GILBERT — Grand Knight Joe Purkat of the Gilbert Knights of Columbus Council 5031 is excited about the startup of bingo at St. Joseph's Church. So are lots of other fans of the game traditionally associated with Catholic churches.
Purkat said, "When people see me, they ask when is bingo coming back?"
The bingo had been cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 restrictions.
The first session is 2 p.m. Sunday, followed by three more bingo games this year: Oct. 10, Nov. 28 and Dec. 12. The events will include blackout games for $500 and raffle prizes.
Bingo's history "can be traced back to 1530, to an Italian lottery called Lo Giuoco del Lotto D'Italia. From Italy, the game was introduced to France in the 1770s, where it was played among wealthy Frenchmen. The Germans also played a version of the game in the 1800s, but they used it as a child's game to help students learn math, spelling, and history," according to an article in ThoughtCo.
When the game reached North America in 1929, it became known as "beano." A New York toy salesman by the name of Edwin S. Lowe, a Jewish immigrant from Poland, renamed it "bingo" after he overheard someone accidentally yell "bingo" instead of "beano."
Lowe hired a Columbia University math professor to help him increase the number of combinations in bingo cards. By 1930 the professor had invented 6,000 different bingo cards. A priest from Pennsylvania approached Lowe about using bingo as a means of raising church funds. When bingo started being played in churches it became increasingly popular. By 1934, an estimated 10,000 bingo games were played weekly.
The Gilbert KC started in 1960. Now more than 60 years later Council 5031 of St. Joseph's Church in Gilbert is still active. A quarter century ago participation had declined and there was a thought that Gilbert would merge with another council. The Gilbert group rallied and voted against a merger, resolving to strengthen the council.
These are the past grand knights of Council 5031: Ignatius Kramer, Cyril Wallis, Joseph Stebe, Francis Opela, Frank Koroshec, James Krause, Edward Schneider, Dr. F.J. Zallar, Myron Fahey, Philip Virkus, Joseph Godich, George Anderson, Louis Prosen, Thomas Prosen, Douglas Killian, Don Bellerud, Michael Bradach, Ron Muster, Jim Gentile, Mark St. Lawrence, Mike Menart, Rocco Leoni, Robert Finc.
Here are some of the charitable endeavors the council has done over the years: Easter cards to send to people of St. Joseph's in area health care facilities, sponsoring sleigh rides for children, Twins game for altar boys, KC youth free-throw contests (Courtney Fish of Gilbert won the state title, making 24 of 25 free throws at district competition); polishing of church floors, buying American flags for classrooms, floats in parades, curling bonspiels, mother and daughter Holy Communion and breakfast, honoring Gold Star mothers, hurricane relief, KC ultrasound project, Range ARC, Coats for Kids, Purkat wheelchair fund, United Catholic Appeal, St. Joseph's furnace fund, St. Louis County Rescue Squad, Ronald McDonald House, Make a Wish Foundation, ProLife, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, Quad City Food Shelf, $500 bond to an altar server.