80s & 90s

The ‘Marbles’ continued and were held each Good Friday and still has many players and teams from this time. Each year the championships seem to have grown in both stature and press attention, with coverage from the Worlds media.

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Steve Jenkins (left) ‘Nose Drop’ with Herman Lorenzo
captain of the Indianapolis Indians

In 1984 we hosted a team called the Indianapolis Indians, who were working for a cargo Airline flying out of New York and into Gatwick Airport. They arrived just before the championships, played their games and flew back home a day or two later.

1984 also saw the shortest final on record the match took just over two minutes in all. Tony Jones of the Fudgers scored 6 marbles; Peter Collins of the Boozers didn’t score any. Then Paddy Graham made a break of 18 marbles, the unfortunate Colin Gardner also got zero for the Boozers before Taffy Holmes knocked out the winning marble. Only 5 of the 12 players had had a shot.

There were one or two ladies players taking part in the championships from time to time until 1986, when the first full female teams entered the lists. Two teams the Sorts and the Tinsley Tarts took part that year and we have had women playing ever since.

In the following year, 1987 Bert Cohen, an American marble collector form Boston, presented the ‘Nina Cohen’ cup for the best lady player in memory of his late wife. He and Nina visited The Greyhound some years before and had had their own-guided tour of the ‘Home of Marbles’.

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Jackie Hodge 1st ever reciprant of the Nina Cohen Cup

The first recipient was Jackie Hodge of the South Norwood Sortes. Since this time many ladies have played in teams of their own or as part of mixed teams.

Our next international competitor came in 1989, all the way from Japan. It was very early in the morning when a young man call Yamaha together with his girlfriend arrived and asked if it was possible to take part in the famed Tinsley Green marbles championship. He practised for quite a long time and we eventually found him a team to play with. The Cheep Sheep and Yamaha played through to the quarterfinal, where they were beaten by the eventual champions the Black Dog Boozers.

The next and biggest International tournament held at Tinsley Green was in 1992. There were 22 teams playing, two American, one each from France and Holland plus 18 British club teams. The semi finals saw the last British team playing who were the Handcross Rebels they were beaten by the Lions De Lyon (France) and the Sharpshooters beat Marble King.
 
In the final the Sharpshooters beat the Lions De Lyon. Only five of the twelve players had a shot two Americans and two French players had made no score as the third member of the Sharpshooters came to the edge of the ring. Travis Cherry walked around the ring, took up his position and laid into the pack, in a very short time he moved away from the ring to the cheers of the crowd after making a wonderful break of 37 marbles, which gave him and his team the match.

Even this score was not the biggest break of the day, both Ray Jarrell of Marble King and Jack Tinsley captain of the Sharpshooters beat it with breaks of 41 marbles. The winner of the Individuals for the second year in succession was Darren Ray.

After the main event there was an International Competition with six teams taking part two each from America and Britain plus Holland and France. Each team played five matches. The Sharpshooters came out on top winning all their games; equal second with three wins each were Marble King and the Union Jacks.

The International Final was broadcast live on CNN throughout the United States and repeated throughout the following week, and the winning team from Tennessee were so proud of themselves that they wore their medals for the entire remainder of their visit!!

On a day trip to London a lady congratulating them – she was an American and had been told on the phone by someone at home about the champion marble team and recognised them from their jackets. This caused them great delight and showed how the fame of our tournament is spreading worldwide. The players also had a quick game outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, while their wives phoned home from a callbox so that their families could hear the peal of bells.

A visit to Brighton beach for a fish and chip supper was a great success and Junior B. Strong carried away a fine pile of rocks to take home to make into shooters.

We also took the team and our other guests to the House of Marbles in Devon, where they saw the Mini Museum, watched marbles being made and collected a lot of souvenirs.

Their eventual departure from Gatwick was a sight to see, with every player wearing a medal, clutching a trophy of some description and dragging a case weighed down with Brighton rock – this however was nothing to the heroes’ welcome they received on their return. After being met by a posse of pressmen at Atlanta, they faced further film crews and photographers at Nashville airport and were met 20 miles from home by a police escort, which led them home in procession to a mini victory parade.

What also made this such a memorable event was not only the many overseas teams but the host of people from the world of marbles. Rosalie and Bert Cohen, marble expert from Boston, Bobby Faulcher, Folklorist and song collector from Tennessee, Beri Fox, who is the daughter of the late Rodger Howdyshell owner of the Marble King factory in West Virginia and now (2004) Director of the National Marbles Tournament, Wildwood NJ, Cathy Runyan known as the Marble Lady, Helen Mohr The marble queen of Perry Hall, Tom (the mighty) Quinn former NYC champion and Michael Cohill

  The following year 1993 only one team from America arrived to play; they were team captain Rick Mawhinney, players Ray Jarrell, Travis Cherry, Debra Stanley-Lapic with her two nieces Brenda and Darlene Schwartz. At the end of the main tournament we played an International match of five games for the Fenn Cup (first played for in 1953). The British team was drawn from the club teams and was made up of Colin Gardener, Mark Parsons, Paul Smith, Ian Gardener, Barry and Darren Ray.

The result was very close with the Americans winning the first two games and British winning the next two. It was all down to the last game, the Americans won the nose drop, after the first round the score was 13 - 5 to Britain. The second round saw four players killed, two from each team, the score was now 19 - 7 to Britain. The third round saw Britain in the lead 20 – 14, at this point Ray Jearrell from West Virginia made a break of 11 marbles to win the series.

 Just before they departed their captain produced the ‘World Trophy’ that had been played for the year before saying, “this is the cup we brought with us and this is the cup we intend to take back with us” and in so doing claimed to be ‘World Champions’. As the matches was only an International between Britain and America I thought that this un-sportsman like behaviour was out of order and any contest for the trophy should have been between more than just two countries, as in 1992. As far as I know this cup has never been contested for since.

In late 1994 or early 1995 my friend Beri Fox from Marble King, the marbles maker in America dispatched a consignment of marbles to me. As she had just begun to deal with the UK’s premier marble company (the House of Marbles) the box was sent to Bovey Tracey in Devon. Bill Bavin forwarded the consignment on to us adding a bag or two of red target marbles ready for use on Good Friday. After a few days we asked where the marbles were? We sent them days ago we were told they should be with you by now. As time went on I was getting more and more worried as to their whereabouts. On Maundy Thursday I was at panic stations – I need these marbles where are they. After many phone calls we still did not know where they were, so I put out an appeal ‘Where are our Marbles’. The BBC and most newspapers set out to answer this conundrum; unfortunately Parcel Force could not give a satisfactory answer to this question.

On the day we had calls from, and interviews with most of the media, have you ‘found your marbles’ was the most common question asked. In the end the Manager of the local Three Bridges Tesco Store came to our rescue with a few bags of Malterss. After the event Beri rang and asked if we really had played with ‘candy’ as she heard on US national TV. We had lots of publicity but no target marbles, we made do with old ones we had laying about but it was not the same as with new marbles.

It was quite some time before these elusive marbles turned up they were eventually found at the main depot at Peterborough. It seems that the bottom of the box got torn and as the marbles began to rollout the box was turned over to stop them. As the label was on the top of the box none of the Parcel Force staff could read it and so it was sent to the home of all lost parcels at Peterborough. At long last some one with some sense turned the box over and low and behold found out where it was going and after sealing it up sent it on its way to us.
 
In 1996 Andreas Hildebrandt from Erfurt, Germany visited the Championships and ask how to play the game? I told him the best thing to do was watch the games and he would soon pick up what goes on. At the end of the day we talked and I gave him a set of Rules and a bag of target marbles so that he could put into practice what he has learnt. The next year we had three German teams over to play. And it went up to six teams in 2002, but it has levelled out to five since then.

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Sam and Andreas Hildebrandt
Good Friday 1996

There was a bit of rain in 1998 and two of the German Teams came to the rescue by moving their camper van near to the main ring and extending the awnings out over the ring to keep the rain off and the ring as dry as possible.

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