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The North Bend Eagle


Bingo night in North Bend
Ray Stranik draws the next number during Thursday night BINGO at the VFW hall.

Thursday night means BINGO

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 2/16/11

It’s Thursday night and Main Street is filled with cars. The lights of the VFW Hall are on. It’s bingo night!

Started in the mid-60s by Noel Ray, Marvin Meier and Cecil Sims as a way for the VFW to make money, bingo has become a mainstay of North Bend Thursday nights. Kevin Claussen, 57, remembers going to bingo with his mother, Jenny Claussen, at the old parish center. Now one of the VFW representatives, Claussen still goes to most bingo nights.

“It’s (the VFW’s) only moneymaker,” Claussen said. The money is used to support the VFW Hall, VFW activities and the various local groups the VFW supports, including Boy Scouts.

Bingo was first played in the old Catholic parish center (no longer standing) on cardboard cards with slides to cover the numbers. In 1970 the VFW occupied the building at 734 Main Street, (now the medical clinic) and held bingo there until it became too small for the number wanting to play bingo. It moved to the auditorium until 1990 when the VFW Hall was moved to the old McGinn (later Heywood) Grocery Store at 648 Main Street, and bingo found a home there. It is played year round downtown and during the Old Settlers weekend in the park.

As the sign on the corner of the building proclaims, bingo is held every Thursday night. Claussen said the attendance is pretty regular, with just under 40 people coming every week. The doors open at 6 p.m. People start filtering in, visiting, drinking coffee, some playing cards. Bingo playing starts at 7 p.m. and goes until 9 p.m. or a little after. Around 8 p.m. there is a break when the VFW Auxiliary sells sandwiches and bars.

The VFW Auxiliary women bring the lunch but the men of the VFW and AmVets set the lunch out and clean up afterwards.

Claussen sells the bingo cards, or rather packets of cards. Each packet has 12 sheets in it with three, six or nine bingo cards printed on each sheet. They sell for $4, $8 or $12, respectively. The player can play three, six or nine - or any combination thereof - bingo cards during each game. Claussen said the biggest seller is the triple sheets (9 cards), with one lady who does a nine and a six card sheet each game.

There are 12 bingo games called each night, with evening ending with two special games, including the jackpot card, which sells for $1. Fifty numbers are called out and the winner must fill up their whole card to win $50. If no one wins one night, then an additional number is called and $25 is added to the pot each week until there is a winner. Recently someone won a $375 jackpot.

“The number of players coming drops after the jackpot has been won,” Claussen said. The biggest jackpot he has seen won was $400.

The last game of the night is the “Bonanza” game. Cards are sold for
50 cents and are folded up so that there is no choosing a card. The prize is half of what was taken in selling the Bonanza cards.

“It’s a fun game,” Claussen said. “Everyone plays.”

For the initial 12 games, the prize is determined by the number of people attending that evening. The prize is $15 if 39 or less people attend and $20 if 40 or more people come to play.

Betty Meier has been going since the beginning. She remembers back in the day when there was quite a crowd, 60 or more people.

“Its something to do, you’re with people,” Meier, 86, said. “It’s always been fun, and you win a little money.”

Doris Ray, 86, remembers when the crowd outgrew the long, narrow VFW Hall in the 70s and moved over to the auditorium.

“The crowds were huge,” Ray said. “There were all kinds of people.”

Now the crowds are mostly older with a few younger ones mixed in.

Jean Groff, 90, won a bingo game last week and received her $15, the week before she had won $20. She said her winning seems to go in spurts, “I hadn’t won for a long time before that.”

“I go whenever I can,” Groff said. “Off and on throughout the winter, not much in the summer. I’d rather be on the mower or golf course.”

Groff started going when her mother, Clara McGinn, was alive. Now she goes for socializing.

“It’s a nice outing for people who don’t get out much,” Groff said. “There are more of the older ‘young ladies’ that are coming.”

Groff said she used to play a double card, but everyone else at her table was playing triples so she started playing a triple card. Her place is set each week, everyone sitting in the same place with the same friends.

“If you sit in someone’s chair, they will tell you,” Groff said, though she was quick to add there is always room for newcomers and visitors.

Clinton McDaniel is one of the younger ones that goes to bingo regularly. He started around four years ago on a whim, enjoyed it and goes on a regular basis.

“I keep going, winning or losing,” McDaniel, 30, said. “Winning, you don’t want to leave. Losing, you want to play one more time to try to win.”

Sharon Agress has been coming to North Bend to play bingo for the last ten years. She lives in Fremont and usually brings a friend, Pam Mayer, picks up her mother, Evelyn Farris, and Aggie Wirka on her way to the VFW Hall.

“My mom invited me to come over to play bingo,” Agress, 74, said. “I got to know people and enjoy coming.”

Every other Wednesday night the “Agress group” goes to Prague to play bingo.
Evelyn Farris, 96 2/3, doesn’t let her age bother her. She likes to play bingo and has been doing so for almost 50 years. She started playing at church when she lived in Omaha and kept it up when she moved to North Bend 27 years ago.

“It’s something to do in town,” Farris said. “It’s just nice and not too expensive.”
Farris sits with the same group of people each week and says she always enjoys the conversation.

A few years ago the AmVets started helping out the VFW group with the bingo. They use the VFW Hall for their meetings and other functions. One of those who started to help was Butch Ott. He brought his own special touch to the evening when they recognize those celebrating birthdays.

“I sit on their lap, or they sit on mine, while everyone sings ‘Happy Birthday’ to them,” Ott said with a smile. “ It’s something fun to do.”

For the women and men playing bingo and the veterans operating the games, all agree it’s an enjoyable way to spend a Thursday evening.

“It doesn’t require a lot of brain,” Farris said. “You just have to know your numbers.”

Ray Sranik takes turns calling out the numbers with his fellow vets.

“I’m helping out,” Stranik said. “Somebody has to do it. We all take turns working so we get to visit a little too.”

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