My dad Tom Summers turns 85 today. I talked with him yesterday, the power to his home had been out for two days, due to a large storm cell taking down a lot of trees and limbs the day before, but he was hopeful and optimistic that they would get power restored today. This would be great since he and my mom will be hosting a family reunion over the weekend for about 70 or so people with the first family members arriving today and many more arriving tomorrow.
My dad (and mom) have always been warm and generous hosts, even though the organizing and planning for the reunions passed on to the next generation down about 2 reunions ago, there will be a big tent, lots of family, lots of food and activities in their back yard for the next few days.
My dad’s voice seemed a bit tired a few days ago when he called to check on our plans for the reunion. Perhaps this is understandable since he had just finished a week of volunteering for “Bingo” at the Lions Club Carnival. He has been doing this 4th of July week for the past 60 or so years and was the Bingo lead for probably 40 years or more.
All my brothers, my wife, their wives, my cousins and other extended family members volunteered at Bingo. It was sort of fun learning the ropes, how to walk efficiently down the aisle between the Bingo tables collecting nickels, then much later dimes, then quarters, making change, keeping an eye out for and being ready to rush over when someone in my row shouted out “Bingo”.
My dad often served a Bingo caller, so we would see where the Bingo was, dump the corn kernels off the card and shout out to him… “Under the B 4, 11, 7, 13, and 14”. His response, “That’s a winner! Anyone else, anyone else, single winner!” I’d hand a “Win” card or a “Half-Win” card if there was more than one winner. Dad would pull a lever and all the Bingo Balls would drop back into the machine and we’d start again.
My favorite moments of my Bingo shift was always when my dad was calling and it came randomly. I anticipated it eagerly. Sometimes I had to wait 2, 3, 4, perhaps 5 or more games and then I would hear over the microphone… “Under the O – 70”. I would wait some more… “Under the O – 65,” then finally… “Under the O – Skixty-Skix” and I would smile and continue to pick up coins or give change and progress down my aisle. O – Skixty-Skix was my dad’s signature call, it sort of completed the annual cycle of the year, this is why I volunteered at Bingo every year, I just needed to hear O – Skixty-Skix a couple of more times.
My dad was a great volunteer, he planned how Bingo was going to work each year months ahead, ordered the prizes, started his round of calls to his usual volunteers, there was a whole crew of us that he could count on. A couple of years in my late teens or during summers during college I was given the opportunity to also “Call Bingo” for the carnival, none of us called for more than about 15 or 20 minutes at a time, but I really always looked forward to my dad calling a couple of shifts each night, every day for a week.
At the end of the carnival my brothers and I would go down and help dad pack away the corn kernels into large cans, pack away the hundreds for well-loved bingo cards into the wooden boxes, then lift and haul the bingo benches and tables and stack them in the storage area waiting for reuse the next year. We helped pack up the Bingo Prizes to prepare to return them to the vendor. We actually really enjoyed this when we were young because we would always find loose change on the ground where the table and benches had been. But what we really enjoyed was working with our dad, knowing that about this time the next year there would be more Bingo and we would get to hear him call “Under the O – Skixty-Skix.”
Happy Birthday Dad and thank you for teaching us the meaning of volunteering.