest daughter also involved in the business with me. I have come across very few old pupils BUT did run into Chris McQuaid in Auckland last year"

Memories - Rob Douglas

I attended SBS from 1976 to 1980, which was the period of time in which the school extended its small grounds to much larger ones by controversially buying and pulling down some surrounding houses.

I lived directly across the road from school in Glen Road, beside the walkway down to the park. Being so close to school was fantastic because I could play in the school grounds within earshot of my mother calling me in for dinner.

I remember one year they introduced a new plan where the kids that rode their bikes to school were allowed to leave half an hour earlier than the others (in order to miss the heavy ‘school traffic’ I presume). It was the source of much frustration to me for two reasons. Firstly, and obviously, I lived across the road so had no need to ride my bike, and secondly, I had recently built a new bike from parts I took from the Devonport dump and I wanted to show it off. But nevertheless, each morning I would leave my house, ride my bike across the road then get off my bike once I was through the bottom gate (you weren’t allowed to ride in the school grounds) and thus was able to leave school half an hour earlier so I could get home with plenty of time to spare before Ollie Olsson was on TV with ‘After School’.

Mr Gately was the Principal while I was there. One great memory was when Prince Charles and Princess Diana were in town. Mr Gately told us that at 1pm they would be driving down Russell Street past the school. So with 15 minutes to spare, the entire school gathered in the courtyard and waited excitedly for the newly wedded couple. Then bang on 1 o’clock an old Rover came clattering down the road past the school with none other then our beloved Headmaster behind the wheel of his newly rebuilt car, waving like royalty at all the confused kids and highly amused teachers.

One teacher I will always remember was Mrs Coote. I can’t be certain but Im pretty sure she was my first memory of a school boy crush. She was new to the school when I was in P2 and I will never forget her smiling face. Funny to think that she was probably only in her early 20’s back then…

We were predominantly a European school back then. Not by any design but purely because there weren’t many other ethnicities living in the area. Thankfully we had a Maori Teacher who would come into the school once a week and teach us songs and tell us stories. He was a formidable man who sported a limp and carried a stick, but those songs have stayed with me ever since so whether it was through fear, Im not sure, but he was doing something right.

I remember we had a hangi one year. They dug the big hole, lit the fire and placed the rocks in, then put all the food in cages and buried it. I remember being mesmerised by the process, and whenever I smell a hangi now Im taken back to that time. We stayed the night in the school. We all lay in our sleeping bags in our classroom like sardines. Some local parents patrolled the school grounds outside while we had a midnight feast and generally were too excited to sleep.

They had a few Disco nights while I was there. The new school libraby hadn’t been built so it had been temporarily placed in a prefab outside the dental clinic. We were told there would be prizes for the best dance so my friend and I practised some moves to the song ‘Born To Hand Jive’ from the recently released ‘Grease’ soundtrack. On the night we did our dance and felt that surely we had nailed it, but then some older kid got up and did air guitar to a Meatloaf song and won the prize. We were gutted. But quickly forgot our distain by drowning our sorrows in some Sport soft drink.

Sports days down at Stanley Bay Park were always a highlight for me as I was a fast runner and prided myself on my speed. One year I was in the final and as I madly sprinted my way down the track in first place, my underpants fell down around my knees in front of the entire school and I fell over. At the time I was mortified and I ran all the way home, but I don’t think it has had any long term affects…

Most of my friends lived with a short bike ride from my house. Charles Meredith, George Gurney, Steven Ackroyd, and Nick Taylor: all these people and many more shared my experiences growing up in this paradise. It was an easy life and there was always something new and exciting to do.

Stanley Bay School was a wonderful place to grow up, and still is, my Niece and Nephew now live in Glen Rd and go to SBS. With Stanley Bay beach, the magnificent wharf, all the playing fields you could wish for, tennis courts, and an incredibly safe and caring community, it really was a time of freedom, happiness and exploration.

Hello my name is Trevor Gurney, I was a pupil back in the late 70's when kids did a little bit more in the mud. I was the last of four brothers to go to Stanley Bay, Ivan, Andrew and George then me.

One of the most enduring memories I have is walking to school past other school mates with other school mates that I now call family, going past the Merideths place stopping and sucking on the little red hunny suckell flowers. From William Bond to the school was another stop that was made every day before and after school, that Loquat tree. It got a fear hammering back then ( I hope times haven't changed to much). Principal, Mr Gatley was an integral part of the school then. He would pull out his guitar and that song Jimmy crackhorn would start, still makes me smile all these days later. Then there was the playground. It has changed alot over the years, I remember when it was three levels and we would jump off the top (times have changed since then) the dental nurse feared no better, when we could we would climb up run along the roof and jump off, if I remember properly there was some spare tyres there for a while. Sports day was held down at the park with family coming to enjoy the day. Stanley bay beach was were we were taken to learn how to swim, (when you have older brothers and one of the best wharfs in the world there was no better place to learn how to swim especially when your brother pushes you in). Stanley Bay wharf holds a dear place in my heart and I still visit when I come home.

One of the greatest parts of the school was the mighty Christmas tree that we climbed and searching for the biggest Weta. I hope the kids are still able to climb and find those weta's and secrets that the great tree holds. As the school has changed so much over the years so have most of us but like me I'm sure they cant wait to come back have a beer and wine and reminisce about what we are apart of.

Look forward to seeing all my friends and family

Kia Kaha
Trevor Gurney.

My favourite memories of my years at Stanley Bay School (1977-1983)

School Assemblies were always so much fun with everyone crammed into Rooms 2 & 3 (dividing doors opened up). We sang song after song accompanied by the Principal, Mr Gaitely on the guitar, both in English and Maori. There was a great anticipation to see who had received a Special Terrific Person’s award that week, which were highly sought after. Half way through my time at SBS the awards changed from black and white photocopies, to coloured paper with shiny writing which I remember thinking were so very beautiful. I still have each and every one of them!

In standard 4 (year 6) I had my favourite teacher of all time… Mr Spanhake. He was fabulous! Mr Spanhake inspired us, teaching us how to write six chapter stories. Using descriptive words was an absolute must and there were large posters tacked onto the back panels of the room covered in describing words to use. I was very passionate about writing 6 chapter stories jam packed with describing words. Each story followed a similar pattern, and popular titles (authored by myself), were “The Mystery of the Missing Pearls” and “The Mystery of the Emerald Necklace”. Each chapter began something like this, “One fine, magnificent, marvellously sunny day…” Suffice to say my favourite author of those years was Enid Blyton and all my stories contained a mystery for a group a very clever children to solve. Mr Spanhake was such a favourite of mine, that when I lost my Father that same year; I put forward Mr Spanhake’s name to my Mum as a potential future husband. The fact that he was already married wasn’t even something I’d considered.

Favourite playground activities:

We loved doing backward flips off the bars on the field. That, it was a rather clever trick to do was obvious; a little less obvious was the potential for it to go wrong. And wrong it did go one day, when I fell off spraining my wrist. However, it didn’t stop me from continuing to play on the bars by any means.

The big old pohutukawa tree on the field was the most fabulous place to play. Whether it was Mummies and Daddies, I don’t remember. What I do remember is making pretend “fires” in the big roots of the tree with leaves and bark. “Cooking” pretend meals over the “fire”, consisting of berries, seeds and anything else we could find. It was so much fun! The pohutukawa tree was and still is a wonderful, imaginative place to play. When my daughters Faith and Jade have come home from SBS at different times and talked about playing the same sort of games at the same tree, it has certainly taken me back.

One year there must have been some work happening at school and as a result there were numerous huge mounds of dirt sitting a the edge of the field, near the dental clinic. A favourite playtime game at that time became centred around those mounds, as we turned them into homes and playgrounds for our favourite “mouse”. We all had these furry, magnetic, little mouse toys; with rather long tails. I remember how much fun we had creating roads, tunnels and houses for them among the dirt!

Rachel Poppelwell (was Gibson)


Centennial & Reunion 2009
Centennial Weekend Photos
Centennial Memories
Centennial - Old Photos
Reunion Memorabilia

- Article from North Shore Times, 1976
(click to view full-size)