Gwen Setinc celebrated her 92nd birthday Feb. 2 in her family’s establishment, the Tavern.
By Sherry Vogel
Gwendolyn Seeley Schweigert Setinc was born Feb. 2, 1924 in a small house on the north side of Baker. Her young parents, Frank and Vivian Seeley, moved to Baker from a farm in the Cabin Creek area. When Gwen was two years old, her 27 year old father was killed in an industrial accident at the Carbon Plant east of Baker. He had caught his pant leg in a conveyor belt, causing his fatal injuries.
Vivian, Gwen’s mother, was left to raise four children. She later met and married Dwayne Bruce. Gwen commented, “It was really something to think he would take on the responsibility of four kids.”
Growing up a “Depression kid”, Gwen experienced some hungry times. She remembers her mother sending her to the local butcher shop to ask the meat cutter for a bone for her dog. She would hurry home with the bone so her mother could make soup. She added, “We also ate a lot of peas and beans.”
Although times were tough, she has many good memories of growing up in Baker. The Baker Lake provided many hours of entertainment. At the time there was a cabana on a sandy beach where swimmers could change their swimsuits and there was also a diving board. This was all located close to where the Bank of Baker is today. “One time,” Gwen recalled, “I decided to dive to the very bottom. Boy, I almost drowned. It was really, really deep back then.” She added, “Another time, I pushed my brother Jack off the diving board. He nearly drowned. He still talks about that.”
The Lake Theatre was also a fun place to go especially if they were showing a Shirley Temple movie. But Gwen and her friends didn’t always have the ten cents it cost to buy a ticket. They would purchase one ticket and that person would go in, sneak behind the stage and open the back door to allow the others to creep in to the nearest seat and sit low.
Gwen’s lifelong career in the restaurant business began in 1936 when she was just 12 years old. She worked for Lew Jim and a waiter named Charley in the first Chinese restaurant in Baker. It was a short lived job. Once when the cook got excited he became loud and threw a spoon. This scared the young Gwen and she ran home.
Later in high school, Gwen became a BHS girls’ basketball star. She played forward on a team with Vivian Koehler, Lois Ferguson and Frances Hythecker. Baker at the time was a Class C school and played Ekalaka and Plevna.
In 1941, Gwen married Fred Schweigert. They were blessed with two sons, Robert and Kenneth. Fred passed away when the marriage was yet young.
Later, in 1946, she met and married Martin Setinc in Baker. They added three more children to their family – Sharon, Pam and Craig. Martin and Gwen enjoyed square dancing together. They traveled with five other couples to dances as far away as Dickinson.
Gwen was also an avid bowler. During her 50 year bowling career, she bowled on a number of women’s leagues including: Standard Service Station, Caroline’s Beauty Shop, Lawler Drug, Quenzer Ford, and the Baker Club. One year at an Oilfield Tournament, she rolled six strikes in a row!
In 1954, the Setincs purchased the Kit Kat Club, a small eatery on the peninsula of the lake, from Bill Campbell. This was located where the Lakefront RV Park is today. In 1960, they leased this business to other operators. At one time it was known as the Peanut Shack. In 1971, she purchased the Tavern Bar from Mildred Jackson. She owned and operated it until 1991, then she sold it to her daughter, Pam, and husband, Tom Owens. Not one to sit and watch the “boob tube”, she continued to work there till just four years ago, when she retired at age 88.
Looking much younger than her 92 years, it’s hard to imagine she is the grandmother to 19, great-grandmother to 21 and great-great-grandmother to 5 children.
When asked to what she contributes her long life, she replied, “Hard work,” then grinning sheepishly, she added, “and chocolate, cigarettes and coffee.”
Happy 92nd birthday, Gwen! May you enjoy the three Cs for many more years to come