Q: When were you a BINGO caller?
A: I don’t remember the year… Let me think…
Q: Were you in your 30s? Your 40s?
A: In my 30s.
Q: Was it at a church or a town hall or?
A: It was at a regular BINGO hall.
Q: How often did you work there?
A: 5 days a week. I worked a split shift. I would start at 10 I think, and get done around 2. Then I’d go home, make dinner, and go back to work from 6-10. I only worked there a short time cause I couldn’t handle it any more. It was the same people every day. Mostly older people who didn’t have much to do. Regulars, who had their own places to sit and everything.
Q: How did you get the job?
A: Through my cousin, she was the manager. In fact, I think she’s still the manager, I’m not sure.
Q: Was the BINGO-calling thing electronic, or was it one of those big things with balls in it?
A: It was the big thing with balls in it. I hated it. I didn’t like being up on stage with the popper machine.
Q: Why didn’t you like it?
A: When you dropped the balls into the holder thing you always had to make sure that none of the balls got stuck. One time I didn’t hear a ball that got stuck and I had to stop the whole game and drop the balls all over again. People were MAD at me. They were very serious. I think B3 was the ball that was stuck. They were pretty close to BINGO-ing and so they were mad. I had been there about 3-4 months when it happened and I wanted to do a good job for my cousin. I thought, “Oh no I’ve failed!” and she was in her office and came running out when she heard me re-drop the balls. I was very embarrassed.
Q: How long did you stay there?
A: One-and-a-half or two years.
Q: Did you ever go to bed at night and dream about BINGO?
A: Yes. I just didn’t like to get up and call BINGO. Mostly I would walk around and sell the paper games. And I would sell the sliding cards—this was before they had all of the paper cards—they had sliding cards where you slid the little windows over the squares, and people would take a long time to pick them. They were very particular. Sometimes I worked at the snack bar. And I sold pull-tabs. We rotated around.
Q: So the people who played BINGO there were pretty dedicated?
A: People would sit in their usual seats and if someone was in their seat they would tell them to move. I had to calm down some of them. You could almost walk down the aisles and know everyone’s name. These were serious little elderly people.
Q: Did anyone ever call BINGO by accident?
A: Sometimes they did, like if they were really close and they accidentally covered one spot. Then everyone else muttered at them. “Ah, you didn’t have BINGO,” they’d say.
Q: What kind of prizes did they have?
A: Usually they were $20, $50, $100. There were huge ones that were $500 or $2000, and if you’re calling, the winner might give you a big tip. I remember one time this girl won a jackpot and she wanted to give me $50.
Q: Did you take it?
A: Yep, I took the tip—we were allowed to.
Q: Were there any callers that you would say were better than the others?
A: There were a couple of girls… One was really good. She was just laid back and really comfortable up there.
Q: What was the best part of the job?
A: Talking to all the people. There were quite a few “characters.” There was one woman—she was 80 years old—and I’d pick her up on my way to work and take her with me. She was a real spitfire. I knew when she was doing bad because she’d say, “What the hell?? What the hell??” and you could hear her across the room. They would tell her to shhh but it was just her way of doing it.
Q: Do you ever go to play BINGO now?
A: Hardly ever. It doesn’t thrill me. I was never really into it that much. I never in a million years thought I would work in a BINGO hall. It just happened.