Friday, February 12, 2016

Bingo cards from Rebman's carnival supply house in Lancaster

This old bingo card, printed on thick cardboard and likely from the 1960s or 1970s, features the stamp of Rebman's in Lancaster, "Pennsylvania's Old Reliable Carnival Supply House."

The Rebman family business — still in operation as Rebman's Flag Shop and Bingo Supplies on Columbia Avenue in Lancaster — has a storied, three-generation history, as detailed through a handful of articles in the archives.

Rebman's was originally established as a candy business in 1909 by Earl F. Rebman Sr. A popular Easter item was homemade chocolate eggs, which were first sold out of a wagon in downtown Lancaster. For many decades, coconut cream was the most popular flavor, eventually equaled by our modern love for peanut butter. American troops received personalized chocolate eggs from Rebman's during World War II.

Rebman Sr. also made and sold other candy, cough drops and gum. He eventually operated as many as three stores around West King and Water streets in Lancaster city. As the business grew, Rebman Sr. and then his son, Earl F. Rebman Jr., opened stores at 800 S. Queen St. in 1949 and Columbia Avenue in 1984. Rebman Jr.'s sons, Pat and Peter, later incorporated as Rebman Brothers to essentially continue the family business as it operates today, in its third generation.

Over the years, the Rebman stores focused on different merchandise, from candy to games to seasonal holiday items to U.S. flags to truck accessories and more. A party supply side of the business sold everything from pinball machines and pool tables to paper plates, plastic cups, school supplies, toys, candles, trains and wedding and funeral items.

The Rebmans, led by Earl Sr., also built a considerable collection of memorabilia, much of it related to games and carnivals. They had vintage prize wheels, old-fashioned candy-making tools, circus games, historic photographs, original U.S. Air Force flags, vintage toys and more. They had a booklet titled "A Four-year Historic Record of Lancaster's Salvage Work on the Home Front," which features a black-and-white photo in which a circus elephant is helping to load paper for trash collection in 1944.

All in all, it's been an amazing story of a successful family business spanning more than a century. A story that this bingo card helps to tell. sources for more details and history:

The bingo card at the top of the post is in excellent condition. I also came across a couple that show signs of considerable use. There's a story behind these and, on an aesthetic level, I think I like them even more than pristine samples. (Which makes sense, as I'm the guy who loves badly damaged postcards, too.)

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