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By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
Charlie Peacock is 87 years old, but remembers like it was yesterday his grammar school days and, especially, shooting marbles in the playground at recess.
Oh, boy, that was a lot of fun, said Peacock, a Spencer resident. We were something back in those days.
Marbles have been around for thousands of years, but in the United States, anyway, the games popularity seems to have peaked in the early-to-mid 20th century.
Peacock and countless other senior citizens are proof of as much.
Peacock attended Innes Street School, which is long gone. It was once located at the intersection of Innes and Long streets.
Peacock said school in those days was filled with plenty of the three Rs reading, riting and rithmetic but it was recess that the schoolboys longed for.
Specifically, Peacock said, it was looking forward to marble shooting at recess that made studies bearable.
Someone would draw a circle in the dirt with a stick, and wed go from there, Peacock said.
He said smaller marbles (mibs, for the uninformed) were placed in the circles center. The boys took turns trying to knock em out with other marbles that were slightly larger (shooters or flints).
As long as a boy continued knocking at least one marble from the circle with each shot, he got to continue shooting.
Peacock said that when he was in grade school, marbles werent especially expensive a penny apiece or even two for a penny. The flint the slightly larger marble that was used as a shooter sold for a nickel.
Roller bearings known as steelies came from the junkyard.
They were heavier and theyd really knock em out, Peacock said of the ability of steelies to take over and dominate a game of marbles.
He said most boys toted their marbles in a cloth bag with a drawstring. They made knuckle covers from the tongues of old shoes. Those covers served to protect their fingers.
As long as the game of marbles has existed in the United States, it has existed elsewhere far longer.
Clay balls that are believed to be marbles have been found in the tombs of Egypt. Similar items have been found in Native American burial grounds as well as the ancient Aztec pyramids.
The earliest book on marbles is believed to have been written in England in 1815. It reveals that marbles of the time were made of china, clay, glass or even real marble.
Around 1848, a German glass blower invented marble scissors, a device used to make marbles.
The first machine-made marbles were manufactured in Germany in 1890. Later that same year, the process was duplicated in the United States.The 1950s saw the marble extravaganza. In Japan, the cats eye marble was created by injecting colored glasses into a regular marble. Colored glass was used and ways to add swirls and different materials were developed.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.

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