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Columns

June 3, 2013

Local marbles players sought national championship in 1948

Louis Parisi and Eugene Platt of Oneonta had good aim when it came to the game of marbles. So good, in fact, their skills earned them an all-expenses-paid trip to Wildwood, N.J. in June 1948.

College basketball has its annual “madness” in March during the NCAA Tournament. In a similar fashion in the late 1940s, public school students in our area and across the nation looked forward to the National Marbles Tournament.

Marbles tournaments in the Oneonta schools dated back to around 1935, but the grand prize was that of pride in being a good shooter. Those contests were limited to the elementary schools.

The 1948 tournament was new and of a much grander scale, as 14 school districts from across the region had hundreds of hopeful boys and girls looking to go to Wildwood. The major local sponsors included The Oneonta Star and WDOS radio, the latter being owned by the newspaper at that time.

Clifford McVinney, vice-principal and guidance counselor at Oneonta High School, was in charge of Oneonta’s tourney. The way the tournament was set up, local school playoffs took place from May 12-24, with four winners from each school eligible to move on to a meet on Saturday, June 5, at the regional championship held in Oneonta. Two winners from the 14 school districts would then be escorted to Wildwood for the national championships between June 20-25.

“Well over 1,000,000 marbles experts now are practicing up on their shots,” it was reported on Saturday, May 5 in the Oneonta Star. Winners who came to Oneonta on June 5 would be treated to lunch and awarded prizes. Additionally, “moving pictures will be taken during the championship play.”

The big day arrived and the regional tournament was scheduled to be held on the Oneonta High School playground, at the corner of Academy and Grove Streets. An Arc Otsego building is found there today. Unfortunately a heavy rain fell so the contests had to be moved indoors to the high school gymnasium.

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