On July 7, I volunteered to be one of the cashiers/runners for bingo at the Walnut Grove Buddhist Church’s annual bazaar. Even though I haven’t lived in the small Delta town for decades, I’ve gone back to help out at the church, as have many Walnut Grove expatriates, for most of my adult life.


The bazaar is the main fundraiser for the church and bingo is a big draw, as is the delicious teriyaki chicken. The game is played for prizes, not cash. As a cashier/runner, I collect the money from the players and make change. This year, between games I looked up at the prizes and saw things like toys, travel mugs, and sets of frying pans. There was one item whose picture on its box sent me back to when I was a kid.

I was somewhere around 7 or 8 years old when I could keep track of the numbers and letters without the help of an adult. For a couple of summers I played but never won. The summer when I was about 9 or 10 the bazaar rolled around again. My bachan, or grandmother, would give me money to play the kids’ games like fishing or scoop the duck, but that year I used it to play bingo. Once again it seemed I would go winless, but finally the numbers lined up and at the top of my lungs I shouted “Bingo!” I scurried to the front where the prizes were and scanned them over. I could have gotten a toy but I decided to get something the whole family could use. I spotted a boxed set of six colorful glass cups and took them for my winnings.

We lived only three houses down from the church, so I excitedly ran home to show my mom what I had won. In front of the neighbor’s house, there was a patch of sidewalk that ramped up about 6 inches or so. I tripped on it and went tumbling. The box flew from my hands and landed on the concrete a few feet away. I opened it and saw that all but one were shattered.

I slowly trudged home and told my mom what happened. She gave me some words of solace and proudly welcomed the new glass to the household. 

Such is the power of photographs. They have the ability to bring back memories and feelings from long ago, whether good or bad, happy or sad.

Contact photographer Clifford Oto at (209) 546-8263 or coto@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/otoblog.


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