The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Sub Terra Vita: Chronicle #29: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Jackpots and Soda Pops

Sub Terra Vita
By Tim Krenz
December 28, 2015

Chronicle #29: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Jackpots and Soda Pops

In some of the basements of Osceola, the underground awareness began to expand and change in perspective, as the innocent “me-wanderings” of youth touched the shadowed-shade of human experience, and as a lighter reality of powerfully keen perceptions developed for them.

When quite young, the old Catholic church on Chieftain Street had already moved, and the current multi-unit dwelling once held the Knights of Columbus meeting hall. Many community events happened there. Yet, in that basement white-washed in painted wood and as non-descript like the outside, my maternal grandma, Evelyn, and my cousin's other grandma, Mary Belle, played a lot—A LOT—of bingo.

The grandmas took my cousin, Chad, and I with them to the “Bingo-sino” on what seemed endlessly hot, humid, summer weekend evenings. A hall full of people made it warmer and sweatier than the outside; cigarette smoke rolled in the air pushed by the large fans; while the bright fluorescent lights overhead illuminated the bingo cards on rows and rows of light brown laminate tables, at which everyone sat staring at their cards in the voiceless mass silence punctuated by the grandfatherly announcer at the back of the room. Aside from some materials, the cigarette smoke, and no central air conditioning, not much has changed about bingo in the last four or less decades. And few people, then or now, loved bingo like Evelyn and Mary Belle.

Sometimes Chad and I sat and tried to summon bingo gods for the big hit. Mostly, however, Chad and I roamed around the building, with the other children getting loosely babysat at Bingo Church. Outside, the sun stayed away the night time long enough for the skeeters to turn out and make it un-fun to play outdoors. Sometimes the dusk would mingle with a darkness, and a thunder, lightening and rain storm would hit. When tornadoes threatened, the warning whistle at the fire hall on the corner of Chieftain Street and Third Avenue would blare the alarm. All the kids would return to the safest and most sacred place in town that evening. We went back into the Bingo Cellar. Of course, no panic, not even the fiercest straight winds, would dare interrupt the bingo round underway, and no crashing branches outside stopped the rounds that followed to the end of Bingo Night.

Granny and Mary Belle would, inevitably by odds, hit a “BINGO!” and win a small or large jackpot. A partially uniformed cashier would walk over, read the card aloud to the announcer, who would confirm it. If a valid card, the cashier took the winnings out of their apron and paid it out. Everything would reset, and the Bingo Duels resumed.

On those endlessly hot, humid, summer weekend evenings, the grandmas would give Chad and I quarters. We took the big coins to the front of the basement, near the stairwell, and put it into the change slot of the pop machine. One turned the knob on the coin deposit, and the beaver trap contraption inside the cooler would only let one, vigorous, firm yoke pull the glass bottle from its booby-trap tin metal clutch. If one failed to do it properly. . .well, it did not give refunds. Nothing helped us kids endure the droning room like the caffeine and sugary syrup of original cold colas, in bottles that had metal caps, and that needed a bottle opener to drink them.

Evelyn and Mary Belle have both passed away many years now. But I believe in my heart, that grandmas go where they go, to a heaven and the biggest bingo hall of all. Just as firmly: I believe they hit the jackpot every time. “BINGO!”


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