As the winter holidays approach, toys are on the minds of children and parents alike.
So this week we take you to a unique place—The Moon Marble Company in Bonner Springs Kansas, where toys and of course, marbles draw crowds from all over.
Moon Marble Company is housed in a gray, low slung building wedged almost smack against the railroad tracks at the fork of K-32 and Highway 7 in Bonner Springs. A chalkboard sign welcomed visitors with the message ,“Welcome to the Moon.”
The walls are covered in bins of machine-made marbles that inspire names like tidal wave, fiesta, and tree frog .
But marbles are not the only attraction here. There are wooden game boards and wind-up toys from the 50’s and 60’s which remind us of a time when play was, well, simpler.
They have real jacks, real pick-up sticks, and of course real marbles. The Marbles are by far the most popular toy here and marble lovers from around the country come here to find marbles that meet their particular passion.
This isn’t a place where people just buy toys and machine made marbles, it’s also a place where marbles are made. Moon Marble artisan and owner Bruce Breslow has longish salt and pepper hair, a bushy beard and eyes that twinkle.
He’s gives a demonstration to visitors, shaping the colored iridescent molten glass with a round, marble molding tool. He passes the marble in and out of an orange flame the hand-crafted marble art takes form.
The Moon Marble Company used to be Bruce’s wood shop. He started as a cabinet maker, and did a lot of custom wood working.
All this work left a pile of scrap he couldn’t bear to waste.
"They’re beautiful pieces of wood,” says Bruce. “So I started gluing them up and making game boards out of them. I thought I’m just going to make some toys and games, and I made these game boards and needed marbles for the game boards.”
So he went to the local convenient store to get some marbles, but he was disappointed by their boring selection. Marbles of only one size, one color, all the same. What he wanted were the colorful marbles from his childhood; ones like Moonies, which are bluish white, translucent, and look like the moon, or cat eyes with an eye-shaped colored core.
In 1997 he opened Moon Marble Company. To get started he found a supplier that had the coveted marbles from his past.
The word spread quickly about the guy with all the marbles, next thing he knew people just started coming.
Bruce then realized that people shared his excitement for marbles, so he decided to take up marble making himself. He read everything he could about it, piecing together information from books, other glass workers and experimenting.
“If you came in years ago I was making like a marble out of a little coke bottle.” Bruce reminisces, “I’d break up some glass from a coke bottle and turn it into a marble. But as you can see today we’ve gone a little further than that.
Further as in now Bruce is making marbles that look like a cosmic vortex, flowers trapped in time, the shell of a turtle. Bruce’s hand-made marbles seem to be more than just a child’s play thing, they’re his art.
Moon Marble Company has grown to be a business that Bruce is successfully making a living out of, working as a full time marble and toy man. He says he thinks we’ve lost something important by not playing as much on the playground. So he’s doing his part one marble at a time to get that something back.