Blomkest Birthday Club has been celebrating together since 1968
They’re inventive, they’re funny, they’re crazy….they’re the Blomkest Birthday Club girls.
It’s always a big party, with laughter, anecdotes, a little wine, a little lefse, but strangely no lutefisk, but about everything else you could think of….it’s pretty much a 12-course meal, complete with dessert, and all of it very good.
Judy Haukos, who’s pretty much the one who started this tradition, dates it to when she and her husband, Mel, purchased the truck stop and café on the north side of Highways 7 and 71 just west of Blomkest from Elsie and Erwin Feifarek and Denny and Jeannie Feifarek. It’s now called Mel’s 7-71 and is pretty much a household name throughout the area.
Denny and Jeannie helped the Haukos family move from Madison to Blomkest, and Harriet Carlson and Jeannie worked at the café.
“They so very kindly called me and were going to come to my house at 2 p.m. and bring me some Christmas cookies,” said Judy. “Well, Jeannie’s birthday is the 24th of December, and in visiting with her once about her birthday, I asked her if she got her birthday and Christmas presents together.”
Well, she did, so Judy got to thinking and invited a few lady friends to her house. “When they came with the Christmas cookies we all shouted ‘surprise’ and sang Happy Birthday, had cake with candles and the Blomkest Birthday Club was born.”
For the first couple of years, Judy said, they did surprises but that can only last so long. “You get suspicious when your birthday is near, so over time no more surprises.”
When their combined 41 kids grew, they had birthday club in the mornings, and the kids played together. Then as they grew older they went to lunch time. Soon the kids were all in school, so moms started going to work and then they went to evening birthday parties. Soon there was another phase in their changing lives – they each had their own party – and as they became senior citizens, they went to having their parties at a restaurant or at their home. “As we moved into retirement years we went back to noon because nobody wants to drive at night.” And in December of this year (2015) they will have been together for 47 years.
Several people that were members have since moved away, but Elda Brink Fraunsush, from Lonsdale, still drives to Blomkest as often as the weather permits “to be with us crazy friends.”
When the Birthday Club gals got into their 50s, they started with the surprises again with Judy Haukos’ crazy ideas. “We went to Carol Stahl’s school and dressed her in silly red and purple clothes – with her principal’s permission. For Julie Christianson’s 50th, she used to collect eggs so my mom made her a cake that said ‘egg sactly 50.’”
When Lois Shaw, their youngest member, turned 50 they went to her house and got her out of bed, made her leave her night clothes on and took her out. “We were dressed like Halloween so nobody would know us. We toilet papered her tree too.”
When Linda Roelofs’ birthday came around they hung “a beautiful clothes line at her hill with night wear that looked like it was from Victoria’s Secret. For my 50th birthday they hung 50 bras in my tree and don’t ya know, the Baptist Church is across the street, and it was a Wednesday church night, and all the people came out of the church laughing when they saw what was in my tree.” And, Judy said, “The girls came to her house, picked her up and blindfolded her and drove and drove and drove around town, plus a few miles out in the country, then to the back of Jeannie’s house one block from her own house, then walked her in blindfolded.
When Marlene Christenson was finally 50, they put 50 pair of shoes in her trees, tying the laces together so they’d hang there.
Judy said they’ve had some wonderful friendships; they’ve been through it, thick and thin. “We ask each other for prayers, and God has seen us through many trials and tribulations. We are all the greatest of friends and always will be.”
Jean Feifarek said it was the 23rd of December, a busy time for everyone, when Harriet, a co-worker called her, said she was at Judy’s and she should come over for coffee. “I tried to talk my way out of it. I had my hair in rollers and a dozen things to do before Christmas, but I went, rollers and all, and I didn’t change clothes either.” When she opened Judy’s door she was met with ‘Happy Birthday,’ and they ended up having a great time. That’s when they decided to get together for all the birthdays, and it didn’t take long for the club to grow. They had a great time visiting, she said, and some of their evening parties got a little late. “With all those women you can imagine what we discussed – kids, husbands, work, aches and pains, news and all views of the subjects, food, recipes, many more topics, and of course we had to have a little gossip.”
In a small town, she said, you know most everyone and consider them all friends, but it’s wonderful to have a group of gals that are ‘special friends.’ She said they have supported each other through thick and thin, and it means a lot to all of them.
“Judy is our business manager and also the instigator for a lot of things, and we love her for it, except when she put a big sign on Main Street that said ‘Lordy, Lordy, Jean is 40.’ I ripped it down pretty fast, but I have forgiven her years ago.” She said they’ve had many years of good times and some not so good, but they are always friends, and she’s sure they will be all the way to the nursing home.
Marlene Christianson said she remembers when she turned 40. “They asked my husband to leave the door unlocked when we went to bed. They came in the house about 5 a.m. and sang to me for my birthday. They took me out for breakfast in my night clothes. Luckily they let me wear a coat to cover up what I was wearing.”
She also remembers when she turned 50 they had 50 shoes in the trees in her yard. “They got the idea of shoes because I had a miniature shoe collection.” She went on to say that over the years they’ve laughed and cried together.
“I love all my friends.”
Lois Shaw said what she remembers most about their Birthday Club is what they mean to each other and how, over all these years, they’ve been there for each other. “Over the years a few members have come and gone, but for the most part the 11 of us have been together through thick and thin. One of our members passed away, and the family asked us to be her casket bearers.” Two of the members have lost husbands, she said, and two are cancer survivors. “And during these difficult times, these wonderful women banded together and supported each other and continue to do so.”
Nancy Waska said the year Jeanie’s husband was working in Texas for Duininck Bros., she was having Birthday Club at her house. “All of us were feeling lonely for Jeanie so we all decided to write her a little note. I was serving caramel apples; so after we were all done writing her the note, we finished with sending a piece of hardened caramel to her.” After Jeanie got back in December, Waska said, they all had a laugh over that piece of caramel that was mailed to her because she couldn’t figure out what that chunk of caramel was.
Myrna Gatewood said her husband died suddenly at a young age. They were not prepared for that, she said, and at the time, things were pretty much a blur to her. “Before the funeral service, dinner was provided for the family in the church basement by my Birthday Club friends. They’ll never know how much that meant to me.”
Carol Stahl, who is the oldest member of the birthday club, said her most cherished memory is when the girls dressed in red and purple and came to her classroom in Danube (she was an elementary school teacher for 42 years) to celebrate her 60th birthday. “When they walked in at 3 o’clock, they told my second-grade students ‘Put your work away; we’re having a party.’ Judy had talked to our principal, and he said ‘Go for it. I am sorry I will be gone, but have fun.’” He even told them to go in through the back door so Stahl wouldn’t see them.
They dressed her in a purple dress with a red hat, purple high heel shoes, even a red and purple corsage. They also gave her “a beautiful arrangement of flowers with balloons in a bed pan.” Stahl said she received many gag gifts with something purple in them from each of the girls. “My students had a great time sitting on the carpet with me. When I dismissed my students for the day and walked them to their bus they all said ‘that was such a fun party Mrs. Stahl.’”
They all left the school and went to the Sheep Shed in Olivia, now known as Max’s, and they continued to celebrate over dinner.
She talked about the bras in Judy’s tree, bras of every color and size, and said they have had many fun times celebrating the different birthdays. “Our birthday club has laughed, cried and supported each other over the years.”
Elda Ann (Brink) Frauenshuh said as the years went by they did many crazy things. Those included a pair of purple shoes, the elephant gift that everyone tried to avoid, and come the next Christmas the purple shoes came wrapped to deceive.
Elda said there was a period of years she didn’t come to the parties as she was on the road traveling a five-state area for work. “After the passing of my sons, my Birthday Club girls were there for me, lifted me up with prayers and would send encouraging notes.”
Since moving to Lonsdale, she tries to get back for the Birthday Club. “I hate it when I know they are together and I’m not there. I can’t wait for the next month when I can see my friends again to catch up with what was going on with their lives.”
Ardis Newberg said she looked out her kitchen window one day and saw some very happy looking women coming to the door and wondered what was going on. It was her birthday, but that didn’t cross her mind. “I went to the door and what a surprise to have some of my Blomkest friends come and surprise me on my birthday. That’s how I got started as part of the Blomkest Birthday Club.”
She said they kept meeting every month for their birthdays, even their kids’ birthdays before they were school age. “In 1979 I decided to have a Hardship Party. You send invitations from the ad section ripped out of a magazine. The Birthday Club got into it by wearing something from old time.” Some of them went to Goodwill to find something fitting for the occasion.
“Everyone was given a menu to order their food from, but I can’t seem to find that menu. I remember the silverware was disguised in it, and if you didn’t mark it off, you ended up without silverware, so we had some fingers eating food that wasn’t finger food, and some eating off their plate with their mouth. It became a real hoot.”
The group had more than birthday club parties, she said. They did a lot of getting together, such as camping, New Year’s Eve, Halloween, and taking the kids swimming at Big Kandiyohi Lake while the moms hung out sunbathing. “I would sit in the shade under a tree since sunbathing wasn’t my thing. It was lots of fun, and more people joined as the years went on…..we are strong and are still giving bridal showers for our kids.”
Ardis said one time when she had the birthday girls over for dinner her husband called from Raymond and said there was a tornado warning and the women should go home. “They did go home, but they missed out on dessert.”
They don’t give gifts anymore, she said, but they still get together. “Some have joked we may have to reserve a section in the nursing home when we get to that point.”
Linda Roelofs said her relationship with the Birthday Club started on her 23rd birthday. They had moved into Blomkest two months earlier, and she was sitting at the kitchen table drying her hair when out of the corner of her eye she saw a group of people coming up the back steps. They were led by Judy Haukos and Myrna Gatewood, and they were carrying food, including a birthday cake. “They knocked and upon entering called out ‘Happy Birthday Linda,’ and we spent the next several hours laughing and talking. It was a wonderful birthday, and I felt enfolded in their friendship.”
On Linda’s 50th birthday she woke up to the sight of every imaginable kind of red underwear, ranging from a union suit to a string bikini, hanging on a line strung along the entire front of her property, which borders the main street of Blomkest.
“I received much attention and caused many laughs for quite a while because high snow banks and ice made it difficult to remove. Plus, the articles of clothing were tightly wired to the fence line. The sight was unforgettable to say the least.”
That night the girls took her out for supper after dressing her up in “an outrageous red and pink cowgirl outfit. We dined in a prominent Willmar restaurant, which shall remain unnamed as they went out of business later and I don’t want us to be held in any way responsible.”
Many topics have been discussed over the years, she said and problems hashed out with various solutions suggested.
Topics have included achieving pregnancy, avoiding pregnancy, symptoms of pregnancy, including morning sickness, being a new mother, child raising, problems with teenagers, planning graduation parties, showers, weddings, dealing with cancer, divorce and death.
Linda said they comfort and support each other through the loss of parents, spouses, children and grandchildren, and they were pallbearers when they lost their friend, Diane Stuhr, who was one of the birthday girls from the early days. “The love and support shown through the friendship of the Birthday Club girls cannot be surpassed.”
They all love these birthday get-togethers and plan to keep having them.