The Real Dream Cabaret co-hosted the recent bingo event at Hallwalls, and our extensive research and preparation (an evening at Polish Cadets bingo which I missed, and a flurry of e-mails that I didn't) has me thinking about the bingo days of my youth. I was raised in a bingo family. My grandfather called the numbers at our church bingo events, and my grandmother sold admission cards and helped verify winners. Later on, my mom and aunt sold "pull tabs". Bingo was a big deal at our church, and the weekly Tuesday night games and monthly Sunday afternoon games accounted for a big chunk of the parish's income. The main game was held in the gymnasium, with a smaller "non-smoking" game held downstairs in the cafeteria. The two rooms were connected via intercom, though it sometimes took a second or two for people in one room to realize a bingo had been called in the other. As years went on, the parish grammar and high schools closed, and parishioners who had moved out to the suburbs were less and less willing to drive in to the city. Bingo felt the pinch. The monthly Sunday game was eliminated, then the Tuesday games were held in the cafeteria only. Eventually, bingo was discontinued entirely. I have a lot of memories of bingo, though they've blurred to the point where I don't remember which story happened when. I remember my grandfather calling the numbers, and sometimes my brother would be sitting on his lap (I don't know if state gaming regulations were looser then or if our church just didn't follow them - that would be a major no-no today). I remember people didn't seem to be having fun. They were always yelling if the caller was going too fast (where's the fire?) or too slow (come on!) or if someone at another table won more than one game (%$#*!). Still, it was exciting. Years later, I went to bingo with my mom and aunt, and while playing I was struck by the multi-colored designs daubers made on the specials cards. After the evening was over I went from table to table collecting the cards, intending to use them as wrapping paper. A volunteer, thinking I was simply being helpful, told me I didn't have to help clean up. I explain that I wanted to reuse the sheets as wrapping paper and she seemed to think that was the cleverest thing she'd ever heard. Another lady - 80 if she was a day - ran over with a thick stack of used pull tabs "you can use these for the tags!"

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