Ever since the 1950s, Betty, the iconic washer woman — one of the most beloved objects in town — has toiled over her laundry tub high above Vista Avenue.
Mary Jean and Paul Wegner, owners of Cucina di Paolo, the restaurant that took the place of Betty’s long-gone laundromat, have always been clued in about Betty’s popularity and her importance to Boise natives and newcomers alike.
In 2016, the Wegners decided to capitalize on their treasure.
Mary Jean got the idea of making the animatronic lady into a calendar girl.
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“We thought, wouldn’t it be fun to give back to the community and make her the biggest dress-up doll in Boise?” said Mary Jean.
She gathered a group of friends. They committed to dressing Betty up in appropriately seasonal garb, changing her outfit each month for an entire year. They took photos each month. They’ve now compiled those photos into an utterly Boise item: the 13-month 2017 Betty Calendar.
The calendar was supported by volunteers and local businesses that sponsored different months throughout the year. Lee’s Candies, also a Boise icon, naturally sponsored February, the month Betty was dressed in red Valentines finery. The Idaho Potato Commission, Brewers Haven, the Family Barber and many others also pitched in.
The best part, all proceeds from the $20 calendar will go to the Idaho Foodbank.
“We wanted Betty to be more than a historic icon. We wanted her to give back to the community,” said Paul.
Sales have been brisk. The hard-working Betty raised $5,000 for the Foodbank in a single week. The Wegners hope to raise $20,000 in calendar sales by the end of the year.
“It’s been a great community effort with all the people coming forward, making Betty what she was meant to be,” said Paul.
He can’t say which of Betty’s outfits has been the most popular, though customers did seem fond of her Easter bunny costume in April — Mary Jean’s own favorite — as well as the blue and orange Boise State cheerleader costume she donned in August.
“This town loves its football,” said Paul.
But it mostly loves its washer woman, no matter her sartorial splendor.
“Betty is an example to all of us. She works every day in all kinds of weather and never quits,” said Karen Vauk, president and CEO of The Idaho Foodbank. “We’re honored that her effort is going toward helping us solve hunger in Idaho.”
Want your own 2017 Betty Calendar? Pick one up at Cucina di Paolo, 1504 S. Vista Ave. The calendar is also available at several local businesses. People interested in the calendar can also call Cucina di Paolo at 208-345-7150 and order Betty by phone. The Wegners can also mail calendars, though postal fees will apply.