My right shoe was permanently scarred on the inside of the toe from my habit of dragging it while hopping in a circle in order to draw a marble ring. With a pocket full of colorful marbles, including at least one ‘log-roller;‘ my arsenal was complete. I was ready to compete with any takers and “Play for keeps.” This was serious business in the late 1930′s.
Not only did my shoes show evidence of my adopted profession; the knees of my trousers indicated that I was indeed someone to be reckoned with. So much so that major designers of blue jeans began to pattern their latest fashions after my well-worn pants, some half a decade later.
By the manufacturing of blue jeans with the knees already torn out, they demonstrated their appreciation of me as a trend-setter. It is unfortunate that I did not secure a patent for the worn knees.
Once the ring had been drawn and as many marbles as there were players were lined up in the center, it was time for determination of who would “shoot” first. This was accomplished by drawing a straight line, again with the toe, some, ten / 12, paces behind the ring.
The competitors lined up and ‘pitched’ their favorite shooter toward the line. When all had pitched, the player whose marble landed or rolled nearest the line was declared “first.” Next closest to the line was “second;” and so on, until everyone was qualified in their starting position.
With all of these preparations concluded, each player, in turn, dropped onto his knees just outside the ring; and with his shooting marble curled in one hand, flicked the ‘shooter’ toward the marbles in the center.
Any marbles which one succeeded in knocking from the ring became the permanent property of that player.
Very few girls engaged in this sport, primarily because dresses were not suitable attire for the game; but perhaps the major reason; was that they frowned upon any sport that was being played ‘for keeps.’ In this era, the fine art of playing marbles was considered “a man’s game;” period.
Altercations were more or less expected during the course of this competition simply because someone was bound to be accused of ‘fudging,’ ’round-ups,’ ‘tater hills,’ or scores of other, so-called, illegal techniques that would give them an unfair advantage.
Since no player wished to lose all of his marbles, there were times when some unscrupulous competitor would attempt to slip a “pee-dab” into the ring. This was nothing more than clay, softened with ‘water,’ ‘spit,’ or other liquids (?). It was then rolled into the size and shape of a marble and allowed to dry in the sun.
If, by chance, an unscrupulous competitor had been discovered entering a ‘pee-dab,’ the next “shooter” was sure to sort through his pocket full of marbles until he found his dreaded “steel.“
This “ammunition” was a Steel Ball-Bearing, that was slightly larger than the rest of his marbles. When a ‘pee-dab,’ was struck with sufficient force by the ‘Steel;’ it was certain to disintegrate. As a general rule, anyone who substituted the ‘pee-dab’ was banned from competition because, as I mentioned earlier, this was serious business.
I have not played the game for something like seventy years, but I believe that I could still shoot with the best of them. However, there are several reasons why the sport of playing marbles will remain a part of my past.
Number #1: I seriously doubt that I could whistle up enough people with sufficient knowledge of the game to serve as competent opponents.
Number #2: my clothing will not bear the strain.
Number # 3: (and the most important reason), is the fact that; if I were able to hunker down in the correct position for a serious game; it would require several people and quite possibly a chain hoist to, “help me get back on my feet.”
A pocket full of marbles in a pair of overalls with holes in the knees was worn much as a “BADGE OF HONOR,” in those ‘olden-days.’ Dj.