By DEVIN HEILMAN
BAYVIEW — Pockets of the West were still quite wild 60 years ago.
These areas included country towns that were distant from others, like Bayview, Athol and the village of Belmont, which was once a farming community on Parks Road near where Silverwood is now.
"There was a train stop at Belmont, then it came through Farragut, which wasn’t Farragut at the time, and wound down here into Bayview," said local history writer Linda Hackbarth, who built a home in Bayview in 1976. "That served the lime industry and brought tourists."
The women in these communities formed the BAB (Bayview, Athol and Belmont) Women's Club in 1956 to shorten those distances.
"It was an idea to get rural women out doing things together, socializing," Hackbarth said. "But also it was educational. They started out canning and different things women would do at that time, mainly geared to the rural communities, so you didn't find these groups in the cities."
Even though Belmont didn't survive the test of time, the BAB Women's Club is still going strong. BAB members meet once a month 10 months out of the year to raise money for local causes, including the Athol Elementary School Library, scholarships for North Idaho College, 4-H awards and families in need. They also host annual spring and Christmas events to help fund their efforts.
"I love the fun working with the women," said past BAB president Patti Bennett of Bayview, who has been involved in the group since 2007.
"We all work together to fund-raise and help people in need, but we have an awful lot of fun doing it as well,” she said. “It’s just a fun group to be in, and a lot of us like to give our money away.”
On Tuesday, the group celebrated some of that Wild West heritage during its Wild West Social in the Bayview Community Center. About 70 BAB members and friends released their inner cowgirls as they line-danced, listened to cowboy poetry, dined on Western-themed vittles and enjoyed a secondhand Western-wear fashion show.
The ladies usually have a dressy tea function in May, but decided to change it up this year.
“We’re all dressed like ‘Hee Haw’ and it’s been fun," Bennett said. "Two years ago we tried doing a luau and it was so fun."
Hackbarth, who has been in BAB since 1996, said she lived way out on Cape Horn when she joined the club. She said the ladies are "salt of the earth" kind of people.
“It was a way to meet all the women in the community," she said. “In a small community, you’re looking for how to get acquainted."
Kathleen Falco of Careywood attended the Western social with a friend. She said she wanted to see what the group is all about, and she is glad she did.
"I'm really impressed with the way they have it organized," she said. "The whole thing just amazes me."
As for the group's long history, she said that's also impressive.
“If you look at some of the women who have been involved and you hear their stories, they grew up on farms, milking cows and everything," she said. "And then you look at what Bayview has as history, I think it’s amazing."