06/20/04 — At Mount Olive bingo, favorite prizes are fellowship, fun

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At Mount Olive bingo, favorite prizes are fellowship, fun

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on June 20, 2004 2:03 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Some folk over 60 in Mount Olive are serious about their bingo.

You'll find at least a dozen of them every Tuesday and Thursday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Mount Olive Civic Center.

Tom Swinson, director of Mount Olive Parks and Recreation, calls out the letters and numbers while they sit, two to a table, with multiple bingo cards in front of them.

"Bingo!" says Louise Hill. She and her husband, James, are playing seven and eight cards at a time. She is 77. He is 67.

"We all enjoy bingo," Mrs. Hill said. "We hope we win, but if we don't win, we enjoy the game and the fellowship."

Helen Dobberson, 73, calls out that she has gotten all four corners on her card. She's won her second jar of Methodist Men's Peanuts for the day. She and her friend, Saundra Pickett, are playing eight cards each.

Peggy Chalk is playing two cards, and her sister, Betty Smith, has four. Ms. Smith has been coming to play bingo since the program started in September of 2002.

"I haven't missed but once or twice," she said. "We enjoy it so much. We win little things, but you'd think it was a pot of gold. We do it to get out and meet others, to exercise our minds. It keeps our concentration good.

"Anything like this is good for the brain. It makes you think, focus."

She's the clown in the bunch. She says she keeps something going all the time. "I think a few laughs is very good. I think laughter heals all. A few laughs a day helps keep the doctor away -- bingo!"

"I called five numbers, and she had all five of them," says Swinson, the announcer, of Ms. Smith's card.

"Betty, did I bring you a prize?" he asks.

"Yeah," she answered. "If I said no, would you bring me another one?"

"I hate to say who it is," says Swinson, "but there's a table here that hasn't won."

"G-46," he calls out.

Marguerite Myers is playing eight cards, and Coleman King at the table with her has five. "We haven't won a thing today," she says. "It happens that way some days. But it's fun to play, whether you win or not."

Swinson says about 19 people normally play. He has had as many as 25 at a time. About 20 of them are regulars. "If they're in town and something's not wrong, they come," he said.

Elsie Whitman is playing eight cards at a time, and husband James has six.

At the end of the game, Whitman has won his second game of the day. "It's unusual for me to win two games," he says.

Only two people showed up for the first game Swinson held at the Civic Center. They were Ann Mayo and Ms. Francis. It was in the middle of a budget year, and Swinson, who came to work for the town of Mount Olive the month before, got the game going even though he didn't have any money set aside for it.

Now, he uses a part of his parks and recreation budget to buy the bingo cards, the door prizes, peanuts, fruit, and sometimes, pickles.

"We've tried to improve the prizes a little bit," he said. "And we've gotten too far in to quit now."