Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Friendly Neighbors Club of Nampa

(Reprinted with permission from Idaho Press Tribune. This piece was their 2010 Cavalcade Magazine Essay Contest Winner)

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

The purpose of origination was unclear, although 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 the school’s 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 much more.

They began looking 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 three-quarters of a century, the Club has regularly donated to over a dozen local and national charities without fail.

Hundreds of women were listed on the rosters, kept meticulously since 1930. Therein are the names of large, well-known 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 been a large focus of the Club in the first place, and children were never left out, nor were 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, tried to stay in touch.

Over eighty years since its formation, the Friendly Neighbors Club lives on. The members are generally older now. When unable to donate their time, they donate funds. They are still doing good works 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.”