Leah Blain photo                                Johnny Purdaby at his work calling bingo games at Chances Salmon Arm.

Leah Blain photo Johnny Purdaby at his work calling bingo games at Chances Salmon Arm.

Column: A lifetime of calling bingo numbers

By Leah Blain, Observer contributor

“Under the B – 5…under the G – 55, five, five..”

Johnny Purdaby is quick to smile when he’s at work. It would be hard to imagine anyone more suited to be a bingo caller. He’s been a caller for 30 years, and he’s only 39.

The numbers come up on the screens around the room. The room is separated by a glass wall but the sounds of music, rings, and animated conversation wafts in from the casino.

Somebody calls “bingo”. After it’s verified, Johnny offers congratulations.

“The next game is a block of nine. Game 17 should be on the olive card,” he says in his melodic voice. “Good luck everybody. Here we go…”

Some people play on the computer, others use paper cards, and some do a combination. As his co-workers walk by they turn and wave to him and he gives them a wave and big smile back. Just after 6 p.m. he tells the players he will is taking a break and will be back at 7 p.m.

“I just got hired last year,” he says with a smile that lights up his whole face. “I love bingo calling. I tried for a whole two years to get on here.”

In the meantime he was working at Mica dam but when things slowed down, he tried for this job again, and he wasn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer.

“I brought my resume here once a week for a month. I kept bugging them,” he says breaking into a laugh. “Now I’ve been here just over a year.”

His resume would show he had a lot of experience, as a caller and a worker.

“I started young at the bingo hall at Pierre’s Point. I was seven or eight when I collected the garbage on the tables. My grandma, Caroline Johnny, would pay me a can of pop and a bag of chips. Then it moved up to a can of pop, a bag of chips, and a chocolate bar. Then it went up to $5.”

When he was nine-years-old, they needed a bingo caller and he was ready to take on the job.

“My mom would come looking for me. She couldn’t see me because the bingo machine was so high. She could hear me but she couldn’t see me.”

His voice and personality were perfect for the job, and he was instantly popular.

“I like making people laugh. They loved my calling and I loved making them smile and sending them home with money.”

Over the years he has had other jobs, including several years at Mica dam, doing everything from janitorial and housekeeping to dishwashing. But these physical jobs were harder for him because he has rheumatoid arthritis that has already necessitated two hip replacements. This job is much easier physically, and it allows him to be home every night with his wife, Shelly, and their children, Lola-Ann, Johnny Jr., and Owen.

“And we’ve got one on the way, the baby is due December 20.”

Their house is usually busy because they foster as well. He likes it that way, and he likes to be busy when he goes to work.

“I like calling for big crowds. I just love giving these big pots away. I like seeing a lot of people gathered and enjoying everybody’s company. It’s one big happy family, that’s how I look it it.”

Just Posted

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

North Westside residents can dispose of their unwanted bulky items between June 30 and July 14, 2021. (File photo)
North Westside residents can soon get rid of unwanted bulky items

Large household items can be disposed of at North Westside Transfer Station June 30 to July 14

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D area. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control to Electoral Area D; director calls for respectful discussion

The new Civic Memorial Park will incorporate pieces of the 80-year-old arena it replaces. (Artists rendering)
Pieces of Civic Arena reclaimed for new Vernon park

City centre space to incorporate wood from the historic arena

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

The Pierre family, an Indigenous family, once lived in what is now downtown Summerland. Today, Pierre Drive is named in honour of the family. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Pierre family played role in Summerland’s history

Downtown Summerland was once Penticton Indian Reserve #3

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Jaimee Peters photo of a Willow Midwives helping with a birth. Willow closed its doors March 31 because of a shortage of midwives. (Contributed)
South Okanagan’s only midwifery to re-open this summer

Willow Community Midwives was forced to close because of a shortage of midwives

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Gord with a mom and her young son outside Pathways which was defunded on May 31. (Facebook)
Gord Portman with a mom and her child outside of Pathways. The sign says it all about the difference Pathways has made in people’s lives. They were defunded by Interior Health on May 31.
Penticton man takes the plunge for the recovery house that helped save his life

Gord Portman said Discovery House and Pathways have been everything in his 1 year sobriety

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Most Read