And those Susans, too. Oh, and don’t forget the Lindas.
By Nancy Bordine & Susan Koenig
Tired of trying to remember names at a party? Looking for a group with which to bond? Nostalgic for the days of your youth, when kids left people out and exclusivity was the name of the game? Well, there is a party coming up on Tuesday, June 27, and you are not invited—unless your name is Nancy, that is. But not to worry, there is a party later this summer that you can attend—only if your name is Susan, though. And let’s not forget about the Lindas, who we haveheard lunch at L’Chayim, or the Barbaras who feast up in Leelanau. According to Bruce Lansky, author of Baby Names in the News, the most popular baby boomer girl names from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s were: Mary, Linda, Barbara, Patricia, Carol, Sandra, Nancy, Sharon, Judith, Susan, Deborah, Karen, Donna, Lisa, Kimberly, Michelle, and Cynthia. So where are they now? It would be a challenge to find these girl names in a high school these days. A baby named Nan or Susie? Forget it!
Still, there is a contingency of these women—mostly middle-aged—who gather together once a year to celebrate their names.
How did the whole thing get started? Well, that depends on who you talk to. Urban legend has it that the Cathys started it first in Benzie County, though the Susans will claim it was them.
When they grew up and had retirement time on their hands, they started looking for fun things to keep themselves busy. Someone—possibly wintering in a Florida retirement village—noticed, ‘There sure are a lot of us Cathy/Kathys around here. We should get together and have a party.’ Perhaps simultaneously, an area woman named Susan noticed, shortly after she had moved to Benzie County, that she had been meeting a lot of women of the same nomenclature, and so she decided to invite all seven of them to a luncheon. It seemed corny, but a lot of them knew each other already, and some called other area Susans to join in. Everyone was from Benzie County, and most were locals (meaning they vote here). Susan Someone offered to host the party the following year, and so it continued through the early 2000s, with about 25 Susans attending back then.
Then, around 2002, a handful of Nancys, who had heard about the Cathy/Kathy parties and the Susan parties, thought, ‘You know, there are a lot of us around, too. Let’s see if we can muster up a gathering of Nancys.’ Well, that Nancy told two Nancys, and they told two Nancys, and before you knew it, there was a group of 54 Nancys on the Benzie County group list, with an average of 20 to 24 getting together each year. There are now seven Nancys on the planning commission, and they meet four times per year. Of the Nancys who gather in Benzie County: 40 percent are local, 35 percent are from neighboring counties, 10 percent are from other areas of Michigan, 20 percent are from other states as far flung as Arizonia, California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania,
Regardless of which party you attend—and, thus, which name designation you fall under— it is funny not having to introduce oneself, nor having to remember any names. Benzie County can seem very homogenous at times, but the backgrounds of these women are as varied as the ladies themselves. Past careers and present include social work, education, sales, artistry (painting, pottery, design, sculpture, culinary art), law, flight attendant, healthcare, and beach shop owner. Most are married, some single (widowed, divorced, or by design), and all goodlooking, charming, and in great physical shape. Amazing. (Sorry to be exclusive, but that is the way it is.)
Nancys: This year, the 2017 Nancy gathering will take place on Tuesday, June 27, for a 12 p.m. luncheon at Chimney Corners Resort on Crystal Lake. “Chef Steve [Tebo] puts together such a lovely lunch for us,” Nancy Waltz says. “Last year, he used recipes from his winter training in France, and it was so delicious!” Nancy Repp was involved in the decision to hold this year’s event again at Chimney Corners.
“You just can’t beat the serene setting there, overlooking the sparkling lake in that big vintage lodge,” she says. The theme for 2017 will be ‘Fun Up North,’ and there will be some fun icebreaker questions, as well as one finale question for each Nancy to answer for the entire group. It is fun getting to know more about each other each summer and learning more about enjoying this beautiful area from each other.
“Our Benzie group celebrated our 10th Anniversary in 2012,” says Nancy Vanderlinde, one of the planning committee members for the Nancy Luncheon in Benzie County. “We have such a good time that no one wants to stop getting together.” The planning committee’s ultimate goal is to have every Nancy in the county join the party.
If you know a Nancy who likes to have fun, share this information with her. If you are an interested Nancy, contact Nancy Waltz at email@example.com by Monday, June 19, to reserve a place at the party. (Checks will be due to Nancy Williamson by Friday, June 23.) ‘Meet & Greet’ will begin at 12 p.m., with the meal following at 12:30 p.m.
Susans: Sadly, we have lost a few Susans over the years, but the group lives on and continues to grow. Nowadays, there are about 40 Susans on the list, and the potluck luncheons have evolved (or devolved) into wine and cheese from 4-6 p.m. on the Thursday after Labor Day. There is no test, but if the group gets much bigger, you might just have to show your birth certificate. This is, of course, discrimination in its only acceptable form—even Dr. Seuss would agree. Do you like it, Sue or Susie? I think we’re bonded, you and me. If you’re a her, even a he –A boy named Sue at the party?
Well, that’s OK, it’s kind of funny. We’ll just call him Susie Honey. Do you like the name of Susan? Even if it’s not your choosin’? You’ll like it now, you have a group. You don’t have to jump through hoops. A dish to bring, and you’ll remember, A special Thursday in September. If Susan (or some derivative thereof, as Susie, Sue, Suzanne, etc.) is your appellation and you are reading this article but have not been included in this in-crowd, take heart! Call Susan Koenig at 231-882-5722 or Sue Pyne at 231-882-5721.
Lindas: Up in Traverse City, they had the first Linda party in April 2015. There were 20 Lindas that showed up from the five-county region—the oldest Linda was in her 70s, and the youngest was in her 30s. (Both received a prize.) “We had lots of laughs and a couple of silly games and contests,” says Linda Sommerville, one of the organizers. The next meeting of the Lindas will be Thursday, September 28, at 5:30 p.m. at Firefly in Traverse City. They plan to promote the party via Facebook, emails, newspaper, and radio, in order to reach the greater region. Want to learn more? Contact Linda Sommerville at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barbaras: Back in 2012, our sister publication up in Leelanau County, the Glen Arbor Sun, profiled a group of Barbaras who have been meeting for close to two decades. Now, more than 80 Barbaras are on the email list, according to Barbara Alldredge, one of the club organizers. Alldredge was part of a 65-member Barbara Club in Rockford, Illinois, but she found a surplus of Barbaras in Leelanu County when she began spending more and more time here.
The Feast of Saint Barbara is held on December 4, so the Barbaras celebrate on the half-year, on June 4. In 2012, there were 45 Barbaras on the list and 18 attended the luncheon, but after the Glen Arbor Sun’s story, attendance swelled to 26 in 2013, and the email list was at 56. Earlier this month, attendance was 35, and now the email list is currently sitting at 82. Originally, the club met at the home of a Barbara, but they have since outgrown that. In 2014, the group met at the Glen Arbor Yacht Club; this year at the Leland Lodge. “It’s purely a social club,” Barbara Siepker told the Glen Arbor Sun. “We eat and talk, share Barbara facts and stories, and lament that there aren’t any little girls named Barbara anymore.”
However, a correction came to the Glen Arbor Sun a year later from club organizer Barbara Alldredge, who had received a letter from then seven-year-old Barbara Noreen Tornvall. Little Barbara had been visiting Glen Arbor from Chicago when she read about the Barbara Party, and she was delighted to learn of all of the area women who shared her name. Little Barbara wrote to share a little about herself, and Alldredge read the letter aloud at the annual Barbara meeting in 2013.
“I wanted to let you know that there are indeed some (at least one) little Barbaras out here,” Tornvall wrote. “I am named for both my grandmothers. Your Barbara Club sounds like a lot of fun.”
Calling all Barbaras: Do you share the name? All Barbaras are welcome to join the group—not just those in Leelanau County—by emailing Barbara Alldredge at email@example.com. The next meeting will be June 4, 2018, time and location to be determined.
Editor’s Note: Much of this article—especiallythe Susan portions—is from an article by Susan Koenig that ran in The Betsie Current in the fall of 2006, as well as a pair of Barbara articles by Karen Soderholm that ran in the Glen Arbor Sun in the summers of 2012 and 2013. Are you aware of another local Name Party that we should know about? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at our Facebook page.
Graphic caption: It would be a challenge to find a girl named Nancy in a high school these days, but in 1946, this baby girl name was the bees knees. Graphic by Aubrey Ann Parker. Source: BabyCenter.com