Dubble Bubble takes top gum honors

By Jim Lee: Local Columnist

On Sunday mornings I like to kick back in my recliner and look at the Portales News-Tribune as I revel in having the day off work (when I actually do have the day off) and try to dream up some devious technique of postponing doing things around the house and getting it past Saundra.

I enjoy Bob Huber’s column for a chuckle at his exploits with his childhood buddy Smooth to get my mind off the dread of Monday morning. I try to understand “Mallard Fillmore” at the bottom of the page, then turn to the funnies.

Not only does the comic section (what we used to call the funnies) have more pictures than words, it’s in color on Sunday. Pictures are a lot easier for me to read. I got a book without pictures when I was in ninth grade and finally finished it last week, but that’s an exception. Last Sunday morning as I struggled to understand “Doonesbury” (too many words with the pictures), the funnies brought something else to mind.

Remember when bubble-gum wrappers had comic strips printed on them? Those of us who recall “I like Ike” know about those Dubble Bubble wrappers. Slap a penny on the counter at the corner grocery store and walk away with an individually wrapped nugget of bubble gum and a big grin.

When we unwrapped them we got a comic strip with the gum, which was way cooler than those big flat pieces of gum that came with the baseball card — too bad I swapped my Mickey Mantle for a Duke Snyder — or those big nickel boxes of Cracker Jack with the neat prizes like whistles and magnifiers.

A big wad of gum, not that nothing-to-it baseball card gum, and a comic strip with a corny riddle to pass along at school was cooler than Elvis or Bill Haley and the Comets, daddio. It beat all the rest of those dental cavity confections hands down.

Sometimes I’d blow a few cents to give several pieces to my little sister. Of course I took the cartoon wrappers. Inevitably, she’d blow a bubble bigger than her skull. Then I could pop it. The stuff would go all over her face and into her hair almost to her pigtails.

Heh-heh-heh.

She would run into the house crying to get me in trouble. It was worth it.

I wonder if she thinks of that these days when she looks at her grandchildren.

I haven’t seen Dubble Bubble in ages. Whatever happened to that stuff? I looked it up and found out they’re still in business, but where are those bins filled with penny bubble gums?

I noticed that people on the Internet sell those cartoon gum wrappers I used to throw away. They’re getting 10 bucks and more for them — without the gum.

A little research told me bubble gum was invented back in 1906 by the guy who created what became the Dubble Bubble brand: Frank Fleer, the brother of Chiclets inventor Henry Fleer. It was originally called Blibber-Blubber. It was so sticky it took turpentine to get it off a person’s face.

In 1928, Frank Fleer’s accountant and son-in-law, Walter Diemer, improved the product, colored it pink because it was the only color he had left on the shelf, and called it Dubble Bubble. It soon became the best-selling penny candy in the U.S.

All that is kind of neat to know, I suppose, but I still don’t know where I can slap down my penny and get my cartoon-wrapped Dubble Bubble.

So instead of running up the street to Mr. Patmore’s little store or bragging about my new Hopalong Cassidy lunch box, I just lean back in my recliner with the Portales News-Tribune funnies and think of my little sister with the bubble gum on her face.

I think it’s time for my nap now. I’ll see you next week.

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: dr_james_lee@hotmail.com