It was in Turkey that I first tried chewing gum. I was ten years old. It was 1962, and we were staying at the Hotel Çınar at Yesiliköy on the Marmara Sea just west of Istanbul. We walked from the hotel into the nearby village, where my parents bought me a small pack of chewing gum. The pieces of gum were coated with a hard, sugary outer layer. I thought that this layer extended right through the piece, and I was surprised to find when I bit into it that it contained a soft gooey substance. I was not impressed.
A year later, the family spent the last three months of 1963 in Chicago, Illinois. It was while we lived in the USA that I became very keen on chewing gum and its close relative bubble gum (specially the Bazooka brand). Between arriving in America and leaving Turkey, I had learned how to enjoy chewing gum. In America, the range of flavours of gum was huge compared with what was available in the UK. I used to chew a piece of gum and when its flavour had weakened, I added another piece, and then another, and so on until there was a huge mass of gum in my mouth. This ever-growing glob of gum would remain in my mouth for several hours.
I attended school while we were in Chicago. In each class room there were desks with swivelling desk-tops for writing on. I soon discovered that the undersides of these desks were covered with soft blobs. After touching these blobs, I discovered that the tips of my fingers acquired different pleasant odours. Naïve as it may sound, I only discovered after returning to England that these ‘perfumed’ squishy mounds were bits of discarded chewing gum.
In the late 1960s and the following decade, we used to visit Greece almost every year. In those days, Greek cities and towns had numerous kiosks selling newspapers, magazines, and … chewing gum. The most commonly found brand of gum was ‘Chiclets’. This trade name, established in 1900 in the USA is derived from the Spanish word chicle, which means ‘chewing gum’. The range of flavours available at these kiosks was much greater than what was available in the UK at the time.
We took many flights during my childhood. In the 1960s and ‘70s, many ‘planes were not as well pressurised as modern aircraft. During take-off and landing, there was a risk of much ear-popping. Sucking sweets or chewing gum was recommended to reduce the unpleasantness of the ear popping.
I was happily chewing gum as was usual on a flight when a thought occurred to me. The endless chewing of gum brought the rumination of cattle to mind. Suddenly, I compared myself to cattle chewing the cud. Although I have no objection to cattle moving their jaws endlessly, I felt that it was inappropriate that I should be doing the same. Since then, I have rarely chewed gum, and when I have done so I have found that my jaw muscles tire easily.