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The History of Chewing Gum & Bubble Gum Is A Sticky Business
I just got braces off my teeth a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, the full metal mouth kind! It was no fun and sacrifices definitely were made. Sacrifices like not eating Tootsie Rolls, caramels, steak, hard candy, ice...not to mention my social life! But one of the biggest sacrifices was not being able to chew gum for three and a half years. Now that was a true sacrifice! Imagine you're riding in the car with a friend. She pulls out a pack of gum and says, "Gum?" You say, "No thanks. Braces, remember?" She answers, "Oh yeah, I forgot." This exchange probably went on between my good friend Maggie and myself at least once a week for 52 weeks times three and a half years. I say this only because I have now had my braces off almost a month. In that entire month, soon to be 30 days, Maggie has not asked me ONE time if I'd like a piece of gum. What the heck?
I wasn't worried while I had my braces. I knew chewing gum wasn't going anywhere. It's been around too long. My first memories of chewing gum as a kid was on road trips with my parents, two sisters, and a brother. My parents enjoyed, and I use that term loosely, taking to the open roads with four children in tow in an aqua colored Rambler station wagon for family vacations. This was back in the day of no seat belt laws and amazingly, all four of us kids lived to adulthood without ever being thrown through the windshield of a car. I rode in the very back of the station wagon with a pillow and a blanket. My parents were probably hoping to hit a bump and somehow the back door would come open and I would go flying out. Hey what's one less kid when you've got four, right? One very eventful trip to the mountains, I took along four Big Buddy sticks of bubble gum and some Super Grape gum balls to chew to pass the time. If you're not old enough to know about Big Buddies, they were giant sticks of gum that could last you a week if you were frugal and you had no friends.
Master of the Bubble Blowing Universe!
I know this seems like an excessive amount of gum for a four hour car trip, but I was on a mission. My sisters and brother could all blow bubbles with their chewing gum. Try as I might, I could not. I used my allowance money and rode my bicycle up to the 7-11 to stock up before we left, because I was determined to learn to blow bubbles before we got to our destination or I wouldn't leave the car until I did. I chewed and blew, tried and tried until finally, after my jaws were aching I spread the gum out over my tongue and blew in one final, last ditch effort to blow a bubble. And there it was! A bubble! I blew and blew till it was the size of my head. And then it went the way of all bubbles, it popped. No matter! I had mastered the art! I was the Sensei of bubble blowing! By the time we got to the mountains where we were headed for vacation, my entire face was covered with sticky shreds of purple and pink gum, but I could blow bubbles!
Kids Love Gum
As I think back to that very sticky, but satisfying day, I wonder if the original inventors of chewing gum ever knew what joy they were getting ready to bring to children everywhere. And not just children. Some adults are hard core chewing gum addicts. Some people chew it to keep from smoking, a very noble use for gum, in my opinion. Some people's sole purpose in life is to stick it under restaurant tables, so your child can find it when they are crawling around under there, because they haven't learned to behave in public yet and then stick it in their mouths before you can get to them. Ah, the joys of ABC (Already Been Chewed) gum! Some people's goal is to throw it on the ground in the spot Most Likely to Be Stepped Upon by 99.9% of the population.
The Inventors of Chewing Gum
You probably think William Wrigley of Wrigley Spearmint fame was the inventor of chewing gum. I knew you'd think that. But only the Master Bubble Blower would know that archeologists believe cave men actually chewed tree resin even in prehistoric times as a sort of primitive chewing gum. I guess life could get a little boring hanging around the old cave, dragging women by the hair, clubbing animals to death for food...typical day in B.C. land.
The ancient Mayans also chewed tree sap gum. They gathered the sticky sap from their native sapodilla tree called chicle and chewed it just for giggles. The ancient Greeks also gathered sap from trees to chew...it probably had some aphrodisiac qualities in it knowing those Greeks and their loose and wicked ways!
The First Chewing Gum
Makes sense...chicle...you remember Chiclets, those tiny pieces of bubble gum that came in little envelopes and you just poured those sweet little things in your mouth. Yum! Chiclets were actually invented by the Fleer brothers in 1880. Several others made and sold chewing gum before William Wrigley started his company in 1914 with some limited to great success.
The first chewing gum made solely for chewing was in 1848, quite awhile before Wrigley. In 1871, Thomas Adams, who originally tried to push chicle for all sorts of things including rubber rain boots, patented the first chewing gum making machine. He actually got the idea from the Mexican General Santa Anna...you remember Santa Anna from history class, don't you? He was involved in a little battle called the Alamo. He met Adams in New York while he was exiled from Mexico and gave him some chicle. Adams tried his best to make something useful from it until one day, probably bored and frustrated with his efforts, he put a piece in his mouth. And that was the birth of his soon to be produced Blackjack chewing gum.
Double Bubble Bubble Gum
The real fun in the history of chewing gum began when Frank Fleer of Chiclet fame began experimenting with a gum he developed called Blibber Blubber. The gum never really took off, probably because of the lack of marketing genius possessed by whoever called it that in the first place! However, Fleer did have a very inventive guy working as an accountant by the name of Walter Diemer. Using Diemer's recipe and a little "bubble gum pink" food coloring, Fleer invented and made a huge success with a gum that is still famously pink today...Dubble Bubble.
So there you have it! From cave men to the mouth of a then eight year old girl in the back of an aqua Rambler station wagon to now. And everyone's still chewing gum. And guess what? Next time, if there is a next time, Maggie asks me as we're riding along, "Gum?", I'm going to say "Heck yeah!"