Eyes Down

My first (semi) real job was at a cinema and bingo hall. I’d had a paper round as a kid and done occasional days weeding at a farm down the road but back breaking work at a pound an hour was no fun and was reserved for dire financial necessity. I was chuffed to find the bingo job.

It was in a small town. The bingo was on six nights a week and I worked four of them at £5 a night. We worked from around 6pm to maybe 9.30pm. There was a bar and the cinema was upstairs and had one screen showing films long after they’d done the rounds of the bigger cinemas – still, those cinemas were fifteen miles away at best. I was allowed free cinema entry as a perk of the job but in the few months I worked there I only went to see one film: The Jungle Book.

At the start of the night I had to sell tickets. Each girl would have two different types of bingo tickets to sell and we had to calculate the prices in our heads and we had to be quick. The maths wasn’t difficult but obviously people bought lots of different combinations of the two types of ticket and you had to be quick to keep the large queue moving along. Any discrepancies between tickets sold and monies received had to be made up by the seller out of your wages and at £5 a night no-one could afford mistakes.

Once the tickets were sold and everyone was seated the bingo would start. Customers would put money on the end of their table which was a signal for one of us girls to go over and they would tell us their drink order and we would fetch them drinks from the bar. It’s all eyes down and nobody moves once the bingo has started! I would also call back numbers on ‘line’ and ‘house’ claims for the bingo caller to check.

After a few shifts I was put on the bar for a night. That was fun as there was a small lounge area on the other side to the bingo hall and the bar served both areas so I was kept busy but it wasn’t crazy! The following night I was back on the bar with a new lad. The blind leading the blind indeed…

After a few weeks my boss started to train me to do the books which involved cashing up the money taken in ticket sales and allocating prize money. That kept you busy and you had to get on quickly as the prize money was needed – can’t keep them guessing about their winnings. I never got to do the books solo as I found a full time job at a local nursing home and the shift work meant I had to give up my bingo job. I was sad to leave but then I ended up training to be a nurse so the nursing home was a good move…

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