Formerly offered region-wide, Danish Hall only hosts gambling in Michigan County
LUDINGTON, Michigan – Once upon a time in Mason County, Michigan, there was a place where people could go and play bingo every night of the week.
Today, the Danish hall in the fourth quarter of Ludington is the only one remaining.
Every Thursday, the doors open at 4.30 p.m. Players collect their bingo cards, set up their tables and prepare to win some cash.
Rob Jensen, a member of the Danish Brotherhood for 53 years, is organizing the event. He took over when longtime bingo organizer Keith Koegler had to step down for health reasons.
âMy father joined the Brotherhood in 1930. I promised him I would continue,â Jensen said.
The Danish Brotherhood purchased the hall in 1895. It was previously a Methodist church.
âWe started bingo across the state in 1973, but when it comes to bingo, we’ve had it here for 60 or 70 years,â Jensen said. “Before the state organized it, they used to do it for cans and stuff like that.”
Bingo was immensely popular. Twenty years ago, the Danish Brotherhood’s bingo night occupied both the ground floor and the basement.
âWe had 120 people here,â Jensen said.
And it wasn’t just the Danish Brotherhood. Clubs all over the county had bingo nights – the Eagles, Elks, Moose, the Optimist Club. The American Legion and several churches as well.
âBefore, you could play bingo every day of the week and twice on Sunday in Mason County,â Jensen said. “Now we are the last ones standing.”
Jensen said bingo has been the Brotherhood’s mainstay for years. That all changed when casinos were built and offered bingo.
“Until the 2000s probably. That’s when it really started to go down. Casinos came in … and people liked the glitz, the glam, the bells and the whistles,” he said. he declared. “There are no more new people. But we have our regulars.”
The Danish Brotherhood bingo night has been canceled for the whole of 2020. Jensen said the numbers were down from 2019, so they decided not to have it for the first three months of 2020. Afterwards , the pandemic struck and the room was closed.
It resumed in January.
On February 25, there were 32 players.
When the players arrived they started at the volunteer table where they bought the cards.
The volunteers said the players came for the camaraderie.
“They need it. They end up being surrounded by the people they are used to seeing,” said Pam Anes, who has volunteered for two years.
The number of players is down from the start of Asses, but she said they are coming back.
âThere are fewer people because of the covid. Plus, there is a cut,â she said. “We didn’t have it at all last year. When we started over, people were ready. They were lined up outside the door.”
Joanne Reed and Becky Cornett had a lucky evening, each winning bingo.
âWe are so happy that it is opening again,â said Cornett.
âWe love to support the Danish Brotherhood,â said Reed. “Even if you don’t win, it’s still fun. It’s safe and fun entertainment, and cheaper than going to the casino.”
Dan Jankowski calls the numbers. He has been helping for 10 years.
“I came to play one night and have been stuck ever since,” he said.
The evening begins with the bingo balls, when a number is drawn for a chance to win money.
Bingo games started at 6 p.m.
There are the “early risers”, the flash spins, the specials, when players have to form a specific pattern or fill the entire map. These were on disposable paper. The players used colorful ink-filled stamps to mark the numbers.
Then there were the hard cards – the traditional cards that players fill out using their bingo chips.
Overnight there is also the chance to win the big jackpot, which slowly increases every week until someone hits it. Then it starts again at $ 200.
But it’s not just about the prices. For many, it is a chance to get out of the house and spend time with family and friends.
âI started coming because of my sister,â said Patricia Calkin. “It takes me out of the house. I have five grandchildren living with me.”
She first came in 2019. Her older sister Shery Billings has been playing for over 40 years.
âI do it for entertainment. I love to play,â Billings said.
Calkin joined Billings when their sister, Mary, who also played bingo, died. They both put pictures of her next to their cards.
They also share their earnings.
âWhen I won $ 150 last week, I gave him $ 25,â Calkin said.
âShe sees what she’s been missing all these years,â Billings said.
There are 29 laps every night. Bingo can last until 10 p.m.
Linda Stewart said she has been playing bingo since she was quite old.
âMy mom came all the time and I came with her,â she said. “We played everywhere – Mason County, Muskegon, Reno. I love to play here, and I live down the street.”
Stewart said she had no strategy.
âIt’s all in the numbers. There are 26 different ways to win,â she said.
Bingo requires quick reflexes. His advice for new players is to start slowly.
âYou might want to start with just six or eight cards,â she said. “When you get used to it, you can increase your (number of) cards.”
Todd and Dottie Eastway come on a date.
âI find it relaxing,â Todd said. “We had friends who came, so we came.”
These friends were Kay Castonia and her stepdaughter Brooke.
Dottie said there is a misconception that this is an “old people’s game”.
But Brooke’s daughter, in her twenties, comes regularly. They call it “girls’ night”.
âWe’re having a great time. We love coming. The workers are awesome,â Kay said.
âIt means a lot to spend time together as a family, to spend time with Grandma. It’s very important to us,â Brooke said.
Distributed by Associated Press
Cookie Lynn wins a game of bingo at Danish Brotherhood Hall on Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Ludington, Michigan. Once upon a time there was a place where people could go and play bingo every night of the week in County Mason, but now the Danish hall in Ludington’s Fourth Hall is the only one left. Every Thursday, the doors open at 4:30 p.m. and players collect their bingo cards, set up their tables and prepare to win some cash. (Hannah Hubbard / Ludington Daily News via AP)
Sue Jensen plays an early bird bingo game on Thursday, March 4, 2021 in Ludington, Michigan. She is a member of the Danish Sisterhood and her husband, Rob, 53, of the Danish Brotherhood, organizes the bingo nights. Once upon a time there was a place where people could go and play bingo every night of the week in County Mason, but now the Danish Hall in Ludington Fourth Ward is the only one left. (Hannah Hubbard / Ludington Daily News via AP)