Uptown Chicago History Correspondent
TOPS, MARBLES AND YO YOS
These are things every boy in Uptown had that kids nowadays don't even know what they are or how to use them.
There were two types of tops, Travelers and Spikers. Travelers had a rounded tip and the Spiker had a sharper tip. Both were made out of wood. The game consisted of two boys. We would draw a circle on the sidewalk or street; one kid would throw in a Traveler top; because of the rounded tip it would move around in a small circle -- hence the name. The other kid would then throw his Spiker at the traveling top with the intent of hitting it and, if hit right, the top would split in half. The traveler was thrown with an under hand movement while the Spiker was a sharp overhand downward thrust. One of the most treasured possessions was a split top.
I was the Northside marble champion. I won at Stewart School. A group of us had our picture in the Chicago Tribune in 1949. The citywide championship was held at Clarendon Park. I didn't even place.
Now, marbles was a simple game with a few rules, which had to be stated at the very beginning of each game. No mounds, no cow paths, no hunching, no squabbles, and knuckles down. If the rules were not stated, this is what could happen. A shooter could make a small mound, similar to a golf tee, place the marble on top of it then shot at it. A cow path was a line drawn in the dirt from the shooter to the object marble. Hunching was moving your shooting hand over the line into the ring. Knuckles down was exactly that, those knuckles had to be touching the dirt.
Squabbles is hard to explain. If you didn't say "no squabbles" at the beginning of the game, anyone could come by and holler squabbles then take all the marbles. But if you said "no squabbles" they couldn't. The strange part of all was this was a code of ethics; no one lied.
Right after the war we found two important things, yo-yos and bubble gum. There I was, nine years old, and I never heard of bubble gum. I stood in line to get one penny's worth. I was able to blow bubbles right away and couldn't wait to show Mom and Dad. Well, I never did that again.
I saved my money and went to Woolworths 5 & 10 cent store on Broadway, just North of Wilson. Wow a real Duncan yo-yo, and they had two Filipino yo-yo experts that were amazing. I gave one my yo-yo and he carved my name in it and a palm tree on the other side in about two minutes flat. They could do all sorts of tricks and ended up sending the yo-yo into the air and catching it in their inside pocket. I practiced as much as I could, got pretty good at it, then I showed my mom and dad what I could do. No more bubble gum, no more yo-yos. Sometimess, life just ain't fair for a nine year old.