Pike housewives, not desperate, but lots of fun - Bunco Babes' celebrate the 70th anniversary of their group this January

By Karen MundyThe Press-News Published:

January of 1943.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was president leading the country during a time of world war.

Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington's Big Band sounds were "the cat's meow."

Annual wages averaged about $2,000.

Basketball season was going strong for the East Sparta Spartans, the Magnolia Tigers and the Waynesburg Mohawks.

Most families had one car, which cost around $900 for a new one, and dad took that car to work each day.

Therefore, housewives of rural Pike Township-- though not "desperate-- were seeking a little social time for themselves and for their preschool children.

Dorothy Babik took the initiative of inviting several of the other neighbors to her home for lunch. They were also welcome to bring along their youngsters, not yet school age. The original members, in addition to Dorothy, were Mary Young (still a member), Leona Young, Linda Natale, Dorothy Morris and Mrs. Fred Neisel. It was decided the group would meet monthly and widen the circle of those invited. The idea caught on and flourished.

Dorothy passed away in 1967, but her legacy continues as the group she started celebrates its 70th anniversary this month. Several of the members still live in the Pike Township area, but now, some travel from Sherrodsville, Bowerston, Fohl Village and Navarre.

Ten of the members, including Nancy Snyder, Dorothy's daughter, are second-generation members. At one time, Nancy was one of the children who attended with their moms. As Nancy said, there was no thought of a babysitter for the meetings, the children just went along to the get-togethers. In fact, some of children loved those times so much that at least one, Nancy (Fisher) Brunoni, faked being sick, so she could attend those events with her mother, Ellalee Fisher. She later admitted she loved the baked beans and cookies that were often served during the get-togethers.

Over the years events for the group have included funny hat days, beach parties, picnics and "come to the meeting dressed in whatever you are wearing" when the invitational phone call was made.

When the group journeyed to a nice restaurant in downtown Canton, it was a dress-up event. Members wore their best dresses, hats, gloves and heels.

Gift exchanges were held around Christmas. Birthdays, especially those of the children, were celebrated with a cake, ice cream and gifts. Over the years many of the members attended weddings, anniversary parties and other life events for their close friends and fellow club members.

Now known as the "Bunco Babes," the meetings are held the second Wednesday of each month at Crossroads Restaurant. The group is now led by Mary Young, who likes to remind everyone that she is 94 years "Young." She seldom misses the monthly gatherings.

When asked about being a member of the ladies' group for the last 70 years, Mary expressed how she looked forward to meeting with her friends, she also joked that Crossroads owner Bruce teased that he has threatened to "notify the sheriff that they are rolling dice" at this business, referring to Bunco, which includes dice.

"While we play Bunco after lunch most of the time is spent reminiscing about good times and bad times over the past 70 years and proving that 'laughter is still the best medicine,'" said Nancy. "We think of it as our monthly therapy session, as we all part company forgetting the aches and pains of our senior citizen status and look forward to the next month when we can be together. Hugs, concern for others and well wishes are abundant."

At one time the ladies played cards after lunch, but they found that "conversation and visitation meant more than the card playing," said Nancy. Therefore, Bunco became their game of choice.

So, while television has its "desperate housewives," with all their angst, marital woes and drama-- Pike Township has its "Bunco Babes," which Nancy describes as a group of ladies who are a "diligent, loveable, neighborly group of ladies who have clung together through births, deaths, trials and tribulations over 70 years. "

The first may make better television entertainment, but in real life the love and laughter shown by the local ladies is what is so great about living in small town or rural America.

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