Read Bob's bio and previous columns
July 7, 2008
Good Luck Selling
Marbles To an Eight-Year-Old
was spending some time with my eight-year-old grandson Nick the other
day, when fond memories suddenly came rolling back across the years to
Nick and I were sitting on the couch talking and as we chatted, he was
hammering away at his hand-held video game with a dexterity that would
make most secretaries envious.
“What kind of games do you like best?” I asked Nick.
“This one,” he replied, holding up his video game.
“Is it fun?” I inquired.
“Uh-huh,” he said.
That’s when I popped the proverbial $24 question. “Have you ever played
marbles?” I asked.
“Huh?” he said.
“Have you ever played marbles,” I asked again.
“No,” he replied. “What’s marvels?”
“Not marvels, Nick, marbles,” I told him.
“Nope,” he said. “I’ve never played . . . um . . . marbles.”
Times change, don’t they? When I was a kid growing up on Oak Street in
Flint, Michigan, marbles was my favorite game.
Back then, girl’s games included jump rope and jacks. Boys played
Boys hardly ever jumped rope or played jacks. Girls, on the other hand,
were rarely invited by the boys to join in a game of marbles.
Unlike today, when it costs big bucks to get kids involved in video
games, a kid back then could set up shop as a neighborhood marble whiz
with a buck or two snitched from his piggy bank.
“Marbles were fun,” I told Nick. “To play the game, all you had to do
was draw a circle in the dirt and it was game time. If the surface was
something other than dirt, you could always make a circle with a piece
of string, but dirt was the playing surface preferred by most serious
“Where did you play marbles?” Nick asked.
“Anywhere and everywhere,” I answered. “But we never, ever played
marbles in the street because it was dangerous and you could be hit by a
Hudson, or a DeSoto.”
looked puzzled. “Hudson? DeSoto?”
smiled. “They were popular cars back when Grandpa was a little boy,” I
Most marbles were made of glass. They came in assorted colors. Popular
marbles included the cat’s eyes, aggies and steelies. The objective of
the game was to knock the other player’s marbles out of the circle and
then you would get to keep his marbles.
You took turns “shooting” and to shoot you got down on the ground on
your hands and knees, laid your hand in the dirt and propelled your
“shooter” marble with a flick of your thumb. If you were playing “keepsies,”
you got to keep the opponent’s marbles you knocked out of the circle.
The best marbles player in my neighborhood in the early 1950s was David
Wallace. When it came to marbles, David was Joe DiMaggio.
David was so good he had a cache of trophy marbles that filled his
bedroom and overflowed into the kitchen of the modest five-room bungalow
where he lived with his parents.
Many boys tried to beat David at marbles. Few succeeded.
make a longer story much shorter, I tried desperately to get Nick
interested in marbles that afternoon, but he was more enamored with his
Given his obvious lack of interest in my favorite childhood game, I’ve
decided to wait awhile before telling him about my other favorites,
which included Pom Pom Pullaway and Red Rover, Come Over . . .
You can reach Bob at
North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback
about this column,
click here. If you enjoy
this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask
them to carry it.
is Column # BB117.
Request permission to publish here.