Hopscotch and horses: old school memories

Clarice Hoban (nee Riddell)  still remembers the names of the draft horses who pulled the milk wagon – Jock and Bonny.

“They were lovely,” says the 86-year-old, former student of Gordonton Primary, which celebrates its 125th anniversary over Labour weekend.

Clarice Riddell
Clary in a 1940 school photo.

Clarice, the youngest in the family of William and Mary Riddell, lived in the old farm house on Gordonton Rd, next to Anexa vets today.

“We used to walk to school, the road wasn’t terribly busy in those days.  But there was all the traffic caused by the farmers taking their milk to the factory.  There were tractors and wagons, little trucks – our sharemilker took the milk in a wagon pulled by the two draft horses.”

School photo time!

Now living in a retirement village in Tauranga, Clary is looking forward to the reunion.   And it will be good to be in a school photo again, she says.

She attended the school, in today’s Hukanui Park, from 1935 to 1942.  “We used to play hopscotch outside the classroom.  There was a large cherry tree we used to sit under to have our  lunch, an oak and a sycamore.  I remember taking a seed from the sycamore and planting it near our chicken shed – and it’s still there.”  (Editor’s note: the tree is now a magnificent specimen.)

Clary used to make her own sandwiches every morning and says she continued to do that right through tech, where she took business studies.

Madam Postmistress

“And my first job was in the general store in Gordonton – I was the Postmistress.  It was a big place, eight people worked there.  I got the mail every day, sold postal notes and banked money and was there for a number of years.”

While she’s only coming for the Saturday (“I think I’ll stand up okay”) it will be good to catch up with the community again, she says.  She’s also glad that the old school house is still being used.

“It will be lovely to see it again.”

Clary supplied some old original black and white class photographs from days gone by – 1937






1942 junior room:


1942 senior room:



More than 80 people are registered for the event, with more to be processed, says committee head Sally-Ann Riddell.

The oldest to attend so far is Margaret (Peggy) Weeks nee Laidlaw.

“She is 88 and started at Gordonton in 1932. So she will be the oldest past pupil I know about who has registered – if she attends she will be cutting the cake!  Others in their 8os are Clarice Hoban (Riddell)  age 86; Arthur Riddell age 84; Doreen Riddell 83; Russell Ballard 83; June Haultain (Riddell) 81; Philip Ballard 81; Ngapare Hopa 81; Jocelyn Silvester 80.”


  • Gordonton School’s 125th reunion is over Labour weekend, Friday October 21 to Sunday 23.  Registrations will be taken on the day – $27 cash or cheque, no eftpos. Includes morning tea, lunch.  Dinner bookings closed on 14 October. For more information and updates click here and here.



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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

3 thoughts on “Hopscotch and horses: old school memories

  • May 2, 2021 at 1:27 pm

    Hi there I’m on a journey to find photos of my grandmother Hinehine Honetana born 1927 grew up with her biological family untill the age of 5-8yrs then off to another family. I was wondering if the ladies you have mentioned in yr article would have a recall of my grandmother? From the same time of education as to them and same school.

    Clarice Hoban (Riddell) age 86; Arthur Riddell age 84; Doreen Riddell 83; Russell Ballard 83; June Haultain (Riddell) 81; Philip Ballard 81; Ngapare Hopa 81; Jocelyn Silvester 80.”
    I looked at those photos you had uploaded but didn’t happen to see my grandmothers name etc. I’m hoping to find a photograph of her.
    It would be very appreciated if you could ask them and have someone email the response?
    Thank you for your time 😊 Nadia

    • May 4, 2021 at 9:15 am

      Thank you for your message Nadia. I am not familiar with your grandmother’s name, but I am seeing Ngapare Hopa tomorrow, proabably and will ask her. I will also ask one or two others. Will be back in touch. All the best.

  • August 23, 2021 at 11:34 pm

    Hi there jsut wondering if there was an update with this request> thanks Nadia


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