First high school students celebrate 60 years

They were the pioneers of the new high school.

That's how principal Les Wenholz described the first students to walk through the gates of the new Queanbeyan High School in 1959.

On October 17, 60 years ago, no more than 150 students traipsed the mile-and-a-half from the existing high school in Isabella Street, chairs in hand, to start at the new high school atop the steep Agnes Avenue hill.

Maiden school captain Dennis Rowley, now a successful breeder of poll dorset sheep in Boorowa, said carrying the chairs was a symbolic act.

"I'm not sure whose idea it was, but I know it was designed to give the students the feeling of progress," Mr Rowley said.

"To be honest, I don't know if we walked the whole way or not, but it's a good story to tell."

Five of the remaining eight students from the 1959 NSW Leaving Certificate class (Year 11/12 equivalent) made the trip to Queanbeyan last Friday to mark their 60th anniversary.

Getting a tour: QHS principal Jennifer Green shows the 1959 students around the school.

Getting a tour: QHS principal Jennifer Green shows the 1959 students around the school.

"There were 12 students in that first class and there are eight of us left," Mr Rowley said.

"We were proud to go to the new school. We watched it being built, watched it grow from the ground up."

The last of the first: Reunion students, from left, Arthur Shacklock, Anita McIntyre, Joy Lacheta, Ted Royal and Dennis Rowley pose for a school photo.

The last of the first: Reunion students, from left, Arthur Shacklock, Anita McIntyre, Joy Lacheta, Ted Royal and Dennis Rowley pose for a school photo.

Joy Lacheta, who was then Joy Monk, said the classmates had held a reunion every 10 years since graduating. "Not everyone has been able to come to each of them, but we have made a point of celebrating the graduation every decade," she said.

Ted Royal, now living in Canberra, said the site of the high school used to be called Moore's Estate.

"It was all scrub land, no houses anywhere, so it was a fantastic place for kids to play," he said. "A bunch of us used to come up here and shoot slug guns, have slug gun battles. That was until someone had an eye shot out and it stopped pretty quickly."

Mr Royal was in his element telling current school captains and prefects tales of terror, like the time he put a black snake in the duster drawer for a female teacher, fresh out of teachers college, to find. As he said, not everyone was cut out to be a teacher in those days.

Many of the students went on to join the public service.

Mrs Lacheta joined the Patents Office as a clerk, but had to retire when she married. She and her husband moved to Khancoban when he went to work on the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

"In those days, that was what happened. When a woman got married, she had to retire from the workforce," she said. "Amazing to think how different things were back then."

The group gathered at the Leagues Club on Friday night for dinner.