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  1. #1
    Administrator Pete's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    NY, NY

    Yay Marbles!

    I wanted to share this article here - note is mentioned by name

    In Fillmore, the kids are knuckling down in return to classic game
    Published in the Ventura County Star, a Ventura CA newspaper Thursday June 26, 2008

    Out in Fillmore, kids are throwing around Mummies and Tigers. And Bears and T-Rexes and Suns. Also, Neptunes, Tree Frogs, Flamingos, Volcanoes and Red Roosters.

    This has caused damage at Mountain Vista Elementary School.

    "See those potholes out there?" Kelly Myers said one recent midafternoon. She motioned to a couple of browned-out areas on the elementary school's baseball diamonds, pockmarked with hordes of little holes. It looked like a good start on a prairie dog colony.

    "That's where they've been playing," continued Myers, a teacher there.

    It's off-limits now, a sort of ground zero to the rebirth of a kid craze and also part of some new laws they've had to lay down in these parts. They're loosely called "marble rules." They're also loosely followed and haven't come close to stemming the tide of this pastime's retro popularity.

    Break out the Cat's Eyes, aggies and alleys from the attic marbles are back in vogue again among the wee set. At least one other school in Fillmore has had to adopt marble rules, and word has it that marble mania has spread to Santa Paula and other parts of the county not without warts in some cases.

    School's end has merely shifted the contests to backyard holes, and Myers is sure the marble rules will come up at assembly when school starts again in mid-August.

    On this early June day at Mountain Vista, marbles were in full flower. Within minutes, the playground flooded with kids. They kneeled and squatted in clusters around these little holes, showing off their round gems with all the brio of diamond dealers. "I wanna see 'em!" the cries rang out.

    It's all about shooting a marble into a hole amid the dirt and grass. Hitting the hole can mean double shots (two turns in a row) and "being poison." Being poison means if you hit the other kid's marble, it's a "kill." Game over, then it's on to the next one, maybe at another hole. Rarely does a game last more than a minute or two, perfect for these short attention spans.

    They're serious about their fun. Just ask Luke Myers, Kelly's son, a third-grader who just turned 9.

    "For my birthday, I got some money and went onto and bought some," Luke explained earnestly. Not only that, he gave out marbles at his birthday bash as party favors for his guests.

    A class in glass

    Luke broke out two strings of orange marbles on the playground. The see-through ones, he said, are called Mummies, and the creamy, opaque ones are Tigers.

    He had several bags of marbles; he even had his dad's collection in tow. Like the others, Luke loves marbles because of the fun and competition.

    "I also like it because it wastes time, and sometimes I don't have anything to do," he said with that pure honesty only a kid can muster.

    Friend Trenten Henrey brought his in a wide-mouth plastic bottle; more than 100, estimated Trenten, 10, and in fourth grade. "I have another 200 at home," he added.

    Marbles seem to be named after things their colors evoke. Trenten showed off a Neptune, an otherworldly dark blue with white stripes. A weirdly green one is a Tree Frog, a pink-orange, creamy one carries the moniker Flamingo, and so on. He also has a Volcano, a Red Rooster and a Moonlight.

    Marko Zavala, 9 and in fourth grade, packed five marbles in a little plastic vial. A light brown one with dark brown stripes is his Bear, a yellow and red one his Sun. He also carries a Michelangelo, a Bubble Gum and a T-Rex.

    The marbles vary from pea to near-golf-ball size. Some of that is for variety, some of it depends on the hole they're trying to hit. Some holes are smaller than the imprint of a fist, not discernible until you almost step on them.

    "I have a Peewee, too," gushed Alejandro Hernandez, standing amid a throng of players. The 10-year-old fifth-grader produced a beautiful tiny blue marble.

    Most have their one favorite, their ace in these holes. Or as one kid put it as he ran by, "I'm gonna play with my baby."

    The kids put all sorts of serious spin on their marbles to keep them near the holes, mostly using thumb, forefinger and middle finger in fast flicks. It's all about feel, tension and control.

    "You gotta practice your aim," added Marko as he lined up a shot.

    They also scuff up the marbles for play on different surfaces, such as concrete. This has drawbacks Luke showed some callouses on his fingers that would draw sympathy from a guitar picker or golfer.

    "It can hurt your thumb," Luke said. "Once, I made my thumb bleed."

    Playground pecking orders exist. There are fourth-grade holes and fifth-grade holes, Marko said.

    About those rules

    These dug-up holes, hundreds of them, were one reason for the marble rules. Not only are the baseball diamonds a marble-free zone, so is a quad area on campus that the kids once laid siege to. They're now limited to a long strip of grass near the ball fields.

    Another rule is that kids can carry no more than five marbles in their pockets. It seems the loud jiggling noise of crammed pockets was quite a distraction.

    "You could stand in the middle of the school and hear marbles in their pockets all over," said Myers.

    It's a crime in class; Luke has had marbles taken away and others confirmed they've also had some confiscated. Not everyone thinks it's all fun and games.

    "There's a teacher with a marble jar in one class," Myers said, "and it's filling."

    Mostly, though, kids can get their marbles back in a day or so.

    The third and last big rule strikes at the very heart of marbles tradition. No more "playing for keeps." But the kids find ways around it.

    "After school you can no more rules," Trenten said, flashing a borderline-guilty grin. So they go elsewhere or keep mum about playing for keeps.

    "Most people don't follow the rules," Marko said.

    "Like you, Marko," retorted a classmate.

    Marko boasted that he once came to a gathering armed with only two marbles and left with 20.

    Elsewhere, marbles enjoy pockets of popularity and also cause a few problems.

    Peach Hill Academy in Moorpark, for example, banned marbles last year because the winning and losing led to tears and fights. The Oxnard School District, home to more than a dozen elementary schools, doesn't allow them, on the premise that bringing any toy eventually results in misunderstandings. Some schools have a craze on their hands but say they haven't had to take any action. Still others say that marbles come and go in spurts, subject to that charming mystery known as children's whimsy.

    Marbles as social mixers

    On the whole, Myers and others say, marbles play is a good thing. It could be much worse. "At least they're not out there getting into trouble," she said.

    As for the surge in popularity at Mountain Vista now, no one seems able to pinpoint exactly why. A partial theory goes that the young school has a sizable Latino contingent, and marbles have long been an art form in Mexico.

    "A lot of the kids are from Mexico and they play there, so when they come here it's one more thing that's familiar," Myers said.

    Almost as if on cue, Alejandro ran past wrapped in a megawatt smile. He came from Mexico last year.

    A few rules aren't going to stop this thing.

    Picking up on that, a local store has started selling marbles: a $3 bag, the kids say, nets about two dozen of the coveted tiny orbs.

    A cluster of seven or eight kids in a circle crouched in the grass examining Trenten's marbles, like lions digging in on the spoils of a hunt. A voice piped up, "Can I trade you?" It was an offer heard several times this day.

    Some wanted more action. Marko said, "Trenten, you wanna play in the big hole?" With that, they were off to another spot.

    For a moment there, differences evaporated. Cultures melded in the universality of a shared smile or a devilish dare.

    The Fillmore kids didn't care about the big picture or this age's fetish with instant analysis. Why is it popular who cares?

    Rules, what rules? There was braggin' to be done, trades to be made, shouts of glee, marbles on the loose and holes to fill. Call it the joy of being poison.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator lstmmrbls's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Vallejo CA

    Re: Yay Marbles!

    A new generation of mibsters!!! Thats great!!!!!! Peace,Galen

  3. #3
    previously peecee marblemover's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Vancouver WA

    Re: Yay Marbles!

    enjoyed the read, Pete...thanks for sharing it!

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Re: Yay Marbles!

    Here we go!! Now how can we spread this article all the way to the east coast and the NYTimes? Wow!! What a GREAT story pete!!

  5. #5
    Registered User boek's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Saskatchewan, Canada

    Re: Yay Marbles!

    That is so cool! I wonder if kids in other parts of the US are beginning to knuckle down again. When I was in elementary school in the 1990s, I played marbles with some other kids but it wasn't as popular as it sounds at Mountain Vista Elementary School.

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