As Carol Klemm turned on the lights in the large, empty hall Monday, she got an “eerie feeling.”
The spacious room in the Dickinson Charities building on 21st Street East hosted its final bingo games Sunday. After 33 years, Dickinson Charities has decided to end its bingo nights due to a decline in participation.
“Everything runs its course,” Klemm said.
The bingo hall has been affected by the aging population of its players and additional opportunities to play bingo in the city, she said, as well as trouble finding consistent help.
In the end, it was a financial decision. Dickinson Charities also runs blackjack, pull tabs and raffles throughout the city. It had been holding bingo on Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
“The crowds were getting smaller and it was harder to find help,” Klemm said.
The bingo hall opened in 1982. Declining interest, however, had left Dickinson Charities with only 20 to 40 players on average — not nearly enough to continue holding bingo.
“It was hard to say goodbye yesterday,” said Barb Hauck, a longtime bingo player who works part time for Dickinson Charities. “A lot of customers came up and gave hugs. Their quote was ‘What are we going to do Barb?’”
Hauck said some players commented on how much fun they’ve had over the years, while others said they were going to miss the friends they’ve made at the bingo hall.
“While it was there, it was great,” she said. “I know the customers appreciated the times that it was open. I know I appreciated it because when I wasn’t working, I was playing.”
Klemm said there have been ideas about to how to best use the bingo hall in the future. Because it holds hundreds of people and has a concession area, the hall can be used for different civic and social gatherings, Klemm said.
Though Klemm called this “a bittersweet time,” she said the silver lining is that the people who frequented the Dickinson Charities bingo hall will be able to find other places to play in town.
“They are still going to have a place to play,” Klemm said. “It just won’t be here.”