The Idaho Statesman is marking Boise's 150th anniversary by highlighting 150 classic icons that help make Boise the city it is. Readers, staffers, local historians and others have contributed to the evolving list. The icons will appear in the paper and online (in no particular order) leading up to the citywide birthday celebration in July. Nominate your own local icon and tell us why: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Maytag Laundry closed long ago. But Betty, the mechanical woman who has presided over her wash tub and the avenue since the 1950s, is still going strong.
Gregory Kaslo and Kay Hardy bought the building that now houses Cucina di Paolo in 2006. Betty was part of the deal.
"Betty is an anchor for the street," said Kaslo.
Some of Cucina di Paolo's customers share that sentiment, said restaurant owner Paul Wegner. For some, she's even assumed idol status. She's almost a spiritual presence.
"A lady came in and said if the washer woman was gone, all of Boise would vanish," said Wegner.
Statesman reader David Klinger had another take on the metal lady:
"Every time I fly back into Boise and make the drive down Vista - before I glimpse that wonderful, iconic view of the State Capitol - the faithful washer woman reminds me that when I return home, there'll be dirty laundry for me to do."
Kaslo and Hardy hired retired pilot and metal fabricator Bruce Whittig to rebuild the plywood, foam and chicken-wire Betty. He made her operational again after a 15-year hiatus. He fitted her with "space-age" joints.
"She'll last longer than we will," Whittig said.
He still cares for Betty, who's about 5 feet tall when she's standing straight and weighs "about as much as a 5-foot-tall woman weighs," Whittig said.
He refreshed her make-up and gave her a 3D nose last year.
Artist Star Moxley makes Betty's costumes. Kaslo said the Boise State University theater department will take on the task of dressing Betty in the future. Fitting her dresses, which happens about four times a year, requires laying large quantities of fabric out like a Mercator projection, said Kaslo. Whittig and Kaslo climb ladders and attach Betty's clothes with Velcro.
"To the sound of hoots and car horns," Whittig said.
Retirement is not in the washer woman's future.
"But when it gets hotter than 100 degrees outside, a circuit turns her off. We call it union rules," said Kaslo.
1504 S. Vista Ave.
Anna Webb: 377-6431