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For generations, Betty has been an icon of the Boise Bench

This story is an excerpt from our new book Boise: City of Trees, available for purchase NOW! Order here.

For generations, Betty has been doing her dirty laundry in public on the Boise Bench.

Betty’s not an actual person — but an animatronic part of a sign on Vista Ave.

Day or night, rain or shine, she has been washing clothes in her wooden wash bin twenty feet off the ground since the 1950s. What is now an Italian restaurant known for its lasagnas, pot pies, and desserts called Cucina di Paolo, the business first opened as a Maytag laundromat. 

[2000: Co-owner of Cucina di Paolo, caretaker of Bench’s ‘Betty’ dies]

In recent years, Betty starred in the restaurant’s yearly calendar, with all proceeds going to local charities, including the Idaho Food Bank, the Women’s and Children’s Alliance, and the Idaho Humane Society.

Betty from before Cucina di Paolo moved in. Copyright 2022 David R. Day

“The calendars were born of a labor of community love,” Cucina di Paolo owner Mary Jean Wagner said. Her husband, Paul Wagner, passed away in 2020. He was a long-time Boise chef and was also known for changing Betty into a new outfit each month. A lot of her outfits fit the season like her Fourth of July and Christmas dresses and her Boise State cheerleading uniform, to name a few.

 “Paul and I loved all the many heartfelt stories we heard over the years of love for Betty the Washerwoman and what she meant to folks when they were little, driving by or as a greeter to our community,” Wagner said.

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Anna Daly - BoiseDev Reporter
Anna Daly - BoiseDev Reporterhttps://boisedev.com/author/annadaly/
Anna Daly is a reporter for BoiseDev. She's an Emmy-winning journalist, and a professor at the College of Western Idaho. Contact her at [email protected].

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