I loved games as a kid and one of my favorites was my Pop-o-matic bingo game. Pop-o-matic games were popular at the time. Dice needed for the games were sealed in a clear plastic dome that you pressed to “roll” them. They looked like they were hopping in their container.

The bingo cards were made from thick, almost indestructible plastic. If you had the combination popped, you pressed the corresponding button down on the card. There were no bingo chips to lose, and no choking hazard for the kiddies.

Popomatic bingo

I played this game for hours with my mom, so you might think I would have hit the bingo hall as soon as I was of age. Since I can’t tolerate the stench of smoke, I never bothered to go.

Now decades later, smoking in public buildings is prohibited. It wasn’t until a local animal charity held a bingo fundraiser did I go for the first time. The money raised went to help animals in need, plus the prizes were Coach handbags, and I couldn’t resist the thought of bringing home a new purse.

My mom joined me, a box of plastic bingo chips and dried-out marker things in tow. I found out the latter were called daubers or dabbers, and you marked spaces with these with no worries about chips sliding off the spots. We intended to use the chips, but according to New Jersey gaming rules, games were only valid if daubers were used. Luckily they were sold at the venue, and I bought a pumpkin color to mark my cards. Surely my favorite color would prove lucky.

We sat at the long cafeteria-style tables. I observed the competition, and boy was it fierce. Would my little twosome match up against the reserved table of 10? One woman had a fancy bag to carry her collection of colorful daubers. We had a not-so-fancy plastic bag spread across the handles of my mom’s wheelchair to carry our bingo gear. Clearly the woman with the dauber tote was a seasoned bingo player. I looked at our box of transparent, pathetic chips. Don’t bring pathetic chips to a dauber fight.


I watched a pre-bingo game ritual of one group. I witnessed them speak something that resembled a cheer, followed by a high five. Was it a pep talk or some kind of curse on the opposition?

The guy with the balls (pun intended) sat at the opposite end of the room. If I had binoculars I may have been able to see him. There was a bingo board keeping track of numbers called, but it wasn’t official. The official board was a postage-stamp sized TV in the far corner of the room. It’s a good thing all the heavy metal over the years hasn’t affected my hearing too much, because I relied on them to hear the numbers called.

Once I got the hang of the different games played, such as pig in the pen, I was set. Out of 10 games, I was close to bingo only once, but watched two of my fellow shelter volunteers walk away with new Coach bags, including a larger version of a style I own. I didn’t win a thing, not even a door prize, so much for the dauber in my favorite color proving lucky. I’m blaming my loss on the curse performed by the chanting table next to ours. The real winners that day were the animals benefitting from the event, which made it all worthwhile.

bingo cards