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Bingo tradition ends at Poulsbo Sons of Norway

POULSBO — Vern Herrick is calling out BINGO no more.

“Mr. Bingo,” as Herrick’s friends call him, has been running the game at the Poulsbo Sons of Norway Lodge since 1972. But the long-running game has been losing patrons, and the lodge made the tough decision to shut the game down two weeks ago.

Herrick became involved in Sons of Norway bingo 40 years ago, when the lodge moved to its current building. He said his wife was the bingo fan — she’d play 25 to 30 games a night, he’d play four — then someone asked him to help run the game. He’s been “Mr. Bingo” ever since.

Herrick remembered when the lodge would see more than 200 people in one night. “I even had to shut the doors once or twice,” he said. In the last few months, the lodge’s bingo night has attracted about 35 players.

The lodge actually shut down bingo once before. In 1992, the Suquamish Clearwater Casino opened as a bingo hall and attracted enough players that the Sons of Norway couldn’t sustain its game anymore. The Sons of Norway brought bingo back in 2005 when the casino stopped offering bingo.

“Ever since it started again, it’s gone downhill,” said Jane Speer, a bingo volunteer. She chalks up the loss of bingo to the downturn in the economy.

“The big halls have money to pay big enough prizes to keep people [coming],” she said. While the Sons of Norway bingo had some loyal players, Speer said, “It’s the reality of the times, where we have to cut the things [that are] not profitable for the lodge.”

Bingo usually brought in about $30,000 a year to the lodge, which helped pay for taxes and insurance. Herrick said one particularly popular year, in the 1980s, bingo brought in $80,000 for the lodge’s general fund.

Before now, the only time Herrick missed a bingo game was when he had hip replacement surgery. While he appreciates having his Wednesday nights back, he said he’ll miss working with his fellow lodge members the most.

“I like to help out the lodge,” Herrick said. “I had a responsibility, I felt.”

 

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