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"My School Memories" Written by Madge Wren in 1984 (Madge's father Arthur Griffin served on the Riverlea school committee)
My name was Alice Madge Griffin but always called Madge at school (and I still am). I was born at New Plymouth in 1899. With my parents Mr and Mrs Arthur Griffin and small brother Ernest, I came to live on the Upper Mangawhero Road in 1898 where my father bought a farm of 125 acres. I went to the Riverlea School in 1903 or 1904 as far as I can remember with my brother Ernest. I was taken by a May Harnerchley ( a neighbour) on her pony the first day.
My brother was killed in the First World War when he was 20. My father also went to war and was awarded the Military Medal.
I became the eldest of eleven children and at one time, seven of us went to Riverlea School. The road on which we had our farm was very rough and the men who worked always had bullock teams. My father often went out and helped them besides doing a lot of work on the farm as it had to be cleared of scrub, trees etc. However we always had a good garden.
We rode two or three ponies to school when we got older and took turns at riding. I had a pony of my own and she was a broken down race horse and took a lot of holding. Once she galloped up to the Riverlea store and while I was there I was bitten by another school pony and pulled off on the road - I shall never forget this happening. This horse was taken off the school grounds as it was considered dangerous.
My father was a teacher of boxing and my brothers, especially one brother was picked on for fights which took place at the bottom of the school grounds after school - most embarrassing for me - sometimes they won, other times lost.
Another time at school one of the senior boys was given the strap by the teacher (Mr Armstrong) and hit him after putting it away. The pupil was expelled straight away. After this happening, a slate was hung on the wall called the "bad conduct slate" and when pupils got into trouble, their names were put on it for inspectors to see when they came. No one liked this and I think it was worse. My name was put on it once for writing poetry about a boy which was found in my desk. I got on well with my teacher and was often called upon to look after his little daughter Mary.
I left school when I passed into the 6th Standard. I cried for days. I went back for another month then I had to leave as my mother was going to have a baby and I had to help with the work. I was 14.
However my father bought a piano and I was taught music and used to ride my pony for lessons at the Riverlea Hall by a Miss Robinson from Kaponga. My brother also had lessons and we were both preparing for a concert when we had to leave the district as my father sold the farm and bought one at Inaha - this happened when I was 16.
I lived there until I married Harold Wren who also had been to the First World War. He died in 1962 and I have been a widow for 22 years and now live at Hawera.
I can remember a Miss Shantall and a Mr Ewart who were teachers.