The year of the cactus: Cowra High School students reunite

It was 1969.

The year that man first walked on the moon.

The Beatles album 'Abby Road' was released and they were in the throes of breaking up.

The average weekly wage was just seventy dollars, and family's weekly groceries could be had for less than ten.

Petrol was just seven cents per litre but was sold by the gallon.

We measured in miles, yards, feet, inches and fractions of inches.

Things were weighed in tons, pounds, and ounces.

Dollars and cents were just three years old.

The population of Australia stood at 12.3 million, less than half of what it is today.

Phones were hard wired into the wall, had a round dial and a hand piece, were mostly in the lounge and afforded zero privacy for that awkward dating call.

Your favourite TV show mostly aired just once per week and there only two stations.

The Vietnam war raged on and filled the nightly newscasts with black and white images of the conflict.

Colour TV was still six years away.

McDonalds and KFC were not in our lexicon.

Personal computers were not even in our imagination.

And the current Cowra High School campus was brand spanking new.

Set in this backdrop of momentous events and daily trivia, the cohort of Form 4 (Year 10), like all those before them, presented for the annual individual school photo.

The setting was staged with a desk, some books, a globe, a pen and pad, and some background decoration.

They were instructed to dress immaculately, to assume their most scholastic and earnest look, even if they had never experienced that, hold still and ... clickity click. Done.

"Next !"

The golden rule in portrait photography is to double check everything, especially what's happening in the background.

In this our photographer was left wanting, and so that year would forever be known as the Year of the Cactus.

The photos were in black and white and unless you were the blondest of blonde haired students, the background stage cactus morphed into heads and hairstyles with comical effect.

Some sported unkempt bottle brush styles while others rocked the spiky, yet to be invented punk look.

Fast forward fifty years, to 2019 and about 45 of those very same Form 4 students gathered together in April to reconnect, remember, celebrate and to re-enact that photo shoot.

It had been 53 years since they all started at Cowra High and at various stages they moved off on their own adventures.

They gravitated to all corners of the country, and some, the world.

Of about 100 original students, 45 or so were able to attend, there were some who could not be found, some who lived just down the road, some who could not make it, and sadly some had passed.

After the initial task of identifying each other, the stories flowed and those traits and mannerism displayed all those years ago were clearly evident.

The world has changed considerably over all those years, but those connections made at Cowra High still stand.

It was reassuring to know that their history still existed.