No Name Tags, Please! Everyone at the Annual Betty Picnic Is on a First-Name Basis

updated 07/17/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/17/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Whisper it, but there's a pecking order among the Bettys of Grants Pass, Ore. The "Betty-borns," those with the name on their birth certificates, think they're just slightly better Bettys than the "other" Bettys—the Elizabeths, Bettes, Bettis and Betties. Happily for Betty unity, those distinctions were discreetly ignored by 50 members of the town's Betty Club who attended the annual Betty Picnic last month.

The Betty Club was founded two years ago by Betty Wilder, 62, of Rogue River and Betty Patterson, 59, of Grants Pass. "It just came into my head," says Wilder. "I wondered how many Bettys there were." The founding Bettys posted flyers at beauty shops, banks and offices—and got 48 Bettys at the first picnic. They also got an autographed picture and best wishes from Golden Girls star Betty White.

Most of the club's 80 Bettys, who range in age from 27 to 90, were named in the era when Betty Boop was a favorite cartoon character and Bette Davis, Betty Hutton and Betty Grable were reigning movie queens. "I don't know who I was named for," says Betty Wilder, "probably Betty Crocker. All I know is that if I were a boy, they were going to call me Billy." As for co-founder Betty Patterson, her older brother decided she would be a Betty. "He was about 10 years old when I was born," she says, "and he just liked the name."

When the Bettys were growing up, one drawback to their name was the Betty Boop connection. "I detested Betty Boop," says Betty Hewitt, 57. Now, however, the Bettys—who used to cringe every time they heard "Boop-boop-a-doop!"—have embraced the pen-and-ink ditz as the club's mascot. Her likeness adorns the club's stationery, and the members flaunt Betty Boop watches, T-shirts and buttons.

In addition to the Betty Picnic, the Bettys get together for Betty Bingo in March, an ice cream social in September and a Betty Christmas party. And come October, 26 Bettys are off to Hawaii—no husbands, no children, just Bettys. "Bettys are the best," says Betty Hann, "because we are all wonderful, positive, fun-loving people."

As for the future, Betty Wilder has big plans. "We'd like to see Betty Clubs start all over the United States," she says. "During June, there'd be Betty Picnics everywhere."

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