These five war-time friends still hold a yearly reunion more than 70 years after leaving school

They say some friends are for life and that is certainly the case for these five former school pupils - more than 70 years after they met aged 11.

Five friends Pat Betson, 84, Kath Parkes, 85, Doreen McEwan, 85, Edith Harnish, 84, and Beryl Hebron, 84, all met at Eldon Grove High School back in 1944 and have remained friends ever since.

Former Girls High School pupils (standing left to right) Edith Harnish (nee Yates) and Kathleen Parkes (nee Hodgson) (sitting left to right) Pat Betson (nee Hall), Doreen McEwan (nee Macintosh) and Beryl Hebron (nee Harvey). Picture by FRANK REID

Former Girls High School pupils (standing left to right) Edith Harnish (nee Yates) and Kathleen Parkes (nee Hodgson) (sitting left to right) Pat Betson (nee Hall), Doreen McEwan (nee Macintosh) and Beryl Hebron (nee Harvey). Picture by FRANK REID

For the last 33 years they have held a school reunion and welcomed their old school mates to join them to reminisce about the good times they had in their youth.

Pat said their reunions are a huge success and loved by them all.

She said: “There is always a lot to catch up on.

“We have been friends for 70-odd years and met when we were 11 at school.

Former Girls High School photograph.

Former Girls High School photograph.

“We all sat the 11-plus exam and passing meant the girls went to Eldon Grove High School.
“We were all in the same from class at school and we either cycled or walked to school.

“In our history lessons there was no need to study the war, as we were living through it! In front of the tennis courts was an air raid shelter where we used to assemble when an air raid siren sounded.”

The best friends have even kept mementos from the era including old photographs, sports equipment and even the school register.

Their first reunion was held in 1985 at The Grand Hotel in Hartlepool after Mail columnist June Wright helped to organise it.

The event saw 200 people come along, but as they years have gone by the number has fallen to around 20 people who meet up at various hotels including The Douglas Hotel each June.

Gatherings have seen classmates travel from as far as Canada and Turkey to come along and swap stories about their school days.

On leaving school, Kath from Stockton, became a civil servant and went on to have three children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren; Doreen from Hartlepool, worked as a florist and had one child and one grandchild; Edith worked on a trading estate and had four children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren; Beryl from Hartlepool, worked as an office clerk, has three children; and Pat from Hartlepool, worked as an office manager.

Pat added: “It’s nice to keep in contact to see how everyone is doing and ensure that everyone is still alive!”

The next reunion will be in June 2018, if anyone would like to come along email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk