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All Hail The Game Of Bingo

Senior Bingo is just one of the many Bingo options open to families and friends to play in the Champlain Valley
photo by Photo Provided
Senior Bingo is just one of the many Bingo options open to families and friends to play in the Champlain Valley

Wednesday December 31, 1969

By Cookie Steponaitis

Michelle Sullivan Eastman remembers playing her first game of Bingo at a very young age and recollected, “My dad called Bingo and worked at the Knights of Columbus on Main Street in Vergennes where Sweet Charity and Luigi’s are currently as well as at the Legion on Main Street. I have loved playing Bingo since I was a kid. I used to play at Field Days as well as St. Peter’s Parish Hall and the old Legion. The Odd Fellows Hall had Bingo as well as when I was younger.” Eastman has been calling Bingo at the American Legion in Vergennes for the past decade and sees the fun and generations of Champlain Valley residents who come to play and spend time together.
    Bingo had its beginning in Italy in the early 1530’s as a lottery and can still be played in communities in the Italian countryside every Saturday night. It made its way to France in the 1770’s and was changed to “Le Lotto” and when it began in Germany it was used to help teach children math, spelling and history.
    Bingo was called ‘beano’ when it came to America at the beginning of the Great Depression and the name changed to Bingo when a participant accidentally yelled Bingo instead of Beano. The game was taken to a new level under the guidance of toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe when he hired a mathematician to create bingo cards with different combinations. The game became popular first in Pennsylvania when a local priest asked Lowe to use it as a way of raising funds for the church and by the early 1930’s Bingo became an American institution.  
Monday Night - Public Bingo at the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Exchange St.in Middlebury. Doors and Kitchen open at 5p.m. Quickie Games start at 6:15 and Regular Bingo starts at 7p.m. You choose how many cards you want to play for the night and you purchase a packet of that number of cards. The packet includes some "special" games but other specials are sold separately. Break Open tickets are also sold. Bring your own daubers.  
    Tuesday Night - Bar Bingo at the Legion in Vegennes 6pm-8pm.  MEMBERS ONLY (including Juniors)   Pay Per Game.  18 games played, $1 per sheet of 3 cards.  Bar is open.  Daubers are supplied.  
    Wednesday Night - Public Bingo at the Middlebury American Legion.  Same premise as Monday Night Public Bingo
    Thursday Night - Bar Bingo at the Middlebury VFW 5pm-7pm. Also at the Addison County Eagles Club in Vergennes 6pm-8pm.  Members and legal guests of members.  Same premise of Tuesday Night Bar Bingo.  
    Tuesday/Thursday  - Vergennes Area Seniors, Inc.  Senior Bingo held at Armory Lane Senior Housing.  10am-11:30am.  Open to anyone age 60 and up and their spouse or caregiver of any age.  Small group of Seniors play 8-10 games.  The cost of each game is 25 cents, but if you have a desire to play and do not have quarters - they have some available.  Pay back only if you win.  
    And in all cases the prizes are cash and depend on the number of people in attendance that week. Usually a regular game of Bingo may pay between $40.00- $45.00. There are winner take all games and a big jackpot of $1000.00, which is mandated by the state. The chances of winning a big jackpot increase monthly as the required limit of numbers called increases. Right now the jackpot at the VFW in Middlebury is $1000.00 in 50 numbers called or less.   If the Bingo is for fundraising purposes the prizes are often items and not cash. In addition to the fun and prizes each Bingo has an offering of tasty food.
    Bingo is a game that has no age limits and people of all ages gather weekly to play. If you are looking for some family fun this winter or even year round, stop by, pick up a dauber and see why people have been playing this game since the 1500’s. You might even run into Michelle Sullivan Eastman while you are there and she will be the voice behind the microphone. “We have a Bingo!”


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