Something to Chew On

Licorice Gum—Yum

How do you feel about chewing gum? My parents eschewed it and removed it from our childhood landscape—at home. The primary reason, I think, was how bad it was for our teeth. They completely supported my third grade teacher’s practice. When she caught a student chewing gum in school, she’d have them stand in front of the class with the offensive blob, place it on their nose and recite:

“The gum chewing (boy/girl) and the cud-chewing cow, are a lot alike, but different somehow. Ah yes, I see it all now. The intelligent look on the face of the cow.” Her approach pretty much quelled any gum-chewing desire.

It always seemed odd to me that so many of my friends chewed gum with enthusiasm, and their parents said nothing. Then sixth grade arrived, and I tried my first stick of Juicy Fruit, followed swiftly by Beemans and Blackjack, my all-time favorite. (I do love licorice!)

My elementary school, a K-8 building, sat in a neighborhood edged by small businesses, corner grocery stores and cafes. The access to candy counters escaped me until I realized that, before I walked home, I could travel a mere three blocks and be where the wild things are—whole packages of gum, that forbidden fruit! Even better…I discovered penny pieces of bubble gum. These bright red sirens, two-inch cylinders rounded on each end, called to me like no other. And I passed my passion on.

I would purchase a handful, bring them home, and wait for bedtime when my younger sister and I would begin our bubble-blowing contest in the dark. Lying in twin beds, side-by-side, we’d aim to be the first one to make, and loudly-but-not-too-loudly pop, 20 bubbles. Giggles to riotous laughter ensued and our mom’s calls drifted from downstairs. “Girls, quiet down. Go to sleep,” inviting even more laughter. We were such rebels!

I outlived my love of gum, and blowing bubbles, a brief romance that dwindled as I discovered that I truly liked only the initial sweetness, and the secret. The chewing bored me. I loved to talk, and gum-chewing got in the way. I have noticed that my son is not a gum-chewer, and while I never took my parents’ stance, sugarless options were everywhere for him, he never took to the habit either. Of course, he never had a brother or sister to have bubble-blowing contests with either. That might’ve changed things.

4 thoughts on “Something to Chew On”

  1. Can you imagine the lawsuits now if a teacher made a student stand in front of the room with gum on his/her nose? Beech Nut, Juicy Fruit, double bubble gum, collecting trading cards in gum packs. This took me back.

    1. Believe me, I think about it ALL THE TIME! Our principal had a paddle—like they used to use for hazing in fraternities—displayed in the class showcase of his office, and he USED it! Yikes.

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