The game of choice for the 1940’s children at Pilot Mountain School was marbles. Since there was no such thing as Physical Education as we know it today, the children were free to entertain themselves during recess and before school. Entertain they did.
The young boys brought their toy guns to play cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians. The older boys brought balls and bats. The girls had jump ropes. But most everyone, young and old, even a few girls, had a little bag of marbles in their pockets.
First step, draw a circle. No, wait, first smooth the grit and lumps from an area, then draw the circle. On official tournament days, the circle was defined by a string with a nail at both ends and a geometry lesson of their own making. But most often it was a hurried circle that fit everyone’s liking.
Those who were playing that round placed an equal number of marbles in the center. The first person, usually the one who drew the circle, “broke” the pile with a strong thumb flick of his shooter. He kept any marble that he knocked out, for keeps. If no marbles went out, the next person took a turn.
The shooters were larger, often left over steel ball bearings from their fathers’ machines. The playing marbles were from the dime store, seven marbles for a nickel. Agates, Cat Eyes.
They made their own calls and abided by them. They refereed themselves and settled their own disputes. Adults had nothing to do with this game. Except twice.
Once the teachers decided playing for keeps was gambling. They imposed the adult rule of playing for fun. That didn’t last long. Playing for keeps came back and stayed. For keeps.
The other time adults had anything to do with the game was when the mothers complained. Seems that their sons were coming home with their pant knees worn bare, but nothing a little patch couldn’t solve.
There’s not much marble action these days. The ideal spots for marbles, good old fashioned dirt fields, were long ago grassed in by adults or paved over by youth organizers.
What were they thinking?
Catch of the day,