Helen Fox: Life After The Standard Bingo Club

By Helen Fox. With the Standard Bingo club sold, and manager Gerry Fox’s health ailing, he moves on to new pastures.

The end of 1961 was not an easy time, Gerry had sold out of the Standard Bingo and had not been feeling well for several months. He had a bad cough that would not go and high temperatures he was losing weight and for a slim man this showed. Then one terrible night he started to cough up blood, by nature he was strong but this threw him into panic.

The hospital admitted him immediately, he had a camera put down his throat and x rays, but it could not be confirmed what was wrong, at this time. A week later one sputum test showed it was T.B. “Thank God Gerry” said, when asked why, he said he thought it might have been cancer. Gerry was moved from the East London hospital to the Royal Free Hampstead. It was long before the Royal Free Hospital as we know it to-day was built. The part of the hospital Gerry was in is where the car park is now. On the ground floor there were patients in iron Lungs after having polio, the first floor was women who had mental disorders, and on the same floor were men who had T.B. This was not easy for Gerry, the doctors had ordered complete bed rest and told him this was for six months with medication. His reaction was “Oh no, I shall be out of here long before that”. He had always had a terrible appetite so I brought in food and the wonderful matron used to make him egg and chips, she absolutely loved him, he was always a ladies man.

To my surprise the doctor said after 12 weeks he could go home on his medication and to take it easy, he would have to have regular x-rays to see if the small hole in his lungs was clearing up. He was on these pills which were the size of a fifty pence piece for three years. The doctor never told him to stop smoking but this was 1962, smoking was not a health risk. I think if Gerry was told to stop smoking he would have, but this was to have a devastating effect on his health in the future.

He was feeling well and had to get a job, he went to Top Rank with a great C.V. which you did not need back then, his record of bingo calling was all he needed: they loved him. He called for Top Rank at the Blue Hall Islington, Peckham, Rosehill, Luton, and Finsbury Park five times a week. I know he called at many other places when and where he was needed. As he stood up on stage he would say out loud “I’ve got a feeling” but the sentence was drowned out with laughter. He would go on to say “There will be a big winner tonight”. Sometimes Gerry would call out on the blue, “The colour of my eyes”, and the crowd would call back “Yours are brown”, he made the session very light hearted, he left a trail of laughter behind him. His two fat ladies was the best, then top of the shop.

He used to say a caller should never make mistakes when calling, never be crude or monotonous and always be cheerful, but he always wanted an old age pensioner to be a winner. When he called he had quite a few big pay out, in a Islington £5,000 win, all this and much more was in the Top Rank members social club handbook, which came out about monthly. He was their blue eyed boy, when Gerry called you knew he was something special, it was entertainment and he made the members feel it was their social club. But Top Rank were not good bosses and really never minded how hard you worked for them, suddenly everyone wanted to be a bingo caller but the wage of £25 a week was not enough for a man with three children to support. So Gerry called his last Bingo Game for Top Rank…he now had his own full house to look after.

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