Marble Mania at the Hilltop shopping centre, Richmond, San Francisco in May 1991 was the BIGGEST and best exhibition of marbles there has ever been. It lasted for 3 weeks from 4th May to 26th May 1991 and it had it all - marbles of all kinds, photographs, marbles memorabilia and marble games that were played by both young and old alike.
Cover of the main leaflett
In February 1991 I received a phone call from Lance Lew, of the Hill Top Shopping Centre in San Francisco. He asked about marbles in general and about the game we play in England. He said it seems that there are no marble tournament in the USA if you are over 14 years of age. We agreed to send the current champion and the winner of the previous year, over to give a demonstration of how to play the game.
The British contingent top Sam and Julia with Tony Jones (l) and Darren Ray(r)
While talking to Lance I said that for all thing ‘Marbles’ he should talk to Bert Cohen from Boston, much to my surprise he told me he already had. He spent a day at Bert’s house and said ‘that the whole exhibit was there’. I also sent a lot of material and photographs of Tinsley Green for him to use.
Bert gave him a tremendous amount of marble memorabilia and a selection of contemporary marbles from about 30 different makes. At this point I should say that a lot of other people put in a lot of work to make this the biggest and best ever exhibition which gave a lot of good publicity for all the marble player and collectors about at the time.
As I have said already there were a lot of marble people involved in the exhibition and the list reads like a who’s who’s of marbles folk. Paul Baumann, Jeff Carskadden, Bert Cohen, Michael Cohill, Eugene Mason, Sam McCarthy and Cathy Runyan. Plus marble makers Jody Fine, Steve Maslash, Ro Purser, David Salazar, Shantidevi and Josh Simpson.
Ro Purser, Steve Maslash, Shantidevi and David Salazar play marbles
The crew at the Press Conference
Back row l to r Ro Purse, Tony Jones, Steve Maslash, Bert Cohen and Bob Malowney
middle row Darren Ray
Front Row Lance Lew, Cathy Runyan, Sam, Shantidevi and David Salazar
After the press conference, where we all met the press and each other was out of the way. The event was opened to the public on the morning of Saturday 4th May and at 2pm the two British opponents ‘knuckled down’ in the centre court to play for the Hilltop Challenge Cup. The two players were Tony Jones Individual champion for 1990 and 20 year old Darren Ray the current Individual champion (1991).
The contest was shown on TV by local station KTUV-KIDSTOWN-Channel 2. Darren Ray won the first match played, with Tony Jones winning the second. It was all down to the last of three games. Tony started the final game, but Darren went on to win and became the overall winner of the Hil top challenge cup.
Over the first weekend we were all invited to view something special, out in the car park of the Mall we were shown this magnificent VW Beetle, covered with all sorts of marbles. The guy who owned it worked for NASA or some other space agency and all the marbles were attached with the glue that held the tiles on the space shuttle ready of re-entry to earth's atmosphere.
These pictures show the marble challenge match in progress.
Lance Lew presents the Hilltop Challenge Cup to Darren Ray.
The cup was renamed the Roger Howdyshell Memorial Cup after the owner of Marble King who supplied all the marbles used at ‘Marble Mania’. Roger who was to be present at the event had died on Thursday April 22nd just a few weeks before it took place.