Bingo this

You just never know where a conversation will go. This one started with First Baptist Church and wound up with an uncomfortable reminder of my gene pool.
Across the table Wednesday evening at the Tomato Bar, Ron Faraday, energetic president of the Pittston Historical Society, sipped a Miller Lite. I, the somewhat disappointing chair of his board of directors, had just joined him bringing along from the bar a Newcastle Brown Ale. I’m sure part of the reason for our get together was for him to reinvigorate me. And it worked.
But I, too, had an agenda. On Sunday I will speak at a celebration marking the 240th anniversary of the founding First Baptist in Pittston, and I intended to ask Ron if anything in the city either pre-dates or comes close to matching the church’s 1776 birth date.
There’s not, he said. But, over a second round, we got to talking about the church’s location on Water Street. Ron asked me if I knew there was once two hotels there. I did not.
I asked him if he knows of a building in which the Elks Club was located. He said he remembers the Elks at other locations in the city but not on Water Street.
My recollection of the Elks occupying the top floors of a building on Water Street stems from a story I’d often heard involving my grandfather on my Dad’s side. Ron did not have to ask me to tell it.
Grampy, as we called him, was a railroader. He had been a farmer in White Haven, but when four of his sons were called to serve in World War II, he lacked the manpower to keep the farm afloat and so sold it and moved to West Pittston, across the river from Coxton Yards.
He had worked on the railroad a couple of days a week years before and lost all the fingers on his left hand in a train mishap. That hand was nothing but an oversized thumb and a whole lot of scar tissue.
Grampy worked until he was 75 years old and when he finally agreed to retire refused to leave the house. “Pop,” my dad asked one day, “why don’t you at least go out for a walk?”
“What,” he answered, “and have the whole town talking about me? A full grown man walking around in the middle of the day when he should be at work.”
Grammy was a bingo fan and, after much persuasion, got Grampy to go with her one night to the weekly bingo at the Elks Club, on the third story of a building just over the Water Street Bridge.
The bingo cards were mounted on pieces of masonite. At the end of the night, having won absolutely nothing, Grampy, as the story goes, slammed the masonite on the floor, spit a wad of tobacco on the middle of it, spread it around with the sole of his shoe, and flung it out the window.
Having witnessed and heard many tales of my grandfather’s temper (he once knocked out a stubborn mule by punching it “between the eyes” with that stump of a left hand, which Dad always said packed the wallop of a sledge hammer) I have no reason to doubt this is true.
What’s scary is that, despite the good-natured manner in which I have always tried to lead my life, that hot-tempered Ackerman blood flows in my veins.
Word to the wise: better keep me away from chewing tobacco.
And perhaps bingo.

Ed Ackerman