When Rachel Colbert, 25, moved to Washington a year ago, her sister took her on an unusual social outing for a couple of millennials: They went to a barebones American Legion hall to play bingo. Rachel was instantly hooked on the games at Kenneth H. Nash Post No. 8 on Capitol Hill and continues to participate even though she now lives in Takoma Park, Md.
Post No. 8 has held first-Saturday-of-the-month bingo games for 10 years, and for most of that time, Legion volunteers say, the hall was only half-filled with seniors and veterans. Recently, the games have drawn younger players with rock-bottom drink prices, a kitschy scene and the warm welcome from the Legion’s older members. For a $12 entry fee, players get 12 games, most with payouts of $50 or $100.
Bingo at Post No. 8 has proved so alluring to the younger cohort that Legion administrators often have to turn people away at the door. When demand consistently exceeded the hall’s 125-person capacity, organizers added a second session, on the third Saturday of every month. Young regulars arrive early and often host birthdays parties and showers while sipping $7 bloody marys and mimosas.
Thirty-three-year-old David Ochsman of Capitol Hill has been a bingo regular for three years. “You come here, you bring all your food, the bartenders pour the strongest drinks in Washington — and everyone is really nice,” he says.
This Saturday, the full room buzzes as older members take seats at the front. Young attendees such as Ochsman stop to hug and chat with Legion officers and volunteers. As the game gets underway, the crowd lets out a collective whoop when bingo ball O69 is called. Kathryn Stillman, the Post’s adjutant, laughs and explains that particular ball is a favorite with this group. “It’s not your grandma’s game anymore.”