Jay Lenkersdorfer

Are you a nostalgic person who looks to the past with a reverence for the way it used to be? Do you long for a time machine that would transport you to a time in the past when life seemed to be simpler, less stressful, maybe even fun?

We all suffer from “I wish itis” where things from the past are remembered to have been way better than the way things are today. My wishes often go back to the tastes of treats that were once in abundance but can hardly be found today.

Recently, while searching online for some candy, I saw a website that was selling Black Jack chewing gum. It has been decades since I have bought Black Jack chewing gum but I could still recall the unique licorice flavor it offered. Putting all caution to the wind, I purchased 15 packages of the confection to give it another try.

After several days my package came in the mail and I couldn’t wait to slip a few sticks into my mouth. As a black licorice lover, I thought I would certainly fall right back in love with this treat from my past. The first bite flooded the pleasure receptors in my tongue, sending me back to 1969 and the Island Market, the hometown store once owned by my grandfather where we used to buy all our penny candy. I closed my eyes for a moment to aid in my flashback, but soon after I began to wonder if my memory had played a trick on me. The gums flavor, after only a few minutes in my mouth, began to fade and it wasn’t long before I realized I either had to spit it out or stick another piece in my mouth. After the first stick was replaced by a second, then a third I realized that the reason it wasn’t readily available on the open market is that it really isn’t that good.

I immediately began to regret buying 15 packs of the gum. But my next thought was less exciting than the first. In addition to Black Jack gum, I had also ordered 15 packs of Beemans chewing gum, and 15 packs of Clove chewing gum. I hope my memories of Beemans and Clove chewing gum are truer to my memory than the Black Jack chewing gum has been.

Another confection I enjoy is Fruit Stripe chewing gum. This has always been readily available in any store that sells candy. Like Black Jack gum that quickly loses its flavor, Fruit Stripe chewing gum has an intense flavor burst that lasts a short time, followed by something less pleasurable. If you don’t have a second stick ready you will soon be looking for a place to spit it out.

I recently gave a pack of Fruit Stripe chewing gum to my grandson, Bentley. He has never been a gum chewer, but it didn’t take him long to decide it was something he should take up. Once Bentley found out where I stashed my chewing gum he took it upon himself to stock up, taking home at least a dozen packs. Seeing how much Bentley enjoyed Fruit Stripe chewing gum I gave half a stick to his three-year-old sister, Madison. I gave strict instructions that she was to chew it, not swallow it. I quickly realized that she was swallowing every piece I gave her. Perhaps she needs to be a little older before I give her gum again.

Bubble gum is less sophisticated than other forms of chewing gum but I believe the flavor lasts much longer. The treat is pure sugar but I have found that when I’m doing some mindless yardwork it is helpful to have a little bubble gum handy to keep my mouth moist. Thirty years ago I found a 500 piece box of Bazooka bubble gum at the Price Club, a warehouse store similar to Sam’s Club or Costco. I really enjoy the flavor of that brand so I purchased it and had it hidden in plain sight.

500 pieces of gum will last forever – unless you have one of your teenage sister’s-in-law staying with you. My wife’s sister, Lynette, discovered this big box of Bazooka gum in the dish cupboard and with our permission, began to enjoy it. After a week or so I went to retrieve a few pieces of gum for my pocket and found the box was nearly empty. I was certain that it wasn’t my doing so I asked Lynette if she knew what had happened to all the gum. She announced that she had been eating the gum, with my permission, but that the flavor faded quite fast. When this would happen she simply popped a new piece in her mouth, discarding the evidence. It can certainly be habit forming.

As I age I find these trips to memory lane to be rewarding, if not always as delicious as I once believed them to be. Now if someone would please bring back Cream-O-Weber Egg Nog Life would be perfect.

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