Do people chew gum like before?

barry evans

I have a brain that, given the chance, thinks of many topics, some of which are rather unusual. Today I started thinking about how you don’t see people chewing gum like they did when I was a kid. Maybe they do it in certain circles and I just don’t see them! However, in my youth, it seemed like everyone was chewing gum. Sometimes it wasn’t very pretty. Some people chewed with their mouths wide open, some made a lot of chewing noise, some popped gum, and so on. I remember a girl sitting behind me in a class chewing really hard and driving me crazy. After a few weeks, I rolled over and chewed really hard. I never said a word. It probably wasn’t the nicest thing I’ve ever done, but she quit chewing gum in my class.

Then there was the fact that you had to be careful if you walked into a soda fountain or a burger joint. The reason for this is that if you put your hand under the counter or table, you are bound to find a lifetime supply of chewing gum that has been stuck there. Some of these tables and bars have become quite unpleasant because the owners did not want to remove them. Those who did broke good putty knives. This gum had a lasting ability that far exceeded the original flavor. Now, not everyone was rude enough to put their old chewing gum under counters or tables. No sir, some of them just threw it on the street where you could walk on it. Scratching gum off the sole of a shoe can be annoying, especially if you wear crepe soles. The crepe soles, if you recall, were nice and soft, but wore out pretty quickly. You definitely didn’t want to pull out pieces of crepe when trying to get rid of the gum.

Gum goes back a long way as you can imagine, although I doubt we’ll eat it now. Prehistoric man chewed birch bark – which only came in one flavor. Now I like birch beer, but I don’t think I would like to chew the bark. That’s, I guess, why around 1870 some entrepreneurs decided that if people were going to chew gum, it had to be made more palatable. Thomas Adams, in his wisdom, made the first licorice-flavored chewing gum. It wouldn’t have been my favorite, but it was a start. My favorites were juicy fruit, pepsin, spearmint, blackjack, teaberry, and clove. There were many, many flavors, including those of chewing gum which had its own army of enthusiasts. This was especially true when the gum was combined with baseball cards. Oh fortune there I threw!

When gum companies started, they looked like today’s companies and advertised with great enthusiasm. In 1915, Wrigley sent three chewing gums to everyone in a phone book. True, there weren’t many telephones in 1915, but he still sent the gum to 1.7 million people. Four years later, he did the same. He reduced the amount to 2 sticks, but by then there were 7 million people in the phone books. During this same period, he sent two sticks for a few years to 750,000 22-year-olds. (No, I don’t know why he chose 22 year olds). Even though a letter only cost a penny at the time and chewing gum was light, it was still a publicity stunt.

Thinking about the above, I think it’s probably good that you don’t see so many people chewing gum. In fact, when I think about it, one of the many attributes I saw in The Blonde at Home when I met her was that she didn’t chew gum! (If she did, it was very quietly.)

Barry Evans is a columnist for Villages-News.com

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