Thank You from a Queen
Dear Editor: I enjoyed the article [“All Hail: Gulfport’s History of Queens,” September 3, 2020] and was surprised there were so many queens. I continued with the Pepsi platter party after Gulfport canceled the teen dances. It brought back many fond memories. Thank you – Patricia Horan Marrillia
Life With and Without Bingo
Dear Editor: When my husband passed twelve years ago, my insurance company said I should take the AARP course on safe driving to get a credit on my auto insurance. Where was this class? The Gulfport Senior Center. My husband and I were frequent visitors to the Gulfport Library and never once knew the building across the street was the Gulfport Senior Center. I went in. It was small and friendly. I took my course and took a tour of the center. I found a fitness room and joined. There I met people who asked me to volunteer at the center. I didn’t want anything scheduled. I like my independence, so when they suggested Reassurance calls one week a month for an hour in the morning, I said OK.
One day I was there picking up the Reassurance book and saw inside the “food hall” that there was a Bingo game about to start. “Should I try this?” I wondered. I stepped inside and saw a sea of gray heads. Uh, oh. I almost turned around; then someone approached and welcomed me and told me to pick up four bingo cards and chips and sit anywhere I wanted. I chose a table of six with one empty seat. I was greeted warmly and the ladies continued their conversations. I just sat, peacefully, and listened. They explained the rules and off we went.
As the years went by, I volunteered to call out the card numbers of the winners, getting up and heading to the nearest bingo winner with their hands up. I volunteered to help set out the “treasures” of donated items that were the prizes on the set of tables in the back of the room. Little by little, I realized I was in charge of Friday bingo from setting up, to packing up, to passing out cookies at the break. There were many who helped me including both men and women. I have been asked to call the bingo numbers but have always refused. I want to play bingo. And I win. I love yelling “Bingo.”
There are sponsors who donate a prize for the last bingo of the day, a “cover-all” bingo. From gift cards to lovely chocolates and household items as well as breaktime snacks. We laughed and cheered and had a great time with the bakery items donated by a local Publix to be won pulling a number out of the bingo machine. The winner would run to the back of the room where the cakes and breads were spread out, hand in their winning ticket and take their pick. It was like winning the lottery.
The original group of ladies has since gone, some to relatives’ homes, some have passed on. I remain with a new group of friends. It was the highlight of my week, getting me out of the house, being recognized and greeted warmly.
Bingo has been canceled, of course, along with all the classes physically at the Gulfport Senior Center. Some classes are now online. I didn’t realize how I depended on the center and the social contact. I thank everyone who, over the years, has helped me restart my life. I hope we will be able to do it again in the future. Love to all. – Paula Ruthazer