Thursday, April 7, 2011



Does anyone else find comfort in delving into Childhood Memories or tastes or scents when you’re coping with a sad time? This past bit of time, I’ve been so introspective, I’m barely in the present some of the time. There have been little daydreams of playmates, of hot, shady yards, foot-beaten grass, warped-gray-wood picnic tables where we had tea parties and games of Old Maid and Monopoly, and even odd little games of Jacks, with a careful scrape of the bouncing hand across the splintery old table. Memories of old friends have come to visit, and the sounds and scents of endless Summer days have warmed the drab season. A hand thrust into the ice-water depths of the old store cooler, with the scent of wet metal and deep dark scent of the old black rubber gasket rising as the lid was flapped back. The WISSSSP of the bottle in the side-mounted opener with the raised Coca Cola worn clean through the red paint, and that first long, burning swallow, just before the tooth-rip of the Planter’s packet, with a heedless PTUH of the tiny torn crisp of cellophane upon the ground. A funnel-fist around the bottleneck, a gentle cascade of the golden peanuts, the creamy uproar as salt meets carbonation, the crunchy, salty crispness and the sweet, nutty Coke---all a part of a Southern childhood. A privileged step around the candy counter in Aunt Lou’s store, fingers in the door-slot of the Sanctum Sanctorum---the wooden back of the glass-fronted case. A gentle slide to emit Aladdin’s treasure of color and scent---licorice and chocolate and lemon and cherry and FLEERS.
Of them all, the scent of Fleer’s Double Bubble is easiest to recall---a sweet, sugary, smell which could be no color but PINK, and which you’d know to the end of your days. There’s vanilla in there, and I don’t know What-All else, but there’s just a lovely mystery to bubblegum which trumps any candy in memory.

Back then, they were rosy round mouthfuls in their little Christmas-cracker twists, peeled carefully to preserve the slick little comic paper inside---there was NO biting of that gum. The whole luscious, toothachy hunk went into your mouth, and the first couple of chews were both difficult and the most delicious, salivating moment you could imagine, with the full flavor filling your mouth with that unmistakable taste, dizzying with its gummy, sugary perfection.

I was never in a hurry to get to the bubble part---I could blow bubbles half the size of my head when I got it chewed down just right, but it just wasn’t something to rush. I struggled for a few moments to get that lump into manageable chewing texture, as I read the garish little waxy paper within---Nancy and Sluggo, Lil Abner, Dick Tracy. We saved them all---Fleer's, Tops, Bazooka.

We swapped them and filled cigar boxes with the heady aroma of sweet vanilla tinged gently with the fleeting brown scent of tobacco. I’ve got two pieces of bubblegum right now---the flat, modern kind which cannot possibly have the chewy charm of remembrance. I haven’t got to the moment of actually CHEWING them yet---I’ve only held them to my face in my two hands, inhaling that timeless scent. I hope there are still comics; it’s been a long, long time. I guess Archie and Veronica are too much to hope for.

Any sweet memories you'd care to share?


Marlene said...

I have all those same memories too, Rachel, along with mulberry juice running down my arms,face purple beyond recognition. Making a wagon from an old wooden orange crate (now found only in the attics, garages, or barns, a sweet thing of the past) attaching skates (that needed that key) for wheels. Riding down the hill while climbing on the handlebars (NOT a good thing to do, take it from me!) Making "gushy" with my friend, Judy, mixing orange blossoms with mud. Oh my, I could go on..and like you am feeling quite nostalgic as I near that big 70, and wonder how that could possibly be when I feel as if that happened only yesterday. Sorry for the length..don't get me started. But thanks for the memories.

Kouign Aman said...

That same gum, chick sticks, clove gum.
And many more.
Good to see you back. Thanks for the vivid memories.

steelersandstartrek said...

Regardless of brand name, whether Fleer or Bazooka or Topps, that gum came in two shapes - the cannister shape with a wrapper you'd pull on both sides and twirl to open, and the rectangular bricklet with a seam down the middle that was impossible to open. The latter shape appeared a lot at halloween and in penny candy buckets. It had the best comics, since the cannister had comics placed on the margins of the wrapper. And you are right, if it had the slightest bit of age on it, it was hard as a rock and had to soften up on your tongue or you'd hurt your jaw trying to force it.

The cannister shape variety I remember most from the neighborhood barber, Mr. Locke. We'd parade up there once a week in my earlier days, kids 25 cents, 50 cents on Saturdays. He'd always ask the same question - Okay young man, did you want a mohawk? And the response would always be the same from mom - just a trim this week Mr. Locke. After many reps of this over the years we'd proactively ask for the mohawk just to see mom's reaction as she quickly retracted our request. To this day I do not know why a 5 year old with a crew cut needed a weekly trim. It was the early 1960's and even the President had a full head of hair. But trim he did, and he always asked the same question at the end - Do you think that'll please your girlfriend? And he'd hand you a piece of Bazooka. A ritual to end all childhood rituals.

I haven't thought about the old guy in years. Thanks for stirring him back up to the top of the pot for me.

And thank you for gracing us.

Jeanne said...

Good morning dear Rachel. I am sorry I haven't visited. I am in Atlanta with my sisters doing an antique show. I left on Weds. and have had no time to visit on the computer. I am up early this morning and while my sisters are still sleeping I am trying to catch up. Thank you for your sweet comment about my kitchen.

I am so happy to see you writing again. This post is definitely a swing back in time for me too. It is funny about bubble gum because you did bring back a memory that is silly but true. When I was 15 I was babysitting for our neighbors children and I was chewing lovely bubble gum. I realized my throat was beginning to get sore and spit it out. The sore throat was strep and I ended up getting my tonsils out soon after that night. I have not been able to chew bubble gum since. Even the smell of it is not pleasant. There, I told you it was silly. LOL.

I hope and pray you are finding some peace from your loss my dear friend. I believe writing is a healing process for you.

I LOVE your autograph book. Smile.
Love you too, Jeanne

Southern Lady said...

What beautiful, sweet memories of childhood you conjured up this morning, Rachel. Remember making clover chains, catching honey bees in a jar and poking holes in the top (and letting them go)? Picking blackberries ... walking to school ... the smell of rubber rain boots in the cloak room at school? Do they even have "cloak rooms" these days? Playing Hide and Seek until dark and stopping only when our mamas called us in?

Thank you for taking us back to what seemed to be kinder, gentler times. I hope time is helping your heart to heal ...

L Vanel said...

Bubbalicious was my favorite gum, made more delicious since I had a full mouth of metal band braces. Missed you, nice to see you again.

racheld said...

I DO love all these reminiscences!! And to my surprise, I can echo more than half of them, from my own younger days. Except the haircut, of course, and though we have a big hedge of mulberry bushes, I've never eaten one---they seemed to be reserved for birds only, and I left them alone.

Cloak rooms! I guess that was still a Mississippi thing---I haven't heard it anywhere else except for Little House on TV.

And the writing in these memories---Y'all DO beat all!!

Marlene said...

Oh yes, Rachel, we had cloak rooms in our elementary school (in Fla.) where we had to keep our raingear, coats, and our lunches...I can still remember the smell. Sometimes that was where the rambunctous boys had to go for a spell. I remember the wooden floors were oiled by our janitor and always glowed. I loved seeing others remembrances..and happy times they were!