Told you so.
(I'll save you the trouble of searching for it. If you hit the link, it's in the eighth paragraph down.)
Anyway, we're all adults here, right? Or, at least, we're old enough to be. So, let's talk about chewing gum.
(I've already lost MY WIFE. She hates the stuff. I don't think it's the actual substance so much as it is watching someone chew it. She can't stand the lip-smacking and popping sounds some people make. I'm not fond of that, either, but I just close my eyes and imagine them doing something else while making those noises, although if they're blowing bubbles... wow, this digression turned out to be much more double-entendred than I thought it would be when I started. With luck, it will remain inside of these parentheses and not contaminate the rest of the post with childish innuendo. Knowing me, though, I wouldn't count on it.)
(Speaking of childish innuendo, did you know that the same guy who drew Bazooka Joe comics had previously drawn the hardcore pornographic comic strips known as Tijuana bibles? It's true. His name was Wesley Morse. I just learned that while "researching" this piece. And now, you know... the rest of the story! You're welcome.)
(I promise I'll get back to the subject of chewing gum any day now, but isn't it amazing how far we've come as a society? Those salacious comic books used to be the hottest thing a person might encounter before the age of 18, distributed under the counter by the sort of guy with rheumy eyes, a three-day growth of beard, and a few whiskey bottles that had been emptied while the beard grew, but now you can just put the term "Tijuana bible" in Google and come up with scads of them to read at your leisure, maybe even at your workplace while you're writing some tripe about chewing gum instead of doing what you're paid to do. And it's not easy laying off reading that stuff and coming back here to entertain you, so I hope you appreciate the effort.)
OK, enough! We're here to talk about chewing gum, dammit!
Since we already mentioned Bazooka Joe, let's start there. Or, rather, with the gum upon which Bazooka Joe comics were wrapped, which was, of course, Wrigley's Doublemint.
Nah, I'm kidding. I just wanted an excuse to put up another graphic before the one of J. Wellington Wimpy in flagrante delicto soiled your mind forever. Ah! Fresh and minty! Of course, as any idiot knows - I know it, so that proves it - Bazooka Joe was the spokesman for Bazooka Bubble Gum. Why a brand of gum was named after anti-tank weaponry is unknown, but it was the default bubble gum of choice for kids who grew up in the 50's and 60's. In some neighborhoods (or, perhaps, only mine) it became a generic term, much like Jell-O or Kleenex. "Let's go to the store and get some Bazooka!" we'd say, and then someone else would reply, "Yeah, and maybe the guy behind the counter will have some more of those dirty comic books!"
(Did any of you chew Bazooka? If so, did you ever send away for the premiums advertised on the comic strips? I must have chewed thousands of pieces over the course of my lifetime, but I never saved enough comics to send away for stuff. If I had, I would have ordered the X-Ray Specs. And been spectacularly disappointed.)
The only true rival of Bazooka was a brand called Dubble Bubble.
Dubble Bubble was a harder gum to "start" than Bazooka. That is, it was like chewing a piece of sugary pink whale blubber at first, whereas Bazooka was a bit softer and more quickly reached the bubble-blowing stage. This may not have been the natural state of things direct from the factory. I suspect that the Dubble Bubble in our region was stale, since it sat on the shelf until there was no Bazooka to be had and then we bought it while in the throes of tutti-frutti withdrawal. As was the case with Bazooka and Bazooka Joe, Dubble Bubble also came wrapped in a comic strip. We always considered it a second-tier sort of strip, though; not up to the high standards of Bazooka Joe. The star was Pud.
Bazooka Joe was cool. He wore an eye-patch and was usually the one who spouted the clever punchline. Pud was a dipshit. And he also had the misfortune of sporting a moniker that we Boston kids understood to be another name for "penis", so we would have been extra wary of saying we preferred Pud.
(By the way, the world can be divided into two classes of people: those who blow bubbles and those who don't. I personally feel that anyone who never blew a bubble as a kid should be ineligible to become president. Rick Santorum, of course, would limit the exclusion to those who prefer Pud.)
As preteens, bubble gum was our gum of choice, but if none was available, just plain old chewing gum would have to do. In my case, mint was the preferred flavor, and, more specifically, peppermint. I've always found spearmint just a tad too sharp, while peppermint has a warmer, more mellow flavor (but maybe I'm talking to a whole bunch of wintergreen lovers and the distinction is lost on you poor tastebudless souls.) While Wrigley was probably the king of chewing gum in most parts of the country, Beech-Nut was the one for we discriminating Dorchester youth.
My Grandma used to chew Beech-Nut peppermint gum while she smoked Winston cigarettes (which was almost assuredly preferable to the other way around.) I think that's why I now smoke menthol cigarettes. They combine both flavors into one utterly delicious cancerous package.
(I recall now that My Mom - as a matter of fact, most moms in the old neighborhood - preferred Chiclets. I enjoyed them sometimes. It had the novelty of being enclosed in a hard candy shell, making it crunchy for the first minute or two [and I could make some joke here that would bring us full circle to the Tijuana bibles again, but I won't.])
As I entered my teens, I tried expanding my palette. I gave some time to such then-stalwart brands as Dentyne, Clark's, and Beeman's.
Dentyne used to purport in its advertisements to actually be healthy for your teeth. Well, a kid who had as many cavities as I did could hardly be expected to pass up the opportunity to keep on chewing gum if it was good for his teeth, so I tried some. Of course, no gum is really good for the teeth; it can only be less harmful. Dentyne was good for your teeth in the same way that the budget proposals from most of the major presidential candidates will lower the national debt. If it helps, picture Obama as Bazooka Joe, Ron Paul as dental floss, and all of the others as Pud.
Clark's gum came in weird flavors. There was Cinnamint, Teaberry, and Sour Lemon. These days, both Cinnamint and Sour Lemon wouldn't be anything outrageous. When I was a kid, however, they were revolutionary. Young Boston Irish kids, for whom black pepper was a far out and wild spice, found Cinnamint entirely mouth-burning. And none of us could figure out why anyone would chew Sour Lemon gum. I think the only time I ever bought it was so I could offer pieces to my buddies and then watch the great faces they made when the taste hit.
Beeman's, however, became something of an obsession with me.
I was one of those kids who really enjoyed black licorice. When other kids would look to throw away the odd licorice candy that showed up in, say, Necco Wafers (which could be the subject of a whole 'nother post, and maybe they will be next week) I'd say, "Give it to me! I like those!" (which didn't help my rep as an oddball.) So, when I found this BLACK gum... well, to say it made me happy would be like saying Toddlers & Tiaras is slightly uncomfortable to watch; an understatement of vast proportion. As well as tasting good, Black Jack allowed one to work up truly dark and evil-looking spit, and I imagined I was fooling people into thinking I was chewing tobacco every time I gobbed on the sidewalk.
Beeman's other great product was NOT the clove gum. That had the same sort of appeal as an atomic fireball, which was to see how long you could keep it in your mouth before you just had to spew it out. No, the other delight was their pepsin gum.
Pepsin gum was touted as an aid to digestion. Since I had absolutely nothing wrong with my digestion, that wasn't the draw. Beeman's Pepsin Gum just tasted great! By the time I attended Boston Latin School, which I despised, the lure of buying a pack of Beeman's Pepsin Gum at Park Street station, on my way to school each morning, was sometimes the only thing that kept me on my way to school at all. It was that good.
(Beeman's should be paying me for writing this. Just in case you're wondering, they aren't. But, if they see this and want to send me a few cases, I won't let any sort of misguided principles get in the way.)
I suppose I could go on about gum (maybe I already have) reminding you about the pleasure of stepping in a big wad of it while walking down the street on a hot day, or maybe bringing to mind when you stuck it under your desk at school or something, but nobody is reading this. Everybody ditched me back at the link for the Tijuana bibles.
Soon, with more b...
(I forgot about Juicy Fruit. That was an excellent gum. I used to take a stick and put it under my armpit when I ran out of deodorant, and... Oh, screw it. I want to see more of those Tijuana bibles, too. Later.)