I tried something new last week. Bingo — for charity — at my local American Legion.
They play up there each Thursday, and they have already done a lot of good with their winnings.
It was a first for me, Bingo in a public forum.
My family used to play on New Year’s Eve each year. It was kind of cut-throat, in that you could steal someone else’s prize as the game went on. There was always a little swearing and throwing of Bingo cards and tears — real and crocodile — during this fun, family game.
The crowed at the American Legion was much better behaved than my family.
There were no tears, no name-calling, no cards knocked over and no fisticuffs.
I’ve been meaning to play Bingo at the American Legion for months. Mike Mateer and Ken Green and their significant others and six or seven other volunteers put on a pretty good show. They’re efficient and they’re entertaining.
They made losing $40 almost fun.
And I know their winnings go to a good cause. The Legion has made donations to numerous charities in the Galion area since they started their game in the spring.
I’m glad I went last week. Now, I know what public Bingo is like. The fact my monetary loss is going to benefit someone else, who likely needs that $40 a lot more than I do, is OK with me.
Thanks Sandy Stinehour for talking me into playing last week. Sandy and I will be there Wednesday night for your dining pleasure. Again, Sandy is the one with the nice smile. I’m, well, I’m the other one.
Now back to Bingo.
Other than a movie now and then, I don’t enjoy going places solo. I don’t eat out by myself. I don’t go to concerts alone. I hardly ever go to ballgames alone and it is even more rare that I go toa bar by myself, which perhaps explains why I’m 59 and live with a spoiled pitbull and two spoiled cats.
I was not the only Bingo virgin at the American Legion last Thursday. It was Sandy’s first time and there were others ID’d throughout the evening. I think most of them won something, including the night’s biggest winner.
We played like 20 games, with a built-in intermission. Did you know, there are more ways Bingo that with a straight line. There also are postage stamps, kites. T’s and upside down T’s, four corners, full cards and more.
So you have to be on your game.
Sandy also was playing for the first time at the Legion hall. She missed out on a $75 payout because she didn’t realize she had a winner in the second game of the evening. Well, she realized late, and by then another number had been called.
When you yell out Bingo late, the experienced players are not shy about letting you know it.
Also, there was a lot more going on than just Bingo. There are tear-off game cards being sold while the Bingo calling is going on.
Mateer calls the numbers. Ken Green and his wife Nancy are the two main card-game shills. They go up and down the aisles selling tickets for the game of the moment.
Last Wednesday’s crowd was, I guess, pretty normal. I counted about 65 players. They’ve had as many as 140. There are treats from Cake & Icing and snacks from Phil’s Deli available, part of the Legion’s effort to promote local businesses.
All in all, on any given Wednesday, there are lots of winners at Bingo night.
Throw in the fact that everyone is having a good time, and there really are no real losers.
I’m certain I’ll play again. Sandy?
Each evening starts with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer, which I think was a nice touch.
Also, as each of us bought our starter packs, we received a plastic toy soldier. Mike and Ken are both veterans, as are most of the others helping out on Bingo night at the Legion. Mateer explained the reason for the toy soldiers. They were small enough that all of us can carry around them with us throughout the holiday season .. and beyond. The are reminders to usof those in the military who are serving in this nation or overseas — unable to be with their families — doing their part to make this nation a safer place for all of us.
It was a nice thought. A great reminder.
There also was an ugly Christmas sweater contest, which I could have won if I had known about it. I have this beautiful green Grinch sweater I could have worn.
So if you’re bored during the dark and dreary days of January and February, and you need a reason to get out of the house. You now have a two new options: Bingo at the American Legion on Thursdays and Russ Kent’s Daily Grub at the American Legion on Wednesdays.
Russ Kent is an editor and columnist with Aim Media Midwest. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org