Playing Marbles 1950s and Present Day

Mention playing marbles and most people can recall stories of their childhood. The game has been around for hundreds of years and continues in popularity today.

I arrived at a local school today and to my delight the kids in the playground were playing marbles before school. The scene differed a little from my own school days in the 1950s, but the games purpose remained the same – to compete against a partner, trying to win your opponent’s marble rather than lose your own.

In the classroom I talked to the students about my own marble playing days and read the following passage from my 1950s school memoir book.

“Winter saw the emergence of marbles and knucklebones as favoured playtime and lunchtime activities. Marble season lasted a short time, the length possibly being dictated by teachers tolerance of arguments and upset players.

When marble season arrived I pleaded for pocket money and bought marbles from a toy shop in a corner of the Square. Mum made a little cloth drawstring bag to keep them in.  I’d start the season with a selection of small cats eyes, clear glass marbles with a colourful piece of glass in the centre and larger more sought after marbles called biggies. It wasn’t often I managed to win a steely to add to my collection.

We played at the edge of the field, on dry mud surfaces or where the grass was short. My marble collection was precious and I hated losing even the most boring looking marble, so I chose my playing partners carefully. The aim was to hit another marble, thus winning it from it’s owner, I didn’t want to go home with an empty bag. Sometimes my luck was in and I’d win a biggie off another player. Or, when a player was down on their luck they’d offer to swap a biggie for two cats eyes, keeping them in play.

Those unlucky enough to have empty marble bags watched on. Player concentration demanded silence and the click of glass marbles hitting each other preceded a triumphant cry from the winner.”

The children fascinated me by showing me the range of marbles now available to them. The largest, called Titanics, were so big I couldn’t imagine their small hands manipulating them with ease.

We discussed the differences in their game and mine, the major being I played on grass while they played on the asphalt courtyard. In my day we gathered in small groups. These children lined up in rows, facing their opponent, but still taking turns.

One boy complained that no one wanted to play marbles with him, as he is considered one of the best players and the others didn’t want to lose their marbles to him. So, some things haven’t changed.

Did you play marbles as a child? What are your memories of the rules of the game? What were the marbles like you played with? Take a trip down memory lane and tell us about your own marble playing experiences.

9 thoughts on “Playing Marbles 1950s and Present Day

  1. I still have all the marbles I had as a child, I just don’t have the heart to throw them away. I can remember playing “Ringer” in a group at school and the more we had in the group the better, but we also had many versions as wel,l even just for two players

  2. Greetings! I’ve been following your site for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from New Caney Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the good work!

  3. As an introverted, 14 year, old girl, now a days, hobbies are fairly different, me and my friends play video games and such. When I was younger I had never even thought about marbles (I never really knew what they were for, and cared even less.) but a year or so ago I learned that my dad used to play marbels when he was a kid, wich sparked my interest in collecting them, simply for sentimental purposes. Today though, I bought a package of marbles and had my dad teach me the rules. It’s a very fun game.

  4. I loved marbles! I think we drew a chalk line in the playground and tried to knock off our opponents marbles. Didn’t they have bigger ones too – called ‘lobbers’? I also loved what we called Jacks (another name for Knucklebones). Those were the days!

  5. Use to play at recess in grade school. We played on dirt dug holes with the heels of are shoes. Was such a fun time. Today I got to show my 3yr old granddaughter my collection of marbles. Also got to pull out my marble holder as a kid. A gas mask holder with 535 marbles written on it.

  6. My Dad was from a back to back in Leeds, and they used to “laik tors”, local dialect for playing out with marbles! His Mum had a lovely wooden circular solitaire board (about the size of a bread board) to hold marbles which has survived.

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