Marble Mania

Marble Mania

Marble Mania

In reading through my old blogs I came across the following true story I reported some years ago. The tale aroused my curiosity as to what marbles might have looked like during the Regency era. The search led me down allies (hah!) that I never dreamed existed. There is a whole world of marble collectors out there—many on Facebook. I discovered a mania for marbles.

Clay Marbles from the 1800s

Regency and Victorian era marbles:

Antique glass marbles (as opposed to clay marbles) were first made in Germany which was known for its glass toys. Marbles were created by a glass blower heating up a transparent glass rod, clear or colored, and attaching thin strips of opaque colored glass. The glass stick would be fired and pulled into a single cane, which while still hot would then be twisted. The glass blower would quickly cut the cane into marbles using “marble scissors,” which had a metal cup that formed the glass into a ball. Antique marbles from this era can be identified by a small mark, formed when the marble was cut from the cane.Marble scissors

I like to imagine Jane Austen might have gathered her skirts and sat on the parlor floor to meet one of her brothers’ challenges to a game of “Conqueror” or “Hundreds.” She would win as many times as she lost, laughing as they played in front of the fireplace on a cold winter’s day. The perfect indoor competition. Many lovely glass designs of that era have particularly beautiful names like “Vitro Trilite” and “Latticinio Core Swirls.”

Skipping along, let us get on with my very true story of a practical application for those little round gems:


Marbles in the Medicine Chest

My second ex-husband or “Double-X” came equipped with a best friend, Andrew. They were two peas in a pod. Frick & Frack. Joined at the hip. Andrew (Frack) owned a chain of jewelry stores but never spent any time there. He and Double-X (Frick) would water-ski eighteen hours a day using my house as a mini Club Med.

Double-X and I had been married less than a year. I was still sensitive to his tender male ego and worried about making him feel less than manly by forcing him to live in my house on the bay. (Poor fellow!) His friends descended in packs on Friday and left on Sunday night. Reluctantly, I welcomed the gypsy troop of wandering water-skiers, but there was always something slightly off about Andrew. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it.


The Plot Thickens

Sipping iced tea after a particularly grueling day of sun and fun, Andrew, the jewelry store mogul, announced he had become an interior house painter. He placed ads, ordered business cards, and even bought himself a few painters’ jumpsuits for his scrawny little body. Surprisingly he soon had customers. I was intrigued with his sudden interest in Sherwin-Williams.


The Motive

It was the Sunday before Christmas. Double X, Andrew, and the gypsies were getting ready to water-ski. I sat next to Andrew on my dock. “Why did you start painting houses?” I asked. The skinny little toad looked me right in the eye and said, “People leave me alone in their homes all day while I paint. I like going through their drawers and closets. I find the most interesting things.”

I shuddered. Andrew made my skin crawl.


The Opportunity

Now his new profession made sense. It always rankled me whenever Andrew used the potty at my house, as he would always wander into the master bathroom. I’d gently suggest he use the guest bath or the powder room. It soon became a contest between us. He’d stand as if heading for the bathroom, and I’d dash to body-block my bedroom door.

Double-X looked like a storm cloud had settled on his face when I told him what I’d learned about Andrew’s Paint & Snoop business.  “Andrew’s just joking. He paints walls because he likes the exercise,” Double X said. I could see this chat was not going to lead to any admission.


The Sting

I took a firm stance. “I don’t want Andrew to use our master bedroom bath. He’s snooping in my private girl stuff.  He’s looking in our medicine chest.”

Double-X puffed up to twice his size. “Andrew would never snoop. He would never look in our medicine chest. You’re paranoid,” he said.

“We’ll see.”

The next Saturday while Andrew and Double-X were out and about setting up for a water-ski event to be held at the house, I swung into action. I purchased two bags of glass marbles…kids’ marbles. I cleared out the medicine chest, and oh so carefully filled one shelf with both bags of marbles. Shelving marbles is very challenging work. The technique takes great eye-hand coordination, a skill I lack. It took me two hours of rabid concentration along with an invention made of cardboard and two teaspoons. After countless tries, fueled by my desire to prove Andrew was snooping, I finally loaded the medicine chest with both bags of marbles.

I placed a baby monitor on the bathroom counter behind a decorative plant. The speaker end of the monitor sat on a patio coffee table in the middle of the gypsies’ drinks and snacks. No one noticed it as they sat and sipped, après-ski.

The time came for Andrew to prowl. He got up and headed to my master bedroom. I faked a blocking move so he wouldn’t get suspicious, but let him gain access to my bathroom.


The Reveal

Turning up the volume on the baby monitor receiver, I sat down with the guests, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. The gypsies’ attention was alerted by the sound of piddle, then a flush. They looked high, they looked low, and they looked at their drinks. They scratched their heads. Double-X frowned.

Just as all eyes zeroed in on the baby monitor speaker, one hundred glass marbles hit the granite bathroom counter with a confirming clatter.

I could not contain my smug grin. Never underestimate a Woman Sleuth.

With love & laughter!

Barbara Silkstone



15 Responses to Marble Mania

  1. Hahaha! I was laughing out loud! Love your names for the duo – Frick and Frack. And the Double-X is perfect. I too have a Double-X and am adopting that name, it gives a hilarious spin to it all. Thanks for such a fun post about the trap you set and about marbles.

    • Sallianne, Thank you! I am so glad you enjoyed it. They were definitely Frick and Frack. There were times when Double-X would wear a black wet suit to waterski. I would burst out laughing as I imagined XX written in white across his chest. Of course that was my secret. 🙂

        • Hah! If he did he probably took it as a compliment. He wasn’t the brightest bulb. It was a pity marriage. I felt sorry for him.
          (He shows up in my Wendy and the Lost Boys – Book 1 in my Wendy Darlin comedy mystery series) You might get a big laugh out of the story.

  2. oh Barbara! I loved that idea! and I am planning to try it one day soon! A certain person comes over and goes through my medicine chest and bottom vanity cabinet moving things to different places also turns my toilet paper around! I cannot wait to buy my marbles!!

    • Charlene, That is awful. I loath nosy people. And to turn your toilet paper around? They don’t come any lower than that.

      Equipment for Marbles in the Medicine Chest: A piece of cardboard that is bent to hold the marbles from falling and also to act as a “catcher.” I suggest cutting something like a shoe box lid to fit. A tablespoon. A bendable plastic cup filled with marbles. And most important a basket to catch the marbles. Place the basket below the medicine chest. It takes a bit to a bit of practice as you have to move fast. You need something to catch the marbles the first few times until your reflexes are up to speed. Keep the cabinet door open at about a 30 degree angle.

      Most important…you need determination. 🙂

      Good luck!
      Keep me posted.

  3. Love what you did with the marbles, Barbara. You were nicer than I would have been. I would have put a garter snake in the toilet with the lid down. 🙂

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed your article. I always wondered how marbles were made. Being a youngster in the 50’s, my 2 brothers and I had quite a collection. I think we had every color imaginable. We had shooters, steelies( made from the metal) and cat’s eyes. I wasn’t too bad a shot. By the time my first grandson came along in the 90’s and I tried to show him the game, I had lost my touch. I could not get him interested in shooting marbles. Too bad, because we had fun playing and trading. Thanks again for the article.

    • Mary, It is a shame that in many ways today’s youngsters require more action. Video games have taken the pleasure out of so many delightful games we could share with our grandkids—if they are willing. Remember the feeling of holding a handful of marbles and letting them click against each other? And how about Jacks? One tiny ball and ten Jacks offered enough giggles to let a long summer day slip into evening. Fond memories.

  5. I love this story, Barbara – such a clever plan! Thank you for the Regency era marble facts – I will definitely keep them in my research notes 🙂

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