THE END OF AN ERA

By SIMONE KERWIN

 

IN our house, Monday night has always been bingo night.

 

Mum and Dad had been married just over two years, and the first two of a tribe of nine had arrived when it was suggested that bingo might be a handy fundraiser for the Wangaratta Rovers.

 

Linked to the club by blood, Dad felt duty-bound to step up to the plate with Denis ‘Mouse’ Wohlers, and they forged what over 37 years would indeed become a lucrative exercise for the Hawks, bringing in an estimated $500,000 before it finished its run on Monday night.

 

It also became part of our childhood.

 

On Sundays, Dad would take us down to our second home at the Rovers ground, ostensibly for a play, but also so he had a troop of helpers to set up the bingo in the clubrooms.

 

Rewarded with a drink of lemonade and maybe even a packet of chips, we’d help line up the tables, set chairs around them, lay the huge cloths (reading the notes written on them by bingo players past), and complete a myriad other jobs.

 

When we were at school, Monday afternoons meant a stop at the butcher shop on the way home to collect the meat tray.

 

And we just accepted that every Monday night, Dad would be at the rooms, first dropping past to turn the heaters on to ensure the comfort of bingo patrons, and returning later to help run the show.

 

Bingo has been intrinsically linked to our family, and as numbers dwindled in recent months and it became clear that it may no longer be viable, we realised just how important it was to others.

 

Loyal patrons, some aged in their 90s and a few who had attended the event since its 1977 beginning, were in tears on Monday night when the curtain came down on their weekly outing.

 

And the organisers, who have not only developed strong friendships among themselves but with the regular players, could not help but be affected by the occasion.

 

Little touches like dedicating a game to the late ‘Mouse’, and producing a lavish supper for appreciative patrons, were indicative of the community created in those rooms over the years.

 

Time moves on, of course, and fundraisers that once drew huge crowds have slipped from popularity.

 

But what should never go out of fashion is the willingness to volunteer, the camaraderie, and the eagerness to support local causes that has been on display at Rovers bingo over those 37 years.

 

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