Who would think an innocent looking bingo game could be a place for romance? Yes, romance, love and marriage.
For more than ten years I was the overall supervisor of a large bingo hall on Chicago’s north side. For the uninitiated, what you witness is a bunch of men and women hunched over, examining their bingo cards anxiously awaiting the next number to be called. They have all forms of objects on the table for good luck. It could be a picture of a child, a cross, or a toy that would bring them luck. And, here’s the kicker: the steady player finds a seat near a player they like. Casual talk starts the conversation and many bloom into romantic relationships. I remember one in particular. One of my favorite stories.
Before eharmony.com and other dating sites bingo halls were a safe and good place for romance, believe it or not. There was a widow and widower that always sat at the same table. Nothing unusual about it. It appeared to be an innocent bingo game where two people enjoyed each others company. However this widow, an African American lady and the widower, a white male were in love.
They kept their secret until the day the couple announced they were to be married. When asked about the wedding accommodations they responded “we hadn’t thought about that”. So their fairy tale was about to begin. We asked if they would like to be married in the Bingo hall and we would pay all the expenses. All their responsibility would be was to find the preacher and invite their friends and guests.
The wedding would take place on a Sunday afternoon after the morning’s bingo session. Arrangements had to be made. The hall was reset with an aisle for the wedding, music would be piped in and refreshments served. Not only was this interracial marriage taking place in a bingo hall but WGN-TV the superstation sent out a camera crew to film the ceremony to be shown later that Sunday evening.
The Sunday of their wedding came. Bingo was played in the morning and then the hall had to be reset quickly for the wedding party. Our kitchen had cake, ice cream and coffee for refreshments. The CD of that era had wedding march music ready to play. After 1pm the guests and bridal couple came into the hall with Here Comes the Bride playing. The white guests sat on one side of the aisle and the African American guests on the other. Our bride would have nothing of that "nonsense" as I remember her calling it. She instructed both sides of the aisle to mix and sit together as one happy family. “After all this is an interracial marriage” she said.
The preacher arrived, guests were seated and then the happy moment was about to occur. The Bride was dressed in a beautiful short dress outfit with wedding cap and veil. The groom we hardly recognized since he was wearing a suit and tie and combed his hair…he looked dashing as the groom. The camera crew of WGN-TV arrived and set up for the shoot. In addition, many of the bingo players from the morning session sat around to witness the ceremony.
Then the bride came down the aisle sashaying and smiling from ear to ear while the groom looked as if he was about to walk the green mile. (It reminded me of how I must have looked on my wedding day). The ceremony began and it all seemed to end too fast but now we had a Mr. & Mrs!
Everyone was happy. When asked what they were going to do on their honeymoon they replied “play bingo, of course” so we also gave them free bingo cards for their honeymoon game. Refreshments were served, the bridal party was dispersing and soon the magic of the moment ended and the evening bingo session was going to start.
Where was the next romance? There are many years of stories and this was one of them.
Memories light the corners of my mind and I hope yours too!