In the summer of 1967, when I was nearly 17, I worked at a bingo lounge called Skill-Right on Revere Beach Boulevard.

Noreen Skoolicas at the age of 16, the summer she worked doling out bingo cards at Skill-Right. Photo courtesy of Noreen Skoolicas

I would walk up and down the long U-shaped aisles, with customers on either side. They’d hail me if they wanted to buy more cards, or if they’d won. The customers were exactly the weirdos you might expect, but I didn’t mind them too much – they were all pretty interesting. Plus, I was safe behind the counter. But I’m pretty sure I inhaled enough secondhand smoke to qualify as a heavy smoker myself. One ancient man would spend pretty much all day there, with his ancient wife, who sat, apparently contentedly, feeding a baby doll on her lap. Customers often complained bitterly about the (random! I swear!) bingo cards I doled out in exchange for their cash.

Like the other high school girls I worked with (all the employees were young girls), I wore a drab gray lab coat over my clothes. Each pocket had designated contents – quarters, dollar bills, fives, tens and, of course, the bingo cards. By the end of a shift I was weighed down by all the cash. I’m pretty sure we saw a lot more quarters than 10-dollar bills.

We were paid in cash, too, in very small brown envelopes, by our truly icky boss. The room was an enormous sea of aisles, one girl to an aisle. The boss, an overweight, greasy-haired homunculus, sat high up in a little alcove in the wall, near the ceiling. Every time I looked up he seemed to be looking at me. Whenever one of us girls had to speak to him, he always managed to say something salacious, which he seemed to think was seductive. We all avoided him like the plague, but on payday, we had to march up to his alcove to accept our paychecks, as well as his icky comments. Gaaah! I say “we had to,” and I guess we didn’t, but those were different times, and we all needed the job.

One particularly chaotic day, I had customers yelling at me for selling them their cards too slowly, or for selling them loser cards, and when I looked up toward Mr. Icky’s high-altitude alcove, I swear he was drooling, panting and smiling at the same time.

In one thrilling move, I ripped off my lab coat, tossed it to the floor and said “See ya!,” listening to all the quarters roll around as I calmly strolled out the front door.

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