Bingo was the game-o

By Jessica Kalin

The words have changed, but the melody remains. There was a game with dots and squares and bingo was illegal.

Until 1971, Illinois considered the popular game an illegal form of gambling and was banned.

Now, bingo players are free to play the game without being raided as they were before the ban was lifted.

“I was about 22, and I would play with my mother-in-law, and our games would get raided,” bingo player Judy Fuhrmann said. “I remember the old ladies would get mad [at the police] because they thought they should be out catching the real criminals.”

Maybe contemporary bingo player Debbie Craig’s good-luck trinkets would have kept the police from finding their secret games.

Craig, who splits her weekly bingo winnings with her mother, carries nearly a dozen pieces, including a ceramic elephant from the 1960s, a glass elf statue belonging to her grandmother and her favorite – a Foghorn Leghorn stuffed animal.

“I take them everywhere. They are my babies,” Craig said.

She takes her charms to the Elks Lodge, 209 S. Annie Glidden Road, for Thursday night bingo.

The lodge has hosted weekly games since the 1970s.

Caller Tom McCrea said the lodge draws between 100 and 110 people for its games. McCrea has worked the bingo games since 1978 and says he would rather call numbers than play.

“I enjoy calling and watching people,” McCrea said. “I like it when they give me a hard time.”