Vicky Munro has many happy memories of growing up in Otematata in the 1960s.
When her family moved to the new Waitaki Valley township and her father began work on Benmore Dam, Mrs Munro became a hydro kid.
There were many young families living in Otematata at the time – it felt like one very big family, she said.
“We knew everybody, the kids knew each other, your fathers worked in the same places and your mothers shopped at the same grocery store,” she said.
“We played in the streets, we went swimming in the river and climbed the hills.”
At its peak, the village was home to well over 4000 people and had a district high school accommodating 460 pupils, a kindergarten for 60 children, a bustling shopping centre, a large pub, numerous clubs, a hall, and even a cinema.
Last weekend, Mrs Munro had the chance to reminisce about her childhood and reconnect with a group of 54 other hydro kids, ex-pupils of Otematata District High School, and their families, as the class of the 1960s gathered for a reunion.
The reunion had been two years in the making, plans first hatched in March 2019 at a Twizel Dam Dwellers event.
“Somebody piped up and said, went to school’,” she said.
Someone else “who obviously took notice of the maths teacher” corrected them, pointing out it had to be 60 years, as they were all reaching retirement age.
Over a few drinks, they formed a plan to bring former pupils, who attended from 1960 to 1970, back to Otematata to reconnect and reminisce about the old days at a very special school. The reunion was first scheduled for April last year, with up to 80 people registered, but was postponed due to the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown.
The rescheduled event started in Otematata on Saturday with a meet and greet. On Sunday, the group went for a walk around the township and went out for dinner at night.
For Mrs Munro, the walk was the highlight of the weekend.
“A lot of them stopped at their old houses and talked to people, went inside to see them she said.
The reunion wrapped up on Sunday with a breakfast.
Mrs Munro had kept in touch with some school friends, but it was her first time seeing others since her school days.
Some still lived locally – three in Twizel, two in Otematata, including Mrs Munro, and one in Oamaru – but most were now scattered across New Zealand and the world.
“We’ve all had interesting careers, different opportunities .. but it wasn’t about how well you’d done in life, it was more about meeting them again and reliving our childhood memories,” she said.
“It was absolutely wonderful. It was particularly nice to meet their spouses.”