When I was 3 years old I remember my Grandmother holding up a toaster in front of my me telling me that I had won it in Bingo. Seeing the only remembrance of that particular game was being punished for scoffing down the raw corn markers I must have been quite the whiz kid.
Throughout the years when my Grandmother was still alive we would play Bingo at every church function and country fair site. The prizes looked spectacular in the background, all lined up neatly in rows enticing us all to play game after game. We never really won anything big but my grandmother continued to lure me in and I now blame her for my love of the odd slot machine.
After she died I never really played much bingo but instead volunteered at the local bingo hall that offered my kids hockey team a huge cut of the wins. There was smoking and non smoking and I always hoped I would not have to work the smoking side. The gray air hung barely 15 inches from the tables because the women chain smoked and looked twenty years older than they really were. Everyone had at least 15 colours of daubers and of course the mandatory good luck charm sat there in front of them.
They would have a dauber in one hand and hot food in the other. It was serious to them and you always asked them if they would like extra play sheets in a very low hushed voice. They would keep their winnings on the table in front of them and never stash it away. Stacks of lottery tickets beside the unplayed cards would be scratched off during breaks with the constant yell at the volunteers to go hand in their winners.
I played Bingo once during those years and the games were way too complicated and some told me they took online bingo brain classes for speed, memory and flexibility. Flexibility? The only movement I saw there was the flick of a hand and sometimes the lone finger after a game was won too quickly.
This summer the town of Almonte in Lanark County, Ontario offered what was called "Toot Bingo" for the month of August. The only thing I knew was that you played it in your car, so my daughter-in-law Carolyn accompanied me on this journey. I am sure she was just humouring me to begin with but once we pulled into the fairgrounds we started to smile.
There were lines of cars and people were actually having tail gating parties with pizza before it started. For ten dollars we could play all night and were handed a board with bingo play sheets. As we sat in the car we realized we did not have any daubers but purchased them right on the site while I explained to her how former younger customers used to create hair streaks them. Sometimes I feel I am just a walking talking Encyclopedia and just never know when to shut up.
The first game began and ended quickly with me winning the first 'hand". We then realized you had to toot your car horn so they could come and read your card - hence the name Toot Bingo. So Carolyn "sat on the horn" with a huge smile on her face. I shared a prize with another winner and won a whopping $12.00 in hard cash. We now had visions of winning prize after prize but that was not to be. Games of “one line” "small and large picture frame” and the final “fill your card” produced not one cent. All those games did was make us hungry for pie.
At any rural festivity slices of fresh homemade pie are a huge drawing ticket. All night long they announced that slices were available and we watched way too many slices of Butterscotch Meringue Pie go by. Suffering from an allergy to flour I am not supposed to even look at pie but during intermission I found myself telling Carolyn I was going to buy a bottle of water. If you believe that then I have a beach front property to sell you in Florida. As I laid down my coins for the water, homemade Butter Tarts were sitting on the counter calling my name. I looked at them, shook my head and then silently said,
“Oh what the hell!”
I marched back to the car carrying the precious food cargo and Carolyn looked at them and nodded. From the constant loud speaker announcements we knew that one must have fresh pie to play Bingo. If we were not going to win any of those 50/50 games we had to have some sort of inner consolation. After the lady in the car next to us won the last game I could see her smile as they handed the winnings to her and I heard her say to her daughters,
“Your father said to choose between him and bingo; and by golly we are really going to miss that man!"
Images and Text: Linda Seccaspina 2011
First photo from the Car Toot Bingo site:
Bingo Butter Tarts
1 Pastry recipe
1 cup raisins
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1. Roll pastry 1/8 inches thick to yield 24 tart shells.
2. LINE muffin tins with tart shells; divide raisins evenly among shells.
3. IN a bowl, lightly beat together eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla and salt.
4. POUR over raisins, filling shells about 3/4 full.
5. BAKE in a preheated 425°F oven just until set, about 15 minutes.
6. COOL on wire rack, then carefully remove from pan.