We didn't call it bingo when I was but a wee lad, we called it housey-housey although some called it lotto and, I believe, some even called it tombola. My father used to play it - or run the sessions as the caller, I'm not sure which - on board ship and he had a set which we used at home. There were cards with the random numbers printed on them and we had small squares of card cut from corn flakes packets and the like to cover the numbers when they were called. None of these special marker pens for us. They probably weren't available anyway. In fact, I'm certain they weren't. In any case, we couldn't mark the cards as we wanted them for future games!
Nowadays there can be very few towns in England without a large building devoted to the game, often a converted cinema. Personally, I find it hard to imagine a more boring way of passing an evening but apparently playing bingo is good for us oldies, or so the "experts" tell us. Something to do with getting out of the house and socialising, I expect. I'd much prefer to do my socialising at the pub!
It was in 2000 that Brighton Lions Club started running bingo sessions as a service activity. Lions
operating in pairs visited three Council-run old people’s homes, each home
receiving two visits a month, to run bingo sessions for the residents. The residents were charged 50p for a book of
five bingo cards and prizes of £2 for a line and £4 for a full house were paid
from club funds. The money paid by the
residents was used as prize money for a sixth game for which the players were
not charged. We have increased the value of the prizes since then and now pay the magnificent sum of £3 for a line and - wait for it! - £6 for a full house! What the commercial operators charge - or pay as prizes - I have no idea and, quite frankly, no interest either. But mention of commercial operators brings me to the real trivia.
Which organisation can claim to have introduced bingo to England as a commercial concern? I am willing to bet that very few people know that it was Brighton Lions Club.
It was in 1957 the club started bingo sessions as a fund-raiser, believed to be the first such operation in England. Bingo evenings were held on Fridays in what had been the Territorial Army drill hall and the club worked a rota system with each member being allocated to one of four teams. Records show that the average attendance in 1959 was 550 with an average spend of 4s 7¾d, up from 4s 2d the previous year. The most popular prize was a tea set, chosen by fourteen per cent of the winners.
Who'd 'a thought it?