Back during The Depression, the main sport for kids was marbles.
I treasured my marbles and when we played for keeps I tried my best not to lose any of them. For about six years, in the early 30s, I accumulated about 3,500 of them and when I went off to World War II, my treasured marbles at home, disappeared.
I wrote an article in The Register in 2007 entitled, "Lost my marbles."
What prompted me to write a story about marbles was an inspiring story that I read in 2003 in Good Stuff, a monthly collection of insights and inspiration. It is a heart-warming story of some young boys who treasured their marbles as much as I did and a generous, big-hearted man.
Here is the story.
During the waning years of The Depression in a small southeastern Idaho community, I used to stop by Mr. Miller's roadside stand for farm-fresh produce as the season made it available. Food and money were still extremely scarce and bartering was used extensively.
One particular day, Mr. Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily apprising a basket of freshly picked green peas. I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes.
Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller and the boy.
"Hello Barry, how are you today?"
"H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas … sure look good."
"They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?"
"Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time."
"Good. Anything I can help you with?"
"No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas."
"Would you like to take some home?"
"No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with."
"Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?"
"All I got's my prize marble here."
"Is that right? Let me see it."
"Here 'tis. She's a dandy."
"I can see that. Hmmm. Only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?"
"Not 'zackley… but, almost."
"Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at the red marble."
"Sure will. Thanks, Mr. Miller."
Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said, "There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are very poor. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, perhaps."
I left the stand, smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado, but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys and their bartering.
Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died.
They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them.
Upon our arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.
Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts … very professional looking.
They approached Mrs. Miller, standing smiling and composed, by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket.
Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his hand over the cold pale hand in the casket.
Each left the mortuary, awkwardly, wiping his eyes. Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles.
Eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket.
"Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim 'traded' them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size … They came to pay their debt.
"We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world," She confided, "but, right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho."
With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three, magnificently shiny, red marbles.
-- Author Unknown
Be a giver: During the Depression everyone pulled together and shared to see that no one starved.
If my grandmother; Eliza Jones, had any food left over from meals she would send me or my sisters to deliver it so some sick or needy person.
A lot of people did the same thing. The world would be such a better place to live in, if we all had the same spirit of giving as Mr. Miller and the good folks during the Depression.
This 97-year old body was re-fueled by that wonderful ham and cookies supplied by Carla and Steve Parke.
God bless you.
You may not have saved a lot of money in your life, but if you have saved a lot of heartaches for other folks, you're pretty rich.
Until next time … live, love, laugh and learn, Glenmore.