Bingo arrest of elderly ladies backfired on police

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The bingo article in the Feb. 26 edition of the Roane C0unty News brought back some memories of a true story that happened in Sumner County (Gallatin) while I was a resident of the county.

Apparently bingo was considered a form of gambling by the state of Tennessee back in the 1980s. I can’t remember the exact year, but bingo was legal in Kentucky at that time.

An elderly women’s club, a group who loved their bingo, had chartered a bus to take them to a Kentucky bingo parlor for a relaxing, leisurely, fun day of bingo.

Shortly after the trip began, the ladies broke out the bingo cards and began a game to help pass time on the bus ride.

Soon a winner was declared, and a prize was awarded to the lucky winner.

The Sumner County authorities (apparently having caught every real criminal in the county) had caught wind of this impending trip and suspected there might be some criminal activity by these elderly ladies, for they had placed an undercover cop on the bus.

As soon as the prize was awarded the cop stood up, identified himself, told the bus driver to stop, and told all the little old ladies that they were under arrest for illegal gambling.

You can imagine the look of horror on these little ladies red faces.
One minute each was a fun-loving, law-abiding citizen, and the next minute, each was a hardened criminal with possible jail time in their future.

Talk about ruining your day!

Anyway, the busload of criminals was returned to the Sumner County jail for processing, fingerprinting and, of course, that dreaded jailbird picture.

I didn’t get to see any of these mug shots because the local paper didn’t print them, and Nashville news channels didn’t show them.

But their names were printed so everyone knew who these jailbirds were.

A lot of jokes were soon floating around Sumner and surrounding counties, amusing to everyone except these elderly ladies and the red-faced police.

For months, the police were the laughingstock of all who heard the story.
I’m sure the citizens were able to sleep easier at night knowing these criminals were off the street.

Now that this gang was caught, they weren’t able to pack heat anymore.
More guns off the street was a common theme of the jokes told.

If I ever have an urge to play bingo, before the games begin, I will check out every face in the room, looking for signs that one might be an undercover cop.

I certainly will want to know where the back door is located.
(You can’t be too careful, ladies.)

Knowing the ladies like to have their best face on when having their pictures taken, I still long to see those mugshots of that infamous bingo gang.

Norman Campbell