Marbles in Maine, the glass ones started showing up in the 1890’s.
But marbles made of well, marble… and alabaster around two hundred years before that. Winning, losing, coming out even in marble games is no new trending fad. Marble games played since the 13th century. That’s all long long before Maine became a state. Marbles made out of wood, clay, stone not the pretty hot molten glass with us for thousands of years.
I had not thought of marbles in Maine much until this week when a real estate buyer of a waterfront camp on East Grand told me about the owner.
She was a Crocker from Danforth Maine and the lake property owner grew up in the same northern most Washington County town. In admiration and without spite or malice, the buyer dubbed the seller as one heck of a marble player. In small Maine towns, your brother or sister often in a class with most of your friend’s family members. The connection is second, third tier but still there. If you go back far enough in the DNA, someone’s grandmother married your second cousin happens. In small Maine towns, people are more aware of the connection to others in it. When the circle of people is smaller, the connection is stronger.
He was the small Maine town version of a pin ball wizard except we’re talking marbles.
Kenny the seller was not and still is not blind, deaf and dumb. All the marbles, winner takes all. That’s what he was known for in these parts. Winning big and often reported Simone the lake property buyer. He sure played a mean game of marbles.
I asked the seller during property price negotiations back and forth this week about his marble playing prowess.
Like most things in life, it boils down to a matter of sheer practice and time put into the endeavor. He laughed and asked what did she tell you? I said only that he was Mr. Marble King. His legend preceded him. That her brothers, all the young lads in her same small Maine town would gather somewhere to play marbles.
Not just during school recess at the East Grand Elementary, but traipsing over for the off hours marble games.
In the evenings, on the weekends, marble playing tournaments were underway somewhere but she could not remember where in town. Just recalling her brothers and his friends disappeared to play marble games.
Kenny, the seller, added to the local story on marbles in Maine games.
He said everyone gathered at his house on Weatherbee Street because there was a dirt floor basement. Ideal conditions for the kind of marble games played down cellar in privacy. Unlike the ones I remember played out in the open during school recess. Nothing elaborate but every kid had a marble bag or metal coffee can with a hole in the plastic lid.
The Wytopitlock, a small town near Danforth but in the County of Aroostook not Washington was heavy on horse shoes.
Under the lights at night, up to 200 horse show players would compete in games to hit the stakes. To land the leaners and ringers at the Wytopitlock Maine Fish and Game. Card games like cribbage “uptah camp in Maine” are an excellent way to pass the time while conversations take place during the 15-2 and more pegging. Simple living in Maine with a cozy wood fire, good company and something ahead for home cooked dining. That’s more than enough to make you feel very lucky to be alive and living in Maine.
Playing odd or even and the other person tried to guess to win or lose whatever was in your hand for the Maine marble wager.
Another marble game called simply Dropsies. Where the player stood over the can placed on the ground or just a lone marble out in the open and waiting. For whoever’s turn it was to with one eye closed and the other lining up the marble dropped with precision from waist high. To hopefully hit the can lid hole or strike the marble on the ground. The video below shows how serious the marble players are in and out of the circle aiming and shooting strategizing.
I don’t remember the games as much as admiration for the different types of pretty colored glass marbles.
Cat’s eye marbles with the wispy fins or blades of colorful material suspended in glass. The larger popper size “puries” that were one color and like stained glass but perfectly round and shiny and mobile. Everyone has a favorite color in anything. What you would paint your kitchen or pick for a color of the vehicle parked in your driveway. The shapes and sizes of marbles from around the small Maine town school yard were vast and colorful. You can spot the older marbles from the colors just like the shades applied to yesteryear cars, house shutters, etc. What is popular in anything comes back around after dropping out of favor right? More on the history of marbles.
Solid colors, multi and single ones too, all with different texture marbles in Maine sizes and styles.
Some pretty, others gawdy but beauty is in the eye of the marble holder right? Some marbles looking like a yellow and black version of a bumble bee. Like a Maine farm barnyard litter of cats, the kittens all varied and no two quite alike. Many marbles has tiny air pocket “bubbles” locked in time in suspended animation.
As a young kid growing up in a small rural northern Maine town, my exposure to marbles was not just the fad of carrying around a container of marbles.
I remember more playing chinese checkers with one solid color of marbles camped out in a triangle. Before jumping and moving out of their safe harbor into the metal or wood grid of holes to conquer the board game. To win or lose all the marbles.
My Aunt Hettie after my Uncle Finley died changed places with my Mom and Dad. The four boys help our parents load up the pickup truck that made lots of two mile trips from town to the country. Aunt Hettie, a Florence Nightingale kinda World War I army nurse who had more stories about her “cases”. The wife of a pretty successful potato grower traded homes after becoming a widow. Left the Maine farm and moved in town to where I called home for the first years of three years of my life. Her “cases” in places up in Oxbow, Vanceboro or serving in the Boston and New York area are very interesting blog post copy. All fodder for a future edition of the Me In Maine post platform for your entertaining reading pleasure.
When my family was invited down to Aunt Hettie’s new house that was our old one on Franklin Avenue, it was a big treat.
Cable TV and the NBC everything in living color peacock was playing in the in town living room. No just a few channels from the TV antennae like out in the country for programing signals. I remember discovering marbles lodged in a set of sliding wooden french doors. I was just the right height as a little shaver to peer in and spy them with my little brown eyes. To poke a finger in the round brass hole covering flap to push in what that had something to do with a locking mechanism in the sliding French doors. The ones divided the formal dining room from the family den in the federal style home on Franklin Avenue.
I believe that is a graham cracker snack I’m holding in my right hand. I don’t think it is a micro size cell phone device or fig newton cookie.
No way to get the marbles in Maine out.
Like stubborn kidney or gall stones but a whole lot prettier. Shining in a flashlight and seeing the unretrievable glass treasure to claim as my own. Not sure which brother had deposited the marbles to fill up the cavity like coins loaded into a parking meter. But no doubt the marbles are still there in the house now owned and enjoyed by a retired attorney who with his wife ran a dry cleaners slash laundry mat. My little fingers could fit where the stubbier, larger digits now would not.
In doing some online marble research to learn more to share with blog post readers, I discovered brontosaurus marbles.
These marbles wear an opaque sky blue base with with fine black lines. They are called Oxygen marbles. Although a choking hazard for small children, marbles around houses, in glass dishes or vases are pretty common. Some like collecting them more than playing to win or lose use them for a game wagering sport. Does anyone play traditional marble games these days or do crossword or put together puzzles these days?
Toebreakers, jumbos, super jumbos, boulders, poppers, the larger marbles sizes are like heavy artillery tanks in games.
The bowling ball of marble game tournament play. Evidently the shears that cut the molten glass in the marble making production wear and lose precision too. So marbles within any category size produced by the thousands can be slightly bigger or smaller. Peewees are your smaller sized marbles. Targets, mibs, commies, duckies, alleys are used in marble games like “knock out” or “ringer”. The different sizes of glass marbles resemble the solar system planets and moons. Here are new marble types.
People buy marbles for the beauty, a decoration, for the sport.
To rekindle the love for them cool and smooth and colorful in your hand.
Like sea glass or a form of early currency “stone” to trade and collect as a youngster with limited resources. What’s your exposure to marbles if any at all. Hopefully not stepping on them on a stairway or upending landing flat on your back because someone left them out. Or the cat repositioned them before becoming bored from batting them around. Before they got stuck under a refrigerator that needs a yard stick to bat it back out to continue the game. Cat’s have it made. Next life, sign me up where all I have to do is sleep, chase birds and mice, wait for the can opener sound. Curling up for a nap in a sunny spot in your Maine home. Cats have it made and pride themselves on independence and seem to have more marbles than dogs.
Learn more at the Marble Collectors Society of America website.
This beachcombing site link indicates marbles have been around since 3000 BC and states David used a marble not a stone to hurl from his whirling loaded slingshot to slay Goliath. Marbles are a bigger deal than I ever knew before researching this Maine blog post on the topic. Marble King, started in the late 1940’s is the only marble maker in the US today. Want to know more about games? The National Marble Tournament website will bring you up to speed.
In our Maine real job listing and selling property job, we see odds and ends from house sales.
Left behind, sold to auction houses or peddled at Maine estate garage sales. Marbles always appear somewhere in the collection of house hold goods. Like a big kid, I always noticed them and remember the childhood marble collections all my friends and myself treasured. More a collector than a hard core game player. The Bowdoin Street marble games in grade school were a highlight of the recess time away from studies.