World of Bingo players serene

First Posted: 2/12/2014

For the bored, retired or those who don’t know what to do with themselves, here’s a sneak peek into the world of Bingo every other Monday night at the Northmoreland Twp. Volunteer Fire Department Hall in Centermoreland.

Bingo has some unusual, yet charming, customs.

Originally called “Beano,” the name of the game was changed in 1929 by Edwin Lowe in Atlanta to “Bingo.”

First there are the mascots. “Pigs, cats, lady bugs, most things Irish, clovers, money and elephants – with their trunks up – are very lucky,” according to Jean Jenkins, Centermoreland. The mascots can be touched, kissed or slapped into action.

But Betty Lou Mattioli, of Orange who won $30 on a pre-game card to start the evening, thought having a photographer standing next to her was very lucky. The caller asked the photographer to move to another table.

Maybe they know something about being lucky.

But the most noticeable mascot at the fire hall was not an animal at all, but rather Donald Golem, of Trucksville, who, whenever B-1 is called, takes out his duck caller and quacks away. People call him “the duck man” or simply “quackers.”

Golem started his ritual after winning $1,000 in 1967. Each sailor on his ship to Vietnam was given a Bingo number when the ship dropped its anchor. Golem was given B-1 and won the $1,000. He took his new wife on a trip Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and northern California. “It’s a good one (number),” he guarantees.

And then there is the precise way people place their equipment at Bingo night, cards in the center, dabbers lined up ready to strike. Is this lucky?

Elaine Wierbowski, of Falls, has her Bingo bag and gear neatly set up, ready to win. And she has won as much as $325 in this Bingo hall in one night. She says her husband approves of her nights out and can’t wait to see her out the door for his own time alone and the return on her winning ways.

Folks, though, are very serious about their “Bingo Time” in Centermoreland.

They scowled, hissed and pounded on the tables when the 6:30 start time came and Jim Gilpin hadn’t called the first number yet.

Gilpin has been running the fire hall event since 1981 when six men each chipped in $50 to get the event started. The group purchases a PA state license every year, but Gilpin admits attendance has been better in the past. “We’ve lost a lot of players over the years and young people don’t play as much.”

Then there is Bingo etiquette. Don’t sit in someone’s favorite chair or spot, don’t cough or choke while the numbers are being called and do not repeat the called number over and over again or the number that makes you a winner.

Attendees though, say the atmosphere is relaxing and congenial and sure beats sitting around watching the weather channel waiting for the next pre-named storm to slam into NEPA.

Jean Jenkins says, “Everybody here knows each other, but you can meet a lot of new friends, too.” The Golems say Centermoreland is their favorite Bingo location- and the activities have got to be seen.

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