The Good Time Girls began bringing guided historical walking tours to Bellingham in 2011. Dressed in period costume based on “scandalous” postcards from the 1890s and 1900s, the Good Time Girls deliver their tours with a touch of sass and humor. It’s certainly nothing like history class!
My teens and I took the tour on a warm fall evening with tour guide Kolby LaBree sharing tales of sin and gin from Bellingham’s early days before four small towns incorporated in the city we know today. Like many western frontier towns, Bellingham’s population grew as men came north for the Alaska Gold Rush.
Some went north and came back, some never made it out of Bellingham; the result was a lot of men away from their homes, families and churches. So perhaps it’s not surprising brothels and saloons became big business for these little boom towns.
As we wound our way around downtown, LaBree pointed out some of the many locations these businesses called home over the years, along with sharing the stories of the well-meaning citizens who sought to put an end to the sin and gin. We learned where Bellingham’s “red light district” was located and what those red lights signified. (I won’t give it away here; take the tour to find out!)
In pre-pandemic days, the Sin and Gin tour ended with an optional libation at a downtown drinking establishment. Due to Covid safety protocols, this portion of the tour has been dropped for now, but LaBree said they hope to bring the option back as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Like other businesses operating during this time, the Good Time Girls are adhering to Covid safety protocols. Tours are private or semi-private, limited to small groups of families and friends from limited numbers of households, and masks are required. Tour offerings and time choices are currently based on guide availability, which can be found on the Bellinghistory website. Tours last about an hour and cover approximately one mile.
Gore & Lore, and more
These tours turn to the darker side of the ‘Ham. Hear harrowing stories of murders ripped from the headlines and chilling tales of hauntings that may make you look over your shoulder the next time you’re in one of Bellingham’s many historic buildings.
The Gore and Lore tours traditionally take place only during the Halloween season, but with more flexible scheduling due to the pandemic, this tour is currently available for anyone who requests it.
The Good Time Girls, LaBree and Wren Urbigkit, are not only tour guides but also amateur historians who have done the research to bring these stories to life. Tour guides share historic photographs to give a glimpse of the places and characters featured in the tales of old Bellingham.
The Sin and Gin tour is rated “mature” and Gore and Lore is rated “PG-13,” so parents will want to decide if their teens are ready for the content. (Read more on the website.) Wanting to bring along 14- and 16-year-old, I talked to LaBree first to gauge the topics and decided it was OK for my kids. I found delivery was factual and didn’t use derogatory language, so it got this mom-of-teens approval.
The Good Time Girls’ Columbia Neighborhood and Whatcom Creek tours are appropriate for all ages and sensibilities.
Stay cozy with virtual tours
LaBree says the Good Time Girls are ready for almost any weather, and know good places for groups to duck out of the rain during a tour if the need arises, but if you would rather stay cozy on your couch, the Good Time Girls have some special virtual offerings this fall.
The Good Time Girls have partnered with Bellingham Parks to present new history talks via Zoom during October and November. Take a virtual tour of Bayview Cemetery on Oct. 21, hear creepy tales from Chuckanut told live from Woodstock Farm on Oct. 28, and get the story behind the mysterious plaques peppered throughout Fairhaven on Nov. 18.
Did you know there is a corner in Fairhaven where unidentified corpses were laid out in hopes that someone might know who they were? There’s a plaque that marks the spot, and you can learn where it is when you take the virtual tour.