Pooh and Piglet. Lucy and Ethel. Laverne and Shirley. What is it we find so loveable about these characters? Why is it we think of one and the other instantly comes to mind?
Perhaps it is because we see a little of ourselves in them. The goofball, the sensible one. The insecure, the grounded. The life of the party, the quiet one. But maybe beyond that it is the relationship they share. That relationship we all seek. That special bond called friendship.
Most people count themselves lucky if they have one best friend. But what if you have, say, 11? It would be like winning the friendship lottery, right? Well, there is a group of ladies who have done just that.
About 50 years ago, a group of men began meeting at The 500 Club for Clovis Rodeo Association meetings. Rather than stay at home, their wives chose to come along. While their husbands worked on plans for the rodeo, Judy Barkman, Rita King, Colleen O’Dell, Jackie Scott, Burline Stearns, and Annie Vandergrift decided to play cards.
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As they played and talked, they discovered they had a lot in common. They had children in school and some had daughters in Job’s Daughters. They enjoyed each other’s company and thought it would be fun to choose other activities to do together. Each time they met and played cards, they put a little money in the “pot” for a shared activity. The ladies also began meeting for dinner once a month.
Over the years, other women came to join the group including LaVerne Henry, Nadine Pishione, Susan Rigsbee, Barbara Stinman, and Lois Vuicich. They continued to meet and put money away for vacations they took together once a year. Their trips have taken them to Monterey, Lake Tahoe, and San Francisco, where they saw The Phantom of the Opera.
One trip up to Dinky Creek shook them up a bit when an earthquake occurred. On a trip to Disneyland, when they arrived at their hotel the Embassy Suites, they saw a sign stating, “Free Drinks.”
Anne laughed at that memory, saying,” I never saw women run so fast to get free drinks.”
A longer trip, a three-day cruise to Mexico, was wonderful. Although, Rita noted,” It was a little scary when we came up for coffee on the morning the shipped docked. There were men with guns on the pier.”
As it turned out, the men were part of the Mexican Federal Police, nothing to worry about.
As the years passed, they group added a “traveling dinner” at Christmas time. Since their husbands were all friends, this allowed them to join in the fun. The ladies also expanded their activities to include charity work. They helped with a deep-pit barbecue with proceeds going to charity. They also worked on fundraisers during the building of Clovis Community Hospital.
While their friendship brought them laughter and good times, it also provided support in the most difficult times.
Lois’ daughter was seriously injured in an automobile accident. She was in Bakersfield with her daughter and the ladies got on the train and traveled to Bakersfield to have lunch with her.
Laverne’s daughter was tragically killed in a car accident just after she graduated high school. Judy’s daughter died of cancer at 56. Rita’s daughter died at 56 from a prescription drug overdose. Judy noted, “Their graves are not far apart at the Clovis Cemetery.”
Nadine lost her son at 47 when he committed suicide. Rita stated, “When something like that happens, we all step right in. Nadine was at the coast when her son died and three of the ladies got in the car and drove over and stayed with her.”
To add to their loss, Anne, Burline, Lois and Nadine’s husbands passed away.
As some of the ladies edge closer to their 80s, driving at night became more difficult, so they gave up their dinner parties and began meeting again at The 500 Club for lunch. Once a month they gather, back where they started, savoring the friendship along with the food.
When asked what is so important about their friendship, there is no hesitation in their response. “It’s the laughter and the tears. We’ve had a lot of both,” Judy said.
Nadine added, “The most comforting part is that we may not see one another except once a month, but if anything happens, you’re not alone.”
The ladies’ roster is short one name now. Jackie Scott passed away two years ago to cancer. But friendship is stronger than loss. And perhaps Pooh understood this better than anyone.
“’We’ll be friends forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet. ‘Even longer,’ Pooh answered.“ — A.A.Milne