Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Friendly Neighbors Club

On April 5, 1928, a group of mom-types formed a club, aptly named ‘The Friendly Neighbors Club’. They could not have known then that their small community organization would outlive them and their children.

The Club formed of necessity; in this pre-PTA era, Lakeview’s one-room schoolhouse’s need was urgent: hot lunches and helping hands to assist the two teachers. As time went by, the Club reached beyond essentials. Last Day of School Picnics, purchase of a new furnace and hot water heater, presents for teachers, janitors and cooks, eighth grade graduation ceremonies and so much more.

The Club began to look for other places where they might be needed. They made curtains for the Hall, donated holiday turkeys, brought gifts to clients at the State School on a regular basis, and sold baked goods at the Marsing Disaster Fundraiser each year, giving the proceeds right back to the Fund. For more than a quarter of a century, the Club has donated to over a dozen local and national charities without fail.

Hundreds of women have been listed on the Club rosters, kept meticulously since 1930. Many of the names are recognizable; of large country families, but not all. Some were simply transplants from out of state, needing friends, and the Club was there. “It made me feel that I belonged,” said a member. The ladies loved their community, families, and each other with an uncommon steadiness. They threw parties for one another, mourned losses and celebrated gains. If anyone was ill or down, they were sure to get a card, and sometimes a plant, flowers, or a casserole. They worked hard, but they knew how to play, too. The books give accounts of stunts, riddles, games, contests, and practical jokes on their husbands.

Since children were allowed at the meetings, the members’ young formed a tight bond, having grown up together. It was their children, after all, that had gotten the Club together in the first place, and children were never left out, nor were the helpful husbands, who were often well-fed as a reward. A tragedy occurred when the Lakeview School had a fire in 1967, but the children, although bussed to different schools, mainly stayed in touch.

Over eighty years since its formation, the Friendly Neighbors Club lives on. The members are generally older now. When unable to donate time, they donate their funds. They still do good works and are still finding ways to meet a need. Once a month they gather, and continue to celebrate the Club’s anniversary each year, on April 5th.

“It’s a matter of being welcomed by people. People who feel like family; people that you can count on,” said a long-time member. When asked about the hey-days of the Club, she continues, “It’s a lost time,” but then thoughtfully added, ‘But nothing ever really ends; it just changes. We still need to know who our neighbors are. Not knowing might be all right in New York, but it’s not all right here.”

*This article was the Idaho Press Tribune's essay winner for it's annual Cavalcade Magazine in 2010.

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