Omokoroa stalwart goes back to his roots

Keith Nicholas reminiscing on some of his family treasures. Photo: Daniel Hines.

Keith Nicholas never thought he would see the day when he went back to primary school.

To his surprise, he found himself back on school grounds on August 15, to share the history of Omokoroa No.1 School and the community he grew up in.

The Nicholas family are alumni of the rural school and Keith says he was surprised when he was asked by headmaster Craig Pentecost to go and talk to the students.

“The kids prepared questions for me, they were very interested, but it was marvellous.

“I was nervous before I started,” Keith jokes.

“They don’t just want to know about me, they want to know about Omokoroa.”

In 1944 Keith began his schooling at Omokoroa No.1 School and 31 of his family members and relatives are past students of the school.

Keith is one of the oldest students of the school who is still alive.

Over the past few years Keith has delved into his family history. On The Weekend Sun’s visit to Keith’s house, his dining table was covered in precious family jewels; old photos, laminated letters and envelopes dating back until 1936, family and Whakapapa books, as well as his own hand written notes remembering as much as he could about his early schooling and childhood.

There was never a dull moment growing up in the Nicholas family, with 18 people living in the house, including eight siblings, parents and grandparents and Keith says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Nanny did all of the cooking, we never had an electric stove, I never ate or brought white bread until I left home because she would make it all from scratch.”

Keith attended Tauranga College for his high school years, and after school he made the decision to head down to the South Island, where he and his wife made a life for themselves, as well as playing top senior rugby for 20 years.

After 58 years, Keith returned to his home area from Golden Bay, now residing down the road from Whakamarama School.

He shared all of his memories with the students, and he couldn’t believe how much the school had grown.

“There are 308 children there now and there were 36 students when I was there, and only one little classroom.

“I told them we had to light the fire in the corner to heat the room and that boiled the billy to have our cocoa.”

Keith’s memories and stories have captivated the hearts of many, so much that Omokoroa No.1 School have already insisted he return to give another talk, as well as heading over to Tauranga Boys’ College to share his high school memories with the current staff and students.