THERE was a game that Bundy played and Bingo was its name, oh.
While the original rhyme was about a dog, the game of bingo has been just as well known in Bundaberg since it began at the Civic Centre in August 1973.
Lifesavers Bingo was the brainchild of Bundaberg Surf Life Saving Club life members Des Dahl and Dennis Carswell, who had the idea of holding weekly bingo games as a fundraiser for the Nielson Park Beach club.
"The support for the game soon grew with regular crowds of over 200 players within 12 months," Dennis's son, Danny, said.
"Selling loose tickets for each game, and using a bingo barrel and numbered balls to draw the lucky numbers, were features of the early days of bingo."
Within four years, the rum city had three major bingo nights each week at the Civic Centre - Ambulance Bingo, Lifesavers Bingo and Endeavour Foundation Bingo.
"Crowds of over 1,000 players were drawn with a chance at winning the big $1,000 jackpots on offer," Danny said.
At the end of 1984, Shalom College joined with Bundaberg Surf Lifesaving Club to form Bundy Big Bingo.
"Regular crowds of over 500 players were still the norm, but by 1987 the introduction of Instant Scratch tickets and Gold Lotto, and an increase in the running costs, were affecting the fundraising value of a weekly bingo game," Danny said.
In 1996, Bundy Big Bingo moved to The Waves but returned to the Civic Centre six months later and remained there until it found its new home at the Bundaberg RSL in 2004.
Bundy Big Bingo was a passion for Dennis Carswell and in the first 26 years he missed a total of only seven nights.
"Dennis enjoyed the social aspect of the weekly bingo game - the chance to catch up and resolve many of the problems of the world," Danny said.
And it was something Danny said he enjoyed, too.
"I was a ticket seller at the first night of Lifesavers bingo, walking behind my row of bingo players during each game and collecting their money and leaving their tickets for the next game," he said.
"I was then promoted to turning the bingo barrel and drawing the numbers for the caller and, sometimes, running across the hall to collect a bingo ball that had been dropped from the barrel."
Danny has now been calling bingo games for more than 30 years.
"For many of those nights for the first 20 years I shared that role with my club mate Peter Byrne," he said.
"When I started helping at bingo I was not even dating my wife Lori and now we have two grandchildren so many things have changed.
"I remember very clearly dropping into the Civic Centre to tell the bingo players I was a dad for the first time, and I can remember Peter knowing he was in trouble for calling bingo instead of taking his wife out for dinner for a Wedding Anniversary."
Club member and surf club life member Rod MacAlpine started helping at bingo when he retired from full time work at the NewsMail in 1986, and has attended bingo most weeks since and he still helps every week at over 90 years of age.
"He helps with the tickets and money and supports my daughter Steffi who, at 24 years of age, now has over 10 years of experience working for Bundy Big Bingo," Danny said.
Danny said the very nature of a bingo game has everyone playing at the same time and playing for the same purpose.
"Things can get very competitive but in a friendly way," he said.
"New players are often surprised with the mental skills required to listen to the numbers being called and marking them on your ticket, but still being alert for the pattern on your ticket that will win you the game."
Danny said bingo players were also a resilient group of people.
"During the 2013 floods a number of players lost their homes and belongings but within a couple of weeks they were back mixing with their friends and trying to get life back to the norm," he said.
The biggest single winner was a $30,000 winner in 2011, but there have also been two $20,000 jackpot winners and a further 27 wins of $10,000 or more.
"Bundy Big Bingo has always been a fundraising activity and it has been very successful in supporting both the Bundaberg Surf Lifesaving Club and Shalom College," Danny said.
"The surf club has benefited from over $800,000 in funds in the 40 years that bingo has been operating, which has been used to support the activities of the club and is now focused on the major renovations to the club house.
"Shalom College has received over $350,000 in the 30 years they have been part of Bundy Big Bingo."
Bundy Big Bingo will hold a 40th birthday celebration on Wednesday, August 6 at the RSL. Players will have the chance of winning six $500 games that must be won and the normal chance at the major jackpots of up to $100,000.
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