Names, numbers and nostalgia travel to fair
HUGHESVILLE – At the Lycoming County Fair and everywhere, bingo games have been around a long time. The traveling concession known as “Harry’s Bingo,” was 85 years young this year. Named for previous owner Harry Koch, his relative Melvin Koch of Levittown, continued until last year. Ralph Flack said of the venture, “I bought him out lock, stock and barrel. The tent, stakes, seats, cards are all American made,” the new owner emphasized.
In concessioner’s lingo, the gaming’ epicenter is known as the “Rat Trap.” Located beside the announcer, it’s a homemade wooden box serving as a mini office. “We use it for money changing, storing free cards and tally cards which are filled out at the end of each day. The tally includes number of games played, gross income and a line to note the percentage to Reithoffer Amusements.”
In business since 1896, Reithoffer bills themselves as “The Aristocrats of the Midway,” their name very familiar to local fair goers as having wintered in Hughesville many years. Reithoffer’s sons graduated from Hughesville High School and from here, went off to WWII.
Looking closely at the Bingo banners waving above the tent, one can see the Reithoffer logo albeit very high. “Our usual spot south of the grandstand was lost this year due to a mix up with the office,” Flack said. And so, the bingo tent was placed opposite the grounds and one avenue south of the midway. “We hope to get the old spot familiar to fair goers back next year,” he said.
Of the 2015 fair, Flack said, “Senior day was our best,” noting that for some, playing bingo under the tent is a rest stop, a cool place out of the sun, and the chance to win prizes.
This is the last year for the nearly 50-year-old tent. The stakes have numerous layers of paint so after this season it will be retired and replaced with a light weight aluminum and mylar model. “The set up time will change from two and a half days to two and a half hours. It will also be less weight to transport. Replacing the old long coiled strings of lights will be light weight, clip on, power saving halogen lights which gives a better glow.”
For Harry’s Bingo, the 146th Lycoming County Fair of 2016 promises to bring new amenities where the nostalgic game will go on. Find their location by looking for the orange and black Bingo banners with the Reithoffer logo at the top, and over the microphone, hear the announcer’s familiar phrase, “Ladies and gentleman, we have a winner.”