Fringe Candy: The Sad Tale of Bazooka Joe

Some people love chewing gum.

Some people also love intercourse with farm animals.

The message here is that there’s no figuring some people.

My dad loved chewing gum. I think it was an oral fixation…something he could do instead of smoking. He was a Double-Bubble man through and through. He’d buy it by the box at the college bookstore and dump it into his desk drawer at work.

And on one hand, I can kind of see the appeal. With candy, it’s a burst of sugar and then it’s gone. With gum, the sugar lasts a little longer. Then you’re left trying to squeeze some lingering sense of joy out of it forever, kind of like the last few seasons of Friends. Candy is ephemeral–there and then gone. Gum is the sweet hook that turns into the chore. As a kid, I was known to roll my spent gum in sugar to get just a little more mileage out of it. Always a futile effort in the end, but desperate times and whatnot.

So this brings us to Bazooka.

Bazooka bubblegum was introduced by the Topps company shortly after WWII. Topps, if you recall, was the company made famous by trading cards. I’ve heard legends that they reason they put gum in the cards was to keep the cards rigid. Or maybe it was the other way around. Either way, one thing that is true, is that Topps grew out of an earlier company–American Leaf Tobacco. When the supply shortage of Turkish tobacco threatened to kill the company after the first world war, they pretty much shit the bed and decided to try this gum thing out.

I guess it worked out for them. And kudos for forging a timeless link between tobacco and gum. One oral fixation is as good as another in my book!

Somewhere around 1953, they started wrapping Bazooka bubble gum in a waxed paper comic strip. There are 50 comic strips in total, so it’s possible to collect the whole set. After all, the Bazooka bubble gum has been virtually unchanged since that innovation over 50 years ago. Except now instead of an offer for some novelty item there’s a link to their website to collect cool stuff. And there’s a fortune. There’s always been a fortune. Something pithy like “Birds of sadness might fly overhead, but you don’t have to let them crap on you.” I paraphrase, of course. Oh, and they’re translated into a few other languages depending on where you get it. Canada has both English and French versions, while they have the strips translated into Hebrew for the gum sold in Israel.

The comic strips feature the titular Bazooka Joe and his Gang® who is a blonde kid with an eye-patch and dead-beat friends. Did I mention they’ve been pretty much unchanged in over 50 years? You can imagine how well the humor holds up. Plus, what the hell did they do to that kid to warrant an eye patch? I’m sorry, but unless you’re a pirate, no eye patch for you! A kid with an eye patch is just…well, sad, really. This kid is no role model.

So I know what you’re thinking. What about the gum?

Well, like all bubble gum, it basically tastes like sugar for a few minutes. After a while it is less of a treat and more of a piece of exercise equipment. Plus, it tastes a bit like rubber bands and ass. You could do worse if you have to get your jaw work out in, or need to calm the voices in your head (Trust me, I hear this works really well. Try offering the guy on the 358 bus who is talking to himself a piece of this, and he’ll probably shut up for the rest of the ride home.) But at that point it’s largely therapeutic and not candy.

If I were to recommend any gum (which is highly unlikely), I’d probably go with Chiclets. But that’s a whole other post.

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