TRAVERSE CITY — First there was Elizabeth. Then there was Betty. And finally, there were Betti and Bettie.
Now the once-popular name has all but died out, causing Betty Club numbers around the country to dwindle.
“We’re down to about 12 and maybe eight are regulars,” said Betty Plough, 78, organizer of the Bettys by the Bay in Traverse City. “I have not seen a baby named Betty in I can’t tell you how long. And I’m one of the youngest in the group.”
Plough is looking to boost her club’s numbers and is counting on all Bettys — and Elizabeths nicknamed Betty — to answer the call. Members get together monthly to lunch at area restaurants and to talk about ... well, whatever comes up.
“The one thing we have in common is the name and that’s about it,” said Plough, a medical transcriptionist who was named after one of her mother’s best friends. “The waitresses always get a charge out of it. They’ll come over to the table and say, ‘What’s your club?’ and I’ll say, ‘We’re all named Betty.’ And they’ll say, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Betty came into vogue In the 1920s and ‘30s, when it was the fourth and second most popular name respectively, according to census records. By the 1950s it had slipped to number 35. And by the 1960s, it didn’t even qualify for the list of top 100,000 female names — though Betti with an “i” did. So did Bettyann, Bettyjean, Bettylou and Bettyjo.
Plough, whose mascot is the cartoon character Betty Boop, likes her moniker but acknowledges that these days “it’s just not a catchy name.”
“You’ve got all the Jordans and Megans,” she said — not to mention the Apples and Sages and Suris and Tullulahs. “Betty is kind of an ‘eh’ name.”