Gum Chewing... An Age-Old Enjoyment

gum_big bubble  

I'm a gum chewer. Sad to say, this is not far from a cud-chewer when I'm in my best form. Yes, I was one of those kids who was made to stand in the corner at school for an hour with a wad of gum stuck on my nose. That would definitely not be allowed in today's classroom; it would lower my self-esteem. Back then it obviously did not. I continued to chew gum … just more surreptitiously. Oh, Miss Thompson, if you only knew.




My Mom could chew a half stick of Dentyne (prevent decay, sweeten your breath, keep teeth white) all day long. I'm never happy with one stick, or even two. Though I'm promised “intense flavor that lasts”, it never does. I need more … and more. Sometimes I consider a pack equal to a single serving. Oh, yeah, I take my gum chewing quite seriously.

Gum chewing is quite popular in the USA, but not so much in other countries. In fact, parodies of Americans many times show gum-chewing bimbos. They always seem to have that vacant look in their eyes … akin to the aforementioned cud-chewers. In actuality though, Kantar Media found that the Middle East nations of Iran and Saudi Arabia had the most gum chewers, some of which is accounted for by the fact that vendors give pieces of gum in lieu of small change. Heck, the gum industry is a $19 billion market worldwide. That's some serious chewing.


chiclet front teeth


Chewing gum dates back at least 5,000 years. They found a piece of bark tar with tooth imprints from the Neolithic period somewhere in Finland and concluded that they were chewing gum way back then. In Mexico, they refer to gum as “chicle” which I always though was based on “Chiclets”, a candy-coated gum pellet I used to love when I was a kid. Plus you could use the gum as fake front teeth and considering the amount of sugar in them, that wasn't a reach. Chicle actually was the base for gum products until it was replaced with a cheaper “rubber-like polymer” product in the 1960's. The Mayans and Aztecs chewed chicle and the ancient Greeks chewed mastiche. So you see, I'm in good company.


spruce gum


In 1848, John B. Curtis developed and sold the first commercial chewing gum called The State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum. It's still available, but only as a specialty type product at a specialty price. In 1871, Thomas Adams patented a machine for the manufacture of gum. It's the same Adams name that's part of Cadbury Adams today and still produces chewing gum.


black jack gum


Speaking of specialty gums, do you remember Blackjack, licorice-flavored gum that you could use to black out your front teeth? Blackjack was the first flavored gum and the first to be offered in sticks. Huh! Now that's entertainment. Then there was Beeman's clove-gum, a flavor/smell I always associate with old ladies for some reason (who probably had false teeth and couldn't chew gum anyway).


big league chew


Do you remember bubble gum cigars? or wax lips and moustaches that could be chewed like gum? How about baseball cards that came with a flat, baseball card sized hunk of bubble gum?


checkout display


Today, it's hard to get out of a store without seeing a chewing gum display. The flavors now include root beer, apple pie and orange. Give me spearmint or something refreshing, please, nothing frou-frou.


bubble gum alley in california


Schools, by the way, do not allow chewing gum because “students often dispose of it inappropriately, the chewing may be distracting in class, and the gum might carry diseases or bacteria from other students.” Sounds like bunk to me. The under side of desks was and probably still is the “inappropriate” depository for chewing gum at school, but did you ever see those tourist places that tout the blobs of chewing gum stuck to the walls. Talk about disgusting. Get this ... The Singapore government outlawed chewing gum in 1992 because it was becoming a danger when it was wedged in the sliding doors of underground trains. However, in 2002 the government relented and allowed sugarless gum to be sold in pharmacies if a doctor or dentist prescribed it.


dubble bubble


Bubblegum, though it's usually not sugar-free, is fun to chew. The 23-inch bubble blown by Susan Montgomery Williams of Fresno, California in 1996 holds the Guiness Book of World Records for largest bubblegum bubble. I'm definitely not in her league. I did like chewing Dubble Bubble and Bazooka, partly for the gum and partly for the comics inside.


gumball machine


There was always something neat about bubblegum machines, too. I guess begging for a penny (now 25 cents...inflation), having my parents give it to me and then going through the complex process of inserting the coin and getting the gumball was always a satisfying experience for me as a little kid. I was easily amused then.

I know, I know. This is more than you ever wanted to read about chewing gum, but you know how my mind works … in mysterious ways. So relax and chew. The ADA says chewing sugarless gum is good for your teeth.