Kellie Gauthier (center) and “marble buddies” show off their collections of “plainies,” “boulders,” “galaxies” and “steelies.”

From the archives: One of the first feature articles I ever wrote while working for the weekly newspaper in Fort McMurray, called the Fort McMurray Express.


How the circle goes round and round?

In recent years, young consumers have been bombarded by a barrage of high tech toys, computers, designer dolls, war games and robots.

But there’s a “new” game capturing the school yard attention of students throughout the city. To those of older years, it involves a traditional game with a few new wrinkles.

Yes, the age-old game of marbles is back in town — with a passion.

EXPRESS staff writer Jody MacPherson spent Monday lunch at the Good Shepherd schoolyard, learning the vital differences between a steelie, creamie and other characters of the marble trade.

Stories by Jody MacPherson, Staff Writer

The schoolyard is a different world at recess.

It’s a world where marbles are traded and cherished, where a strange language is spoken and where the games are played in the “marble fields.”

At Good Shepherd Community School, kids of all ages clutch their marbles in plastic bags and ice cream containers. They venture out into the schoolyard to play games like “hitsies” and “potsies.”

“You have to hide them when you’re in class,” says Kellie Gauthier, 10, “or the teachers will take them away from you.”

Gauthier says he has 2,605 marbles and that he and his brother are “marble buddies.” Between the two, Gauthier says they have about 8,000 marbles.

He says everyone plays marbles, both the girls and the boys.

“The girls cheat you sometimes,” he adds.

Gauthier says he once had two of his prize marbles stolen by a girl but he had no way of proving it. He says he thought he might have to use tape to mark his marbles, but decided not to.

Marbles usually change hands quickly in the schoolyard. There are a dozen different games and they all involve risking your marbles to win someone else’s.

In “hitsies,” the object is to try and hit a marble resting on the ground with your marble. If you hit it, you win both marbles, but if you miss it, you lose both.

In “potsies,” participants try to be the last marble in the “pot,” a shallow hole in the ground.

There are names for each type of shot and different variations on the games. Everyone in the schoolyard understands the jargon of marbles and they speak it fluently.

Each type of marble has a different name and some are more valuable than others. “Galaxies” and “crown jewels” are the two most valuable marbles.

The marbles are bought in toy stores and some, like “steelies” are ordinary ball bearings obtained from their parents.

Occasionally, someone will get tired of their marbles and yell, “scramble.” The marbles are then thrown into the air and other kids rush to recover them.

In the world of marbles, collections are won and lost very quickly.

When the bell sounds to end recess, the marbles are safely stowed in desks and lunch kits and it’s back to work.

MARBLESPEAK: Talking like the pro’s do

Marbletalk is easy to learn. All you have to do in most cases is add “sie” on the end of normal English and soon you’ll be conversing with the most avid marble collector.

For quick reference, here’s a list and an interpretation of the most common terms in marbletalk.

Hitsies: a marble game where one person tries to hit the other’s marble from a standing position.

Potsies: the object is to be the last marble in a shallow hole in the ground called a “pot.”

Trysies: this is an attempt at a shot, but you do not get to keep the marble if you hit it, similar to a practice shot.

Flicksies: this is a type of shot which involves a tricky flick of the wrist (there are different variations, for example, the Dutch or Newfie flic, although no one knows why they’re called this).

Cheatsies: this is highly frowned upon.

Clearsies: this procedure involves strategic sweeping of the ground around a pot or a marble to clear a path.

Exchangies: this illegal practice involves switching a marble on a person when they won it legitimately.

Blocksies: when a stray rock or bug runs interference, this call can entitle the shooter to another shot.

Lifties: a type of shot which involves lobbing the marble.

Rabbit ears: this is achieved when a person stands with both feet together and pointing outwards in order to provide a rebound into the pot.

Snap, crackle, pop: this is a shot which involves three attempts to get a marble in.

Eyedrops or bombs: a shot taken from directly above and dropped on the marble.

Jumbos: the largest type of marble, quite popular.

Boulders: the second largest marble, about the size of a bubblegum jawbreaker.

Plainies: the ordinary size marbles, which are also the most common.

Creamies: milky colored swirled marbles.

Peewees: the smalled marbles, these are definitely hard to find in a scramble.

Galaxies: one of the most valuable marbles, these are speckled with different colors.

Oilies: the surface of this marble is slick like an oil spill and a rainbow of colors is evident.

Skunks: these rare marbles are black with a white stripe.

Ghosties: a solid white marble.

Bloody Mary: a solid red marble.

Crystal: a clear marble which is often tinted different colors.

Crown Jewels: one of the most valuable marbles, this one resembles a gem, sor of a combination between a crystal and an oilie.

Spiders: clear except for four colored stripes, all the same colour, in the center of the marble.

Cagies: same as a spider except with five stripes.

Pinwheel: usually black with coloured stripes.

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