Of all the iconic sights of Boise, Betty — the motorized lady who toils atop a platform at the Cucina di Paolo restaurant on Vista Avenue — may be the most well-known. She is certainly among the most beloved.
Passers-by may have noticed that in the last two weeks, Betty has stopped working. She’s not on strike. She’s just in need of repairs.
Boisean Bruce Whittig, the retired pilot and metal craftsman who rebuilt her motor back in 2006, is willing to again donate his expertise to fix her. The problem is, he’s 75 now and isn’t keen on climbing up on a ladder to do the work.
The washerwoman’s owners, Cucina di Paola proprietors Paul and Mary Jean Wegner, hope members of the public will pitch in to help pay a sign company with a boom truck to remove Betty from her platform so Whittig can take her to his shop for repairs.
The last time she was removed it cost around $700, said Whittig. The Wegners have set up an account at U.S. Bank for donations.
“It’s quite the expensive endeavor, so we’re enlisting the community,” said Paul Wegner.
The Wegners had rented their restaurant space for more than seven years before buying it from Gregory Kaslo and Kay Hardy this summer. The purchase of the building included Betty, and the Wegners’ promise that they would maintain her. Forever.
“Under no circumstances can she be sold or removed,” said Paul Wegner. “And if we ever sell the building, that will also be part of the new contract.”
Any money donated that’s not used for Betty’s repair will go to the Idaho FoodBank, said Wegner.
Mary Jean Wegner has more big plans for Betty. She wants to create a pin-up calendar featuring the famed laundress in a different costume each month. She’ll start the project in the new year, she said. Again, all proceeds will go to the Idaho FoodBank.
Cucina di Paolo is in a former Maytag laundry building, which explains the presence of Betty and her wash tub. She was installed in the 1950s. Though she has remained at her post since then, she took a 15-year hiatus at one point before Whittig made her operational again. Betty is made of plywood, foam and chicken wire.
“Our goal is to make sure the community sentiment and love for her and her iconic status in this city remains prominent,” said Paul Wegner.
If you’d like to support the project, donate at any U.S. Bank branch to the Betty the Washer Woman Fund, account number: 153355567352.