South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Bunco game has been going on for over half a century


Keeping up their monthly Bunco game for more than half a century are (from left): Audrey Benz, Mary Baumgart, Alice Marrison, Miriam Bertha, Dorothy Lattner, Alberta Sherman, Ann Majeski, Frances Cercone

In the late 1950s, some stay-at-home moms in the Mount Oliver area decided to find something fun to do without their children, but within walking distance of each another.

When one of the women suggested the dice game Bunco, a tradition was born that has surpassed the half-century mark.

Today, Miriam Bertha, 84, the only original member, is among eight South Hills women who meet monthly at members’ homes to play Bunco -- and often wearing her “Bunco Babe” tee-shirt.

The host for a particular month serves lunch, and everyone brings a dessert. There is also an annual Christmas party.

“It is something I look forward to with the girls. It is the camaraderie.

“Some of the girls in Mount Oliver and Carrick I don’t see as much as I used to. The game keeps our friendship going,” said Mrs. Bertha, who lived in the same house on Anthony St. in Mount Oliver for 78 years before moving to Whitehall.

Three of the members still live in Mount Oliver.

To play, everyone pitches in $2. The women sit four to a table, and each has a partner.

Three dice are rolled over six rounds, with players aiming for the target number.

For instance, in Round 1, players want to roll a 1 on the dice, for which they receive points. The same goes for rolling a 2 in Round 2, and so on.

“We’re not cut-throat.

“We talk so much sometimes we forget if we are trying to roll a two or three or something else,” Mrs. Bertha said.

Whoever wins the most rounds is the winner.

The $16 is divided among the three highest scores and a couple of dollars for the lowest score.

As the game is all about luck with no decisions to be made, the women are free to socialize, which is fine with Alberta Sherman, 83.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what to do.

“So while we’re playing we catch up on our families,” she said.

The Jefferson Hills woman learned of Bunco 25 years ago when childhood friend Frances Cercone, of Mount Oliver, told her about the monthly get-togethers.

While the game -- and the pleasure the women derive from one another -- remains intact, time has left its mark.

Some players do not drive anymore, making getting a ride to a game difficult. In that case, subs are contacted

If there are no bannisters on staircases in a host’s home, the game will often be moved to a restaurant.

The liquor which used to be served at lunches has been replaced with water or soft drinks due to health concerns or medications.

“Things change,” Mrs. Bertha said.


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