The simple pleasure of a game of marbles

Published 6:16 pm Sunday, November 19, 2017


One of my favorite times of the day as a youth was in the mornings. In the morning, Mom would always fix Rose Ann and me breakfast before we left home to walk to John Small School. That is right, we walked! No one was afraid to walk or bike to school, and we usually took the same route every day. From 10th Street, we would walk around the high school by the old tennis/basketball courts to Harvey and down the dirt path to the corner of Fifth and Harvey. Located there was Swindell’s store where we could buy our daily bag of cat-eyes (marbles) for only 5 cents.

At that time in my life, marbles was the game of choice, and we played before school, during recess and after school until it was time to go home. And yes, Rose Ann played too. She was, for her age, the city marble champion and thus had to play with the guys. Girls did not play marbles unless they were like Rose Ann, a tomboy.

We did not need much to play marbles. A flat dirt surface and a circle as big as you wanted to make it. The size usually depended on the number playing and the amount of marbles in the circle. Cat eyes replaced our plain marbles and later clog knockers could be used after one learned the skill of a small cat eye. Seems like the big boys had the clog knockers, but we were only in elementary school. The winner had plenty of marbles to use after school and would take them home and count them with joy and much satisfaction. We carried ours in an old sock that could be tied at the top so they would not spill inside the house. They were our pride and joy.

There was a down side to marbles. It was a game that had to be played on your knees. A good pair of dungarees would be worn out in the knees, and your knuckles would become dirty causing Mom to make me take a bath and scrub my knuckles. Once your favorite dungarees were worn out, Mom put an iron-on patch to cover the holes. Most could not afford more than two good pairs of jeans until the next school year.

Thinking back, it really didn’t take much to keep a young man happy. A tobacco stick, rocks, flat wall, rubber ball, flat surface and marbles to give you examples. We were fortunate to have good role models, and we were taught manners, and this was reinforced wherever we went. We learned our manners at home where they should be taught! These were the best of times!

Again, thank you for the compliments as I enjoy sharing these tales as much as some have enjoyed tolerating them each week. — Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.