Loss of interest gumming up life

BY BOB WACHS, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/22/19

There was a story in a recent Sunday paper that hurt my heart.

Seems, according to that piece, a bit of America is on the way out. It also went on to say that the movement had been going on for …

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Loss of interest gumming up life

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There was a story in a recent Sunday paper that hurt my heart.

Seems, according to that piece, a bit of America is on the way out. It also went on to say that the movement had been going on for quite awhile. So what hurt my feelings was not only that it was happening but that I had missed out on realizing it.

All this news came from a large manufacturing firm – Mars Inc. They’re not an outer space exploration company but rather the folks who make Milky Way candy bars and other similar basic food groups. Unbeknownst to yours truly, they also own Wrigley, who are the folks who not only gave us where the Cubs play baseball but also make chewing gum, such as the Doublemint and Spearmint flavors.

It seems, the story went on to say, that since peaking in 2009 U.S. gum sales have dropped 11 per cent — down to a paltry $3.71 billion last year. Math and economics were never my strong point but that seems like more than just pocket change to me but maybe it’s not enough for the company and is an indicator of dark days and bad times.

The story also mentioned that such a poor record was achieved over the same period of time that overall candy sales — which included gum, chocolate, mints and licorice — were up 10 percent to $31.53 billion. Furthermore it pointed out that an additional drop of gum sales is expected — 4 percent — this year, bringing sales down to $3.56 billion.

At this point, I’m in over my head so I’m going to leave the dollars and cents to sharper individuals and instead dwell on something else about gum, namely the question is all this a reflection of a change in our culture. If it is, I don’t like it.

Where would this great country of ours be without gum? What would baseball be like without it? When speakers stand to speak or preach or teach what would the audience or congregation look like without some open mouth gum chompers?

Gum-buying was one of my early rites of passage into adulthood. Mama would give me a nickel and let me walk the 100 yards to Sam White’s store, even though it was across busy U.S. 64. By the time she let me make that trek, she had drilled into my acorn that I needed to stop at the edge of the road and look and listen both ways.

Chewing gum, especially in school, occupies a large part of my childhood memory. You weren’t supposed to do it in class; it could get you sent to the principal’s office. That’s why when Mrs. Sears would say, “Bob, are you chewing gum?” that I would swallow it and thereby not lie to her.

As a smooth young teen, a pack of chewing gum always occupied a place in my pants pocket. That way you could whip out a piece to give your sweet patooty when you wanted to impress her. Even when it got up to a dime a pack, Spearmint was still worth it; ditto for when it went to a quarter.

Gum made its way into larger parts of society. In 1975’s movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the heretofore silent Chief Bromden doesn’t speak until given a stick of gum and says, “Mmmm...Juicy Fruit.” That’s the same brand my Uncle Frank gave me every time I left his house...that and a shiny new dime.

Maybe economics is the reason for the decline — the price keeps going up. I must admit that at our house we still have packs of gum — the traditional five-stick pack lying here and there. Same as in the car and trucks. But it’s getting harder and harder to find those small packs because the 15-20 stick size now occupies most of the space near the check out and it gets harder and harder to shell out two bucks for a nickel pack of gum.

The folks who study such tell us that part of the decline is not only price but the habits of the twenty-something segment of society. Those folks are more into Altoids and fruit snacks are their thing.

For the life of me, however, I can’t see my favorite pitcher chewing away on a thin mint or fruity chew.

Do your part, America.

Go out and buy some gum.


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