LEWISTON — When Sheldon Child was a kid, he'd sleep to the sound of the bingo caller's voice.
He'd sprawl at his mother's feet — stretching out beneath her bingo table — and snooze.
"My mom played bingo for a long, long time," Child said. "It was maybe 50 years or so."
All these years later, it figures that the 39-year-old father of three sits comfortably in the throne-like caller's chair of the Pleasant Street Bingo Hall.
Four nights a week, he passes the time reading the letter-number combos, makes announcements and chats up the regulars who seek out the tables near him.
Those folks tease him, sometimes telling him he read the balls wrong as they popped from the windowed ping-pong-ball blower in his desk.
"There is a real social element that happens right here at the machine," Child said.
It's all part of the culture he knows so well.
Bingo at the hall supports the Lewiston Youth Activity Fund, which has bought books for school libraries, sneakers and supplies for children who would have done without, and prizes for children with good grades.
Each year, the organization gives away thousands of dollars to the schools.
"It's karmic," said Child, who receives no pay for his work. "And it's fun."
Though bingo starts up around 6:30 p.m., the social part of the game starts hours earlier. Folks come and visit. They snack and play cards. They set up their bingo sheets, line up their markers and good luck charms, and they play the instant games.
"They know what they're doing. They're old pros," Child said. His mom was a regular here until she moved to Florida. "I know everybody."
He seemed destined to become a caller.
For about 10 years he made his living with his voice. He worked in several local call centers, sometimes as a trainer and manager. And he has also done work as a narrator, mostly for training videos.
About two years ago, a bingo worker asked him to give calling a try. He did. He joined a couple of other callers who switch off during each night's three-hour games. The hall is open, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
Child developed a style that's simple and direct. He goes for none of the euphemisms, like the callers who might describe "22" as "a choo-choo." Rather, he tries to be as clear and simple as possible.
When players are paying money in hopes of a $500 top prize, less can be more, he said.
Seated in the caller's chair, Child calls the numbers and presides with little fuss. When someone shouts "Bingo!" Child's voice remains calm.
"Any other winners? Any others?" he asked, his voice still in his throat. " Last call."
"The game is closed," he said.