Photo By: Courtesy of Lorraine Halverson
Members of Los Altos’ long-running Birthday Club celebrate. Pictured, clockwise from lower left, are Chris Cleveland, Lorraine Halverson, Marian Hull, Lois Ohms, Marlene Beumer, Peggy Buhrig, Nat Hanson, Kari Stangenes and Lill Runge. Halverson, Hull, Beumer, Buhrig, Hanson, Stangenes and Runge are from Los Altos.
With the thought that no woman wants her birthday to pass unnoticed, 12 women originally from the Los Altos area have gathered for 50 years to mark each other’s birthdays.
Meeting last month for the birthday of Nat Hanson of Los Altos, some of the women traveled from as far as Santa Rosa and Spokane, Wash., for the occasion.
“We were all young gals in our 20s when the group began,” recalled Lorraine Halverson, former Los Altos resident and group co-founder. “We started out as a group of five or six friends from our church who decided to surprise a friend with a cake on her birthday.”
From there, the Birthday Club idea expanded. Rather than a surprise visit, why not meet for lunch for each birthday girl? Because the women’s birthdays were in different months, the group decided to convene monthly to celebrate.
“We also started having babies at that time, so we planned that the birthday luncheons would be held in each other’s homes,” Halverson said. “The babies would usually sleep during the lunch, so it saved on babysitting.”
One member would hostess, while another brought the birthday cake. Soon the group expanded to eight women.
Because of the friendships being cultivated, the husbands wanted to get in on the fun, so they added a Fourth of July barbecue to the calendar. Today, their grown children reminisce fondly about taking turns hand-cranking the ice cream machine at the home of Phil and Marilyn Christensen. Phil served as principal of Carmel, Springer, Portola, Blach, Bullis and Egan schools during his long career in education.
According to Marilyn, the Birthday Club meant so much because “we all lived far away from our parents and sisters and brothers. So we became family to each other.”
During Memorial Day weekend, the Birthday Club families would get together at Mount Cross in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Marian Hull remembered the fun they had sharing swimming, hiking, baseball, campfires, s’mores and singing.
“Those were long-lasting friendships for our children and us,” she said.
Nat Hanson recalled a surprise anniversary bus trip to the Stangeneses on a bus owned by Los Altos residents Del and Marlene Beumer.
When the bus appeared at the Stangenes’ home, the couple was astonished to see their friends pile out. Marlene, who once worked as a bus driver for the Los Altos School District, drove the group to Morgan Hill to the Flying Lady Restaurant for dinner. One of the husbands played the guitar and the group sang along the drive.
As the children in each family became teenagers, the Birthday Club evolved into a support group as the usual problems of teens, marriages and busy lives came to the forefront. Often the women would pray together after a luncheon.
“These ladies were sisters to me, surrounding me with love,” said Birthday Club member Peggy Buhrig. “When a crisis hit, we went to great lengths to support each other. I can still call on any of them anytime, with my joys or sorrows.”
“We have faced them together,” Hanson said, “as lifetime friends.”
Two of the original Birthday Club members died, and others have moved away. But the group continues to celebrate together in Los Altos.