Marvelous marble memories

March 15, 2014


I “discovered” my marbles recently. Please note that I did not say I “found” them. That would seem to imply that I lost them. I never did. They were simply misplaced.

We’ve taken out the carpet and stained the concrete floors and have lightened up the load in our bedroom closet as we spread our wings in our empty nest. It’s fun finding things I had forgotten about.

It was not fun, however, to recall that Mrs. Anderson, my first grade teacher, saw I had a bag of marbles in my desk. I brought them to play with during recess.

Although they were all safely tucked away in the bag in my desk, she took them away from me anyway. Maybe she thought I was going to gamble with them, and maybe I was.

Maybe I really was a mibster when I was only 6 years old. Patiently waiting for recess so I could knuckle down and use my shooter to hit a dead duck for keepsies and build my marble collection.

Maybe I was the girl who inspired Norman Rockwell’s “Marbles Champ.”

Maybe. But probably not.

Mrs. Anderson gave them back to me at the end of the day telling me never to bring them to school again.

I never did, but I must have played for keepsies and lost in the following years because I don’t have as many marbles as I thought I should. Okay, so I have lost a few here and there.

Even my prized steelies are gone. Those could really knock glass marbles out of a ring because of their density.

I’m pretty sure steelies were just plain ball bearings, but we coveted them as a special marble. However, they were banned from tournament play by the serious players and today have no real value to marble collectors.

I still have some cat’s eyes, clearies, and various other glass marbles. Glass marbles are the sweethearts of collectors but there are some pretty cool non-glass marbles.

My favorite ones that I have are the Benningtons. They’re blue or brown pottery looking balls with spots that look like craters. They are fired clay with a salt glaze on them. The spots are where the marbles were touching each other while they were being fired, resulting in those spots being uncolored and unglazed.

Curious to see what others recall about playing with marbles, I posted an inquiry on Facebook.

Tom Rudzki replied, “Only a few of us had steelies, those my father brought home from work.”

I thought it was spelled steelies, not stealies!

He also added that he has lost all of his marbles except for one. “And I’m holding onto it for dear life!” he said.

Frank Griffis said his mother would check his marble sack to see if it weighed less or more than when he left home.

“If it did, she would give me grief for ‘gambling’ or playing for keeps,” he said. “Gambling? It was skill, not gambling,” he added.

Gambling or not, he must have been skillful.

“I have a huge marble collection and my granddaughters love to look through them with me – the snotties, cagies, purees, pee-wees, cat’s eyes, giants and of course, the chipped-up shooters.”

Most of the females who responded played jacks instead of marbles, stating that marbles were more for guys and jacks were for girls.

So it seems fitting for me that I played with marbles more than jacks, since I also played with Hot Wheels instead of Barbie dolls.

A mischievious friend of mine, Diane Hibbs, said the best part about marbles was putting them in the freezer and then down someone’s back. I’m glad I never went on a sleepover with her!

A creative friend of mine, Phyllis Webster, said she recalled playing with marbles when she was young at a friends house.

“He took all the pretty ones and put them in a tray in the oven. I was in awe when he pulled out a tray of sparkly marbles. The insides cracked and not the outsides. They looked like jewels.”

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