In 1981, two young Medford couples decided to start a gourmet-dining club. Their idea was to get some people together to try out new types of food.
Each couple invited three other couples to join them. So then they were 16. And the idea of trying various adventures together soon surfaced.
Thirty-one years later, the group is still exploring together. One of the original couples moved to Nevada after four years, but the group voted on a replacement couple.
"A lot of us didn't know each other when we started," says Linda Pons. "It's amazing we're still together."
"We were a little hesitant about the thing at first," says Marilyn Bamford. "We didn't even know who these people were. And they didn't even tell us what we were going to do. The first time, they told us what to wear, what time to meet and where.
"We went to a karate lesson, then back to the (couple's) house, where we cooked our own Chinese food and sat on the floor and ate it. It was fun. After the first few times, we quit being nervous because we always had fun and they never did anything too weird."
Soon, the adventures became more important than the food. Calling themselves The Honeymooners, the group focused on creative outings. Every three months, two couples (names drawn by lot) would get together and plan the next outing in secret.
The others were told only when to meet and what to wear. Planning together in rotation helped couples get to know each other even better.
Over the years, the adventures have varied from hayrides and mountain climbing to cruises and other trips. When all their children were young, the hardest part was finding a date when they could all get sitters and meet. Now, most are retired, and they have time for longer adventures, including a Caribbean cruise and a trip to Europe, where they started in Paris, visited Medford's sister city, Alba, Italy, then spent a week at an Italian vineyard.
They took trips to Oregon Caves and the coast, rafted local rivers, hiked Mount McLoughlin and the Table Rocks, visited spas and had tailgate parties. They took classes, went to all the local plays and concerts, took steam trains, hired magicians and masseurs, went fishing, bowling, roller-skating and cross-country skiing.
Each adventure included a meal, sometimes at a restaurant, sometimes catered, sometimes a picnic or barbecue. One of the couples wrote a mystery, and they followed the clues before meeting to eat. They played war in the woods with water balloons and biked through Napa Valley.
Once, they all dressed like hobos and were given cameras and a list of photos they had to take of themselves around town — including a photo of themselves with local police officers, who weren't in on the adventure. Afterward, they went to a lot near the railroad tracks in White City, made a campfire and dined on hobo stew.
Other times, they dressed up for more formal meals in homes or fancy restaurants. During a trip to Bandon, they entered a sand-castle contest and won first place.
"When we first started, we planned every minute," says Bill Haberlach. "Then we realized we had a good time together whether we were doing anything (organized) or not."
The original theory behind the group was that people often aren't willing to try things they don't think they will like. The Honeymooners have learned to trust and respect each other's choices. Half are locals, and half the group moved here from other states, but they all seem to share values.
The group includes two dentists, an oral surgeon, a plastic surgeon, an endocrinologist, a stock broker, a teacher and a judge.
"With our group, no one ever says, 'That's stupid; I'm not going to do that,' " says Bette Haberlach.
"Flexibility is really important," adds Bill Haberlach. "It's really one of the highlights of our lives, knowing that four times a year we're going to do something new and exciting with friends."