WILKES-BARRE — After 81 years of hosting a popular game of chance, it was last call for bingo for a parish in Wilkes-Barre.
St. Nicholas Catholic Church has held its bingo game since 1933 but due to falling attendance, church leaders say the games can no longer go on.
In the basement of St. Nicholas St. Mary’s Elementary School in Wilkes-Barre, folks came out for one final night of an 81-year-old tradition.
Monsignor Joseph Rauscher believes this could be the longest running bingo game in the country with church records showing bingo started here at St. Nicholas parish back in 1933.
“The story is they called something else out when they had a winner but someone was so excited they yelled ‘bingo’ and it got to be called bingo and they had been running it here ever since 1933,” said Msgr. Rauscher.
But as the saying goes all good things must come to an end.
Tuesday night’s game was be the last time bingo will be hosted by the parish.
Msgr. Rauscher says over the years the crowd has dwindled from the hundreds to a now just a handful and the parish is actually losing money hosting it.
“At one point, coming to the bingo, I was one of the younger people,” said Pat Matus from Swoyersville. “Unfortunately, I’m one of the older people and there’s nobody behind me coming to play bingo.”
For Matus and most others here, they are losing more than a game of bingo.
“It’s a family, everybody knows everybody. It’s going to be a sad night tonight,” said Matus.
Many have been coming here weekly for decades, some to play, some to volunteer as workers.
Gerry Maley of Wilkes-Barre has been coming here for 60 years to do both.
“My heart is broke. This is very important to all of us, sitting here. We’re looking at each other thinking, ‘what are we going to do’?” said Maley.
Rick Wolsieffer has been volunteering since high school and has a lifetime of memories.
“You see them once a week, you get good hellos, conversations, stories, and that will be gone,” said Wolsieffer.