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Bubble Gum

By Stan Anderson


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Fiction and fact from Stan’s almanac: Bubble Gum

As I sat watching my 4 year old grandchild munch enthusiastically on a huge wad of bubble gum I was reminded of that jaw tightening sweetness I was once so fond of.

A child of the world war two years I remember that the shortage of sugar during those days affected me more directly than anything else.

The 'war effort' required that each of us sacrifice certain Things for the good of 'our boys overseas'.

I understood that Rubber (tires) and gasoline were things that we civilians could ration, and our gallant servicemen needed every drop if they had any chance of defeating the dreaded 'axis'.

I could even stretch my imagination far enough to accept that saving the fat from cooking, and turning it in to the local grocery store, could somehow be turned into gun powder.

Washing and flattening out our used tin cans (aluminum cans hadn't come on the scene then) was another logical step toward eventual victory. After all, where else could we get the massive amounts of metal needed to build the tanks, and ships and planes we needed? Never mind that I seriously doubt any of these vehicles actually were made from flattened soup containers. Although, that could explain how U.S. Navy destroyers got the name 'tin cans'.

Anyhow, these every day facts of life in the mid-forties were easily digestible by my ten year old mind, but bubble gum?

Try as I might, I never could figure out how our valiant troops could utilize a mouth full of 'double bubble' to subdue the Fuehrer, or those sneaky Japanese. The vision of thousands of American fighting men blowing huge bubbles in the midst of heated battle just never seemed quite right to me.

Nevertheless facts were facts and I clearly remember those occasional days when bubble gum would become temporarily available at the local candy store. Word would flash through our school that the candy store catty-corner from the school grounds, had bubble gum and immediately after the final bell rang, lines would form in front of the store. Our eager young faces would shine in anticipation of the forthcoming treat.

The shopkeeper was scrupulous about allowing only one piece of gum to each child. No matter how hard you begged or cajoled, one was the limit. We clutched our shiny pennies (yes, that's all bubble gum cost in those days, even with sugar rationing) in our fists and patiently waited our turn to make the big purchase.

If you were lucky and the shopkeeper didn't run out of gum before you got there, you were rewarded with a rock-hard chunk of sugar wrapped in a brightly colored paper with a cartoon or joke on each wrapper.

Nearly fifty years have passed, but I can recall clearly the mind-numbing, pure pleasure I experienced as I popped that sweet stone into my mouth and began to test the strength of my young teeth. Even now, years later I can still taste the sweetness, feel the hardness as it dissolved into a rubbery mouthful of extraordinary goop. I remember peeling the sticky stuff off of my chin after a huge bubble burst unexpectedly and I recall those treasured jokes and cartoons that graced every piece of gum.

It's strange that these thoughts and sensations nearly overwhelm me as I watch my grandchildren enjoy their mouthful of sweetness. The memories are nearly as sweet as the gum itself. I remember how much I enjoyed my bubble gum and I hope my progeny enjoy theirs as much.

But most of all, I hope they don't drop it on the rug.



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