By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — These are the games people play.
Ask any senior how they want to spend a cold winter morning or afternoon in Derry and it may include bingo chips, a good hand of cards or a lucky token.
The Marion Gerrish Community Center has a full schedule of daily games for seniors, from familiar card games like Uno or Forty-Fives, to a rousing afternoon spent playing bingo with friends.
Thursday is bingo day at the center. Last week, the temperature outside was frigid, but one room at the community center gathered about 25 of the faithful to play an hour of bingo.
Bingo has been offered at the center for many years. Larry Dube handled calling duties on this particular afternoon, reading out numbers as the bingo machine hummed along.
Many who come bring good luck charms to line up on the table. Most players had up to a dozen cards lined up in the hopes of being a big winner.
"It gets me out of the house," bingo regular Flo St. George said.
She wasn't alone.
Others said coming out weekly for bingo was a good way to spend an afternoon.
Players also took a break and had time to celebrate a fellow player's birthday. Beth Farley was the honored birthday guest and enjoyed cake before the next game began.
"We like bingo and we celebrate birthdays," Lorraine Cameron of Londonderry said.
Herb Billingsley had a small collection of lucky tokens lined up in front of him, hoping they would bring him luck. So far that day, they hadn't.
"No way," Billingsley announced.
He said his wife Margaret loved to come and play bingo at the community center. After she died in 2006, he said he wanted to play.
"My wife had all that stuff," Billinglsey said of his lucky charms. "She used to sit over there, but I never came. Now, you go and you have fun."
For St. George, it's a weekly tradition she hates to miss.
"You come in, you see the same people and it's fun," she said.
That was also the collective mantra for the regular bridge group that meets weekly at the center. Seven women gathered one afternoon last week and said more players are always welcome.
For those who play bridge, it's an appreciated game that helps keep the mind sharp.
"It keeps your brain motivated," Gail Gorham of Derry said.
She said the game isn't easy, requiring a lot of counting and memory skills.
This group has played together for several years. The players are very comfortable with each other and look forward to weekly games.
Elaine Rendo of Derry said bridge is a great game.
"It's a numbers game, but it's an interesting game," she said. "It always challenges you and you have to learn a great deal."
As the bridge group continued its quiet play, the women noted their next door neighbors are often a little louder as they enjoy Forty-Fives.
That game is a regional favorite, filled with French Canadian tradition and very popular in the Merrimack Valley region of Massachusetts. Tournaments are held in Massachusetts and New Hampshire every year.
Most of the players on this particular afternoon had been playing for decades.
"I've been playing 45 years," Chuck Hamblett said.
More players are always welcome for any of the games offered at the Marion Gerrish Community Center. Other games offered weekly include Mahjongg, Uno and cribbage.
Call 434-8866 for information or a complete schedule of games and other senior activities.