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Shooting Marbles – A Look Back

Glass marbles
Image by Couleur from Pixabay

This morning I posted a black and white film from the neighboring town where I grew up. In one of the scenes, it shows a group of kids ‘shooting marbles’ which was a favorite pastime of children at the time. In the film, you can see a large circle drawn in the dirt with kids kneeling around it. The scene immediately caused memories to come flooding back.

Every kid had a sack of marbles. Some carried them in a cloth sack and some in a paper sack. The game was part skill and part luck with the intention of winning your opponent’s beloved marbles.

A circle would be drawn in the dirt with a stick, and marbles poured into the center.  Each player would have a larger ‘shooter’ marble which would be cradled between the thumb and index finger and shot into the marbles into the center of the circle. The hope was that the force of the shooter would knock marbles outside the circle. Any marbles you shot out were yours to keep – keepsies. If you were smart you never out your favorite marbles in the circle.

Marbles were special and prized among kids. There were ‘steelies’ which were often forbidden because they were made of steel, too heavy, causing an almost sure win and possible destruction by chipping of the marbles they would strike.

Marbles were often treasured because of unusual colors. The most predominate colors I recall being blue, yellow, and green.  I remember having one with bright orange streaks. Then there were ‘cats-eyes’ (the center having the shape of a cat’s eye), ‘aggies’ (marbles of agate), ’tigers’, ’jaspers’, ’plainsies’, and more names I am sure I have forgotten over time.

After the marble craze died down, many marbles were turned into jewelry believe it or not. The marbles were put into boiling water or fried in a pan then plunged into cold water ‘crackling’ the inside of the marble. They were glued to belts or turned into necklaces. I guess this craft lives on as evidenced by this link.

How about you? Have you ever knelt in the dirt and ‘shot marbles’?

32 thoughts on “Shooting Marbles – A Look Back”

  1. I had a massive bag of marbles, and went through a phase of playing mini ‘tournaments’ on the street. That was later replaced by the ‘Conkers’ craze though! 🙂
    It is still so popular no.

    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes, indeed. We didn’t call it shooting marbles, just playing marbles. The games we played were seasonal: marbles, conkers, skipping (I think you called jump rope?). I never understood how we knew it was time to change over from one game season to the next 🙂

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    1. I had never heard of conkers until I read comments from you and Pete. Thanks, Google! We did jump rope or skip rope, too. Never the multi-person or highly stylized rope work done in the more urban areas.

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      1. Our skipping was mainly two people turning the rope – we said “calling” the rope with one doing the skipping to a rhyme. Sometimes, others joined in at the same time.

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        1. We all had marbles but I can’t remember what we did with them! Lol. As you know, I am a ” collector” of so many things and I viewed my marbles more as a collection of : pretty” glass than game pieces. One thing I DO remember is the boiling and ice with the clear ones to make them ” crackled”! Fun memories.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol it is, I remembered this morning that when the boys were little our eldest, somewhere between 3 and 4 years old at the time, swallowed a marble. We took him to hospital , they x-rayed him and told us it was okay and he would pass it. I had to check the potty for a week. He was upset because he had graduated to the toilet by then . It took about a week but it passed! Lol happy days.💜

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        1. Oh, my! That would have been a fright, Willow. I’m glad everything came out ok – forgive the pun, please. I would have been a mess.

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          1. It was a little worrying but we survived…. I had to bleach the marble and my lad took great pride in producing to people then telling them the whole story! …..Boys! 💜💜💜💜

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