from The Ardmore Experience
Ardmore College was established in a period of post war recovery and reconstruction. It was also a time of world-wide shortage and privation. Nearly everything was in short supply – food, raw materials, manpower, housing, consumer goods, luxury items – and teachers.
Rationing of basic food items was still in force, transit housing was the only means of accommodation for thousands of people, a new car was an almost impossible dream.
But if it was a world of shortages, it was also one of euphoria. The war had been recently won, the Fascists annihilated, the Empire and her allies victorious …
It was in this situation of material and manpower shortage but also oh high-minded aspiration that Ardmore College was launched at the beginning of 1948, the year in which the polio epidemic kept all New Zealand schools closed for several weeks after the long summer vacation.
If there was any commodity in over-supply it was children. The post-war baby boom highlighted the already serious shortage of teachers, a shortage aggravated by the closure of training colleges during the depression and by the reduced intake of teacher trainees during the war years.
Another contributory factor to the shortage was the raising of the school-leaving age to 15 in February 1944. The desperate situation called for desperate measures. One outcome was the opening of New Zealand’s fifth training college at Ardmore.
It has been described as a makeshift arrangement of dubious merit, devised as a temporary stopgap but destined to last for more than a quarter of a century. Given a derelict Air Force station comprising a huddle of rather ramshackle prefabricated barracks set in desolation in a treeless windswept, boggy segment of the Clevedon Valley, the planners saw an opportunity to create something visionary in an educational sense – a residential training college.
It should never have survived, let alone thrived. It did both. And its survival and success are the best testimonial one could write.
Ardmore College trained 6463 students, from Betty Abercrombie of Wanganui, the first name on the first intake in 1948, to Catherine Wong from Fiji, the last name of the intake in 1973, some 340 staff members ranging alphabetically from Jean Archibald to Gwyn Zinzan.
But those people, students and staff, did more than study or teach at the college. They evolved a series of relationships – academic, personal, professional, social and cultural – which came to constitute a way of life – the Ardmore experience.