Today, here in 2018, Bingo is still alive and thriving. And some of the game’s most rabid fans are in the United Kingdom. As a matter of fact, there is a small hotel chain based in this country that has Bingo on Monday nights at only two of its hotels—one in Palm Springs, CA, and the other in London.
I recently saw a marvelous television documentary about the British people’s fascination with the game we love so much. I thought I’d share some of it with you.
First, it seems that Bingo became a major source of entertainment for British fighting men and women during the Second World War. It was easy to print sets of Bingo cards and make sets of numbers for the “caller.” And, since the military personnel marked the cards with a pencil, pen or crayon, the game could be played just about everywhere, even on long trips on troop trains.
After the war, as Europe was putting itself back together, Bingo suddenly emerged as an inexpensive form of entertainment. England had rationing of many foods and items way into the 50s. Bingo, played in pubs and clubs and private halls, became a bright spot for many war-weary Brits.
As the 1960s approached, there began to be a lot of empty real estate in the downtown sections of British cities that had escaped the aerial bombing. Movie theaters were closing by the hundreds as the new medium of television became the latest entertainment draw. Entrepreneurs soon found that abandoned theaters were ideal “halls” for the emergence of “commercial” Bingo in England.
These halls attracted mostly British women who found they were great places to meet friends, bet a little money and possibly win a little money, while their hubbies were off at work. About this same time it became fashionable in the halls for the callers to give each number a poetic nickname: 39, Rise and Shine. 27, Next door to Heaven, and so on.
But that all changed quickly when the British government began to strictly regulate Bingo, beginning in the 1970s. Stricter rules translated to “no clowning around.” Read the number clearly and concisely.
By the way, if you ever go to the UK, be prepared for a different kind of Bingo experience. In many of the halls up to 90 different numbers are used; the cards are often strips and not the traditional 5×5 grid that is so familiar here. But, the object is the same: Have the right numbers in the right places. Additionally, many Bingo halls in the UK are linked together with larger prizes and more inventive games.
Next time, we’ll go out on a search for aliens and play Bingo at the same time.
Drop me a line on the Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org. And, if you don’t have e-mail, a friend says you can use his physical address: DD, Box 5441, Palm Springs, CA, 92263.
Much of what I write here is pure fantasy and nonsense, but when it comes to my wonderful and fulfilling life experiences, it is all the truth. There seems to be some confusion about that.
It came to light the other night at Bingo, when the conversation in our little clique was about the state of education. Teachers having to buy their own tools, overloaded classrooms, poor salary, those are problems I never had to deal with.
“I enjoyed my fifteen years in the classroom,” I said proudly.
“You’re saying you were a school teacher? I thought you said you were a ballet teacher.”
“I was,” I replied, “For almost twenty years. There’s nothing more exciting than waiting for the curtain to open for the annual recital and beautiful little girls in their tutus, dreaming of being a star.”
“That’s strange. You told me you were a nun once.”
“Oh I didn’t stay long in the convent. Two years both times. They don’t play Bingo and they wouldn’t let me be mother superior.”
I began to feel uncomfortable when I noticed some of the girls were whispering to each other with their hands over their mouths.
“What ya whispering bout?” I asked innocently.
“Oh nothing. I’ll tell you about it later,” said Ethel.
“I remember one time, when I worked at a Homeless Shelter, two guys were whispering like that. They were planning to steal some cigarettes.”
“Oh sure. You worked at a homeless Shelter,” said one.
“Actually, my husband and I were co-founders of this one.”
I am not too bright I guess. It took me a while to figure out that my friends didn’t exactly believe I have had such an interesting and eclectic life. I felt better when I saw them talking with my mother and sisters during the break. Good old Mom. I knew she would set them straight.
When play resumed, Marge smiled sweetly and said, “My, you certainly have had an interesting life.”
“Yup,” I replied. “I’m only going through life once and I want to do it all.
“And by the way, that column in the Bingo Bugle that you were laughing about a few minutes ago…”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“I wrote it.”
Contact Bev at email@example.com.
There have been a few frustrating situations at Bingo recently that I tried to ignore at first but now think need to be addressed.
There seems to be a carelessness in how some Bingo halls are operating these days and I feel that it is spoiling what is otherwise an enjoyable game.
What triggered me to write to you about it was an experience I, and a large number of others, had when toward the end of the second Bingo session of the night it was discovered that there were duplicate balls in the blower. That meant that anyone playing who had the duplicate numbers had unfair/increased odds of winning over players who did not have those numbers. Plus, how in the world did the extra balls get in there? And had they been there for weeks? Months? Longer?
Another time, at a different hall, operators had to be told several times that balls were getting lodged and not falling into the mixing area. (It seemed to be some kind of blower malfunction where the air was pinning some of the Bingo balls and not letting them tumble with the rest.) I began to wonder: Has this been going on for a while but only now has someone noticed and spoken up? They “solved” the problem by turning the blower off and on, but the problem kept repeating. Needless to say, the audience was not happy with this nonsense.
I also should bring up the oldest complaint of all—the fact that at many games, certain numbers come out of the chute early and regularly and get called all the time, while others seem to be rare as hen’s teeth. I am guessing that the balls need to be cleaned and aren’t, or they are just old/damaged which is causing them to not behave in a uniform way. Whatever the reason, I have watched people in line trying to “select” their Bingo paper and increase their odds by doing a quick scan of the numbers on the sheets, especially if they see that the seller is a friend or someone new.
Obviously, this is not something that Bingo regulations can control; it is up to the Bingo operators to pay attention to such issues and fix problems when they occur. More importantly, Bingo operators need to care about their customers and how the games are run, so that they remain enjoyable and fair for everybody.
Critical in California
You certainly have been having a rough time at Bingo lately!
The duplicate balls is a stunner: I can only imagine that the extra ones got in there while the Bingo hall was trying to do a GOOD thing—replace an old set of balls with a new one.
Regardless of how it happened, try and keep in mind that the error was not intentional, it was discovered and corrected, and likely had no significant impact on the games that night. (Although I’m sure if I’d been one of the players in the room that night, I’d have been as steamed as everyone else.)
Multiple balls getting hung up in the blower due to some kind of malfunction is more serious. Now you have numbers that are basically being taken out of play and not permitted to mix with the other balls or drawn up the chute for the caller to retrieve. On the plus side, switching the blower on and off to keep all the balls moving was a smart temporary fix. But I hope the console was taken to the shop for corrective action ASAP.
Had an individual ball been hung up or gone missing, now that’s whole other story.
I remember a game I attended years ago where it was discovered that a ball had somehow gotten wedged into the corner of the mixer and no one was sure how long it had been stuck there. When it was revealed what the number was, there was an uproar from every player in the room who had that number on their Bingo paper.
It was a real mess. The manager ended up refunding the money to everyone who had the number—which was just about everybody. Meanwhile, every person who’d Bingoed politely said they were fine with it and bolted from the hall as fast as their feet would carry them. —Aunt Bingo
Share your views! Write to Aunt Bingo c/o the Bingo Bugle, P.O. Box 527, Vashon, Washington 98070, or email her at STENGL456@aol.com. Be sure to include your name and address (you can request that your name not be published), as typically she will not include anonymous letters in her columns.
Nobody seems to be quite clear about how St. Valentine’s Day first came to be celebrated, but it is now celebrated in many countries in the world. It has become a lover’s holiday with hearts and candy and flowers. It is also one of the biggest restaurant happenings of the year. This year Kate and I decided to buy a “Sweetheart’s Retreat” for Cliff and Rodney at a mountain villa not too far away. This package included two lovely rooms, dinner for four, and a casino where we could play Bingo.
The manager was a charming Dutchman named Raleigh—short, rotund and cheerful. He commented on the fact of the “ladies paying” and said he would be kind to us and not expect tips. We laughed and continued tipping. Then we asked about his English name and he said his mother was a big fan of the English and Sir Walter Raleigh in particular, hence his name.
Our windows had a spectacular view of the snow-covered mountains where hardier folk were skiing. We, however, were content to stay indoors and watch.
We had a marvelous dinner of steak and lobster and then went to the casino to play Bingo. We had just got settled when our manager, Raleigh, showed up with his dauber, ready to play. He had a huge smile and settled at our table. “I love Bingo,” he said, “and they let me play as much as I want.”
We played the first game rather quietly which was four corners plus a diagonal and none of our group was lucky. “I’m buying an extra Bonanza for every game I don’t win,” declared Rod.
Raleigh was on for the next game and had a fit of the giggles. “I just love this game,” he declared. Then I noticed his number in the screen, but Raleigh said nothing.
“You are winning,” I said loudly enough for the whole room to hear. Again Raleigh said nothing. “Bingo!” I shouted for him while he made shushing motions with his hands.
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“It’s this way,” he said. “They let me play as much as I want but they don’t let me win. It would be against the rules of the casino. I just get to have the fun of playing, and I win surprisingly often.”
Rod won Bonanza, which made us all very happy and we went to the bar for a nightcap before calling it a day well done. Cliff settled into his chair and said, “This is the nicest Valentine’s Day I can remember.” Then he dug in his inner pocket and produced a small jeweler’s box that he handed to Kate. “This is for you. Just a little something to help you remember today.”
Kate opened it happily and it turned out to be an “I love you” pendant with diamonds around the outer curve. It was lovely and Kate was delighted.
Just as I was beginning to feel a bit left out, Rod leaned toward me and whispered, “You will get your present upstairs.”
I could hardly wait to go upstairs to see what my gift was, but once in the room, he took me in his arms and said, “I am giving you something very special tonight.”
And that closes this episode of Valentine’s Day.