Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Boy Had the Old Ladies' Number at Bingo This Day

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Boy Had the Old Ladies' Number at Bingo This Day

Article excerpt

Terry "Neck" Rodgers and I headed home for supper on a Friday afternoon in 1956 after playing baseball all day on our makeshift field on Spring Garden Avenue.

Most days, we played until darkness set in and we couldn't see the batted black electrical-taped baseball. Not this day.

"I heard the bingo jackpot at the VFW tonight is a hundred bucks," Neck said. "Wanna go?"

"I'll have to see if I can scrounge up enough money," I answered, not usually flush with cash at age 10.

I went inside my mother's rented two-room house on Voskamp Street to grab a bite. My only nourishment to that point had been two Twinkies and a creme-filled Banana Flip - washed down with a 16- ounce bottle of Lotta Cola.

Hurrying outside afterward, I rounded up pop bottles at the field and from sidewalks and garbage cans, redeeming them for deposit at Johnny Mravintz's store across the street. I made just enough money for bingo cards.

The crowd in the large Voskamp VFW hall numbered around 200. For 75 cents, we each received three cardboard bingo cards for 25 games, in which $25 would be paid to each winner. Additional games called "Specials" were also played and paid more than regular games, but you had to buy separate cards.

And then the main event arrived. Mary, the number caller, explained that the prize for the cover-all jackpot game had been building at $5 a week while no one won for months, and it was now worth $100.

Jackpot cards cost a quarter apiece, or five for $1. Since Neck and I had foolishly spent too much on our losing cards for the Specials, we each could buy only one jackpot card.

The gray-haired women who dominated the crowd bought numerous cards. I wondered how they could follow a dozen or more cards simultaneously, let alone afford them!

Neck and I realized the improbability of either of us winning, with just one measly card apiece. I couldn't fathom what $100 was anyway.

Before spinning the wheel for this final game of the night, Mary reminded everyone that an entire card must be filled by the time she called 56 numbers, or there would be no jackpot winner - just a consolation winner of $10 while the jackpot grew to $105 the next week. …

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