"white alleys"

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Dec 6 20:31:13 UTC 2001

The following passage appears in the memoir of an NYC cop, active about

"I dont think Monk had a gun on him when he was killed and whether he
ever had a chance for his white alley, I dont know."  Cornelius W.
Willemse A Cop Remembers N. Y.: E. P. Dutton, 1933, p. 215.  [Monk
Eastman was a reformed gangster turned war-hero of sorts, who was
murdered in Union Square in I think 1920.]

DAE, under "alley", defines it as a marble, such as boys play with, and
gives several 19th C. quotations referring specifically to "white
alleys" and indicating that it was a particularly valuable marble.  I
assuming that the "white alley" was the shooting marble used when
playing marbles, and that to lose one's white alley, or have it taken,
was to be put out of the game; and therefore Willemse is wondering
whether Eastman had had a chance to defend his life.  But although I
had marbles when a boy, I never "played marbles" and so I don't know.
Some of you rounders must have been marble-shooters when young.  What
do you say?

I seem to recall that Dialect Notes (?) many decades ago published a
vocabulary of marble-shooting.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African
Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.

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