SUNNYSIDE, QUEENS (Wessays)™ -- The makers of chewing gum are in a fix. Use is down. In some cases, waaayyy down. Eleven percent over the last four years according to industry figures reported by the Associated Press.
The older people of this small enclave a short subway ride from midtown were pioneers in not chewing. No present day figures are available. But when Sunnyside bordered on the Long Island City industrial zone, gum on the candy store shelves would collect so much dust you’d need more than Lee and Morty Kaufman’s new Swiffer to clear it.
The aroma from the factories would fill the air, the scent of baking bread from the Silvercup plant chief among them. Delicious. Local grocers sold the loaves so quickly, the shelves emptied by noontime seven days a week.
But once in awhile when the wind was wrong, we’d also get the stench of the Adams factory where they made Dentyne, Chiclets and Black Jack Chewing Gum.
No way to tell what they put into that stuff back then. But it sure did smell like a tire fire. Burning rubber without benefit of spinning wheels on pavement.
The stuff stank. Really stank. Nothing like the smell of the finished product which was mint, licorice fruit and cinnamon. Burning rubber.
Everyone knew where it came from.
And no one chewed gum.
At the local elementary school, you never heard a teacher say “don’t you chew gum in MY class!” None had to. There were no wads of used gum under the shelves of bookcases or classroom desks or the undersides of water fountains.
Today, the rest of the gum chew world is learning what we knew all along.
Don’t feel too bad for the makers. That 11% drop still meant taking in nearly four billion dollars. But that’s chickenfeed compared to their good old days.
At its secret Amusement Park Laboratory, the Hershey folks are working on creating a gum that dissolves after you chew it for awhile. But that will only provoke reassurance of the old myth that if you chew gum and swallow it, it’ll stick in your digestive tract and bring untold harm. It doesn’t. It won’t. But you can bet that tale will reemerge.
Candy sales are surging. So are sales of boxed mints like Altoids.
Gum makers are quoted as saying they don’t expect a big turnaround anytime soon. But they’ll stick to their gums for the most part, at least for now.
--Bubble gum was made the same way as chewing gum in those days and may still be. Sunnysiders had no reservations about using Bazooka and Double Bubble. We didn’t have to smell those being made.
--Today’s chewing gum choices are so wide and variable that it’s hard to make up one’s mind about which not to chew first. Where there once were maybe 20 flavors and a dozen brands, there now are about a million. And the packages are so attractive it’s hard to resist at least trying some of them.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2014