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5 Men Meet Every 5 Years for 30 Years to Take the Same Photo

When John Wardlaw, John Dickson, Mark Rumer, Dallas Burney and John Molony took a picture in 1982 of all five of them at Wardlaw’s family lake cabin, none of them knew they had just started a life-long tradition. This is a rare friendship which has survived for decades and now the group of guys are sharing their story of friendship with everyone.

During the summer of 1982, the five friends were hanging out at the family cabin on Copco Lake in Northern California. Dickson, or J.D. to his friends, set up his 35-millimeter camera on self-timer and snapped away. The photo shown here dated 1982 is the one they chose as their “vacation photo.” They boys were around 19 years old at the time.

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What is in the jar?

Molony, known in the group as Belves, is pictured holding a Folgers Instant Coffee jar, which contained a cockroach the guys had decided to keep as a pet. They fed their new friend with a piece of butterscotch candy and kept it company with a photograph of Robert Young.


Life goes on

As the men went on to college, every summer they would still return to the Wardlaw’s lake cabin for a summer getaway. Normal activities such as swimming and fishing filled their days. Wardlaw, who is now a filmmaker, would also shoot home movies of his friends.

Pranks were very common among the guys – along with no alcohol. These retreats were not meant to be a “drunk-fest” but instead a gathering of fun and sharing between the five of them. Wardlaw recounts one of the pranks of which he was the designated victim. One day when Wardlaw when to take a shower, brown water came out. When he removed the shower head he found a beef bouillon cube.

“When I went back to the living room, the guys were all chuckling and I said something like ‘beefy goodness’ and they all exploded with laughter,” he said.


CNN News story and interview: 5 men reunite every five years to recreate a pose from …


Summer of 1987

The now college-educated men once again returned during the summer of 1987. During this retreat, they all decided to line up in the same fashion as they did for their vacation photo in 1982. The jar and hat were different, but still present, as were the rather dark and mysterious looks on their faces.

“I think I had a feeling this might become some cool tradition, but I had no idea we would still be doing it for 30 years,” said Wardlaw.

Summer of 1997, the tradition solidifies

Fifteen years after the original photo, in 1997, is when the five men decided to solidify their five-year tradition. As the ritual became more concrete and when digital cameras were introduced, the group became more picky over the details of the photo, going as far as to wear the same clothes, and designate an official jar and hat as props. Hairstyles have changed over the years and with the march of time they abandoned the bare-chested motif.

“Watch us lose hair and gain forehead, gain and lose and gain and lose weight,” Dickson posted on a website he maintains devoted to the tradition. “There are reasons we all decided it was better to take the photo with our shirts on.”

Over the years

Over the years, the friends have played parts in the milestones of each others’ lives, including being in each others’ weddings.

“I look at the photos and think of the relationships I went through,” said Dickson. “Wedding rings come and go, if you look closely.”

Dickson, who now works as a restaurant columnist, got married in mid-July and had some of the guys in his wedding. In June, all five friends celebrated Dickson’s bachelor party at the 30-year anniversary of their Copco Lake tradition.

Molony, who has since relocated to New Orleans and works for UPS, is married, as is Wardlaw, who made a career of his love for photography and film. Burney is a fourth-grade teacher. Rumer, known as “Kram,” now resides in Oregon and has retired after owning his own electronics company. None of the men have children yet.

“We plan on doing this for the rest of our lives, no matter what,” said Dickson. “Up until there’s one guy just sitting in the same pose! Even then, maybe someone will take a picture of an empty bench for us.”

The seven pictures to date are framed and hang on the wall of the cabin. The men still listen to the same ’80s music they were listening to when they were 19 years old.

“I’m not in the same place I thought I’d be, but I’m in the right place,” said Dickson. “Without this photo, there’s no way we’d be together.”

References and related websites:

The men’s official website: Copco Lake Five Year Photo website
CNN: Five guys take same photo for 30 years
The Daily What: Time Marches On of the Day
Santa Barbara News Press Article
The Laughing Squid: Every 5 Years For 30 Years, 5 Guys Get Together For the Same Photo
KOBI 5 Video segment 2012
Siskiyou Daily News article 2012
Five Year Photo Facebook Page


    • Yes, it is. I have one person from high school that I chat with on Facebook… and he wasn’t even a close friend back then. Then all my close friends are long lost. I have no clue as to where they are and what has happened to them.

      • I have reconnected on Facebook with some people I nursed with in my late teens/ early twenties which is great.. including my first real love who I turned down when he proposed !! I was right.. he’s all religious now. That would NOT have done !

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