Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, January 5, 2013

By gum!

Grandpa chewed Chiclets.  I can still see the little yellow box he carried, can see it resting on the top of his dresser at the end of the day.  It was his only vice, chewing gum, if that activity merits (or demerits?) the name of vice.  He was a minister, a seminary professor, an absolutely upright man.  Never drank or smoked or swore, though he tolerated my father's pipe and occasional cigars.

Around our house ... a variety of gum.  Mom and Dad would sometimes chew Clorets, green gum with breath-freshening chlorophyll.  Or so the TV ads promised.

I didn't care about my breath until junior high school--and girls.  Prior to my Great Awakening in seventh grade, I brushed my teeth on the days I went to the dentist, made brushing sounds on other days when I believed a parent was lurking outside the bathroom door on an unannounced dental-hygiene patrol.

I didn't go for Chiclets (Grandpa Gum) or Clorets (Parents' Gum) but instead for Wrigley's Spearmint or Juicy Fruit, the latter of which, I learned decades later, is good for gagging moles and gophers in your yard.  I never did it, mind you, but I heard it worked.  (Just checked: seems not to be true ... still ... (Info on Juicy Fruit and little critters).  I always hated Blackjack gum, which tasted about as bad as its name implies.  Licorice.  Not my favorite.  But if it was all I could beg/borrow/steal, well, it just had to do.

The sexiest gum was Doublemint gum, first marketed--I see to my great surprise--in 1914, when my dad was just a year old.  What attracted me to the gum?  The DoubleMint Twins, who did a series of TV ads featuring the Doublemint Twins, who, as I just learned on Wikipedia, were Joan and Jayne Boyd of Hammond, Indiana.  Their provocative song--"Double your pleasure, double your fun"--had all sorts of suggestive meanings for a libidinous young adolescent male such as your faithful DawnReader.  This one, lifted from YouTube, dates back to the 1960s (the oldest I could quickly find: Doublemint Twins Commercial).

Chewing gum was Absolute Evil when I was in school, all the way, K-12, an Evil that most of us generously embraced nonetheless.  When I began teaching myself, I was ever on Gum Patrol, watching for the tell-tale signs--jaws moving, spittle dripping, peeling a wrapper away from a stick, a piece hanging partway out of the mouth, etc.

Near the end of my public school career (the mid-1990s), I tried sucking on cough drops, but I realized I smelled like a hospital ward, so I stopped and began slyly chewing gum myself, and no kid ever detected it (hah!).  Is there anyone more alert to adult hypocrisy than a young adolescent? I stopped enforcing the anti-gum statutes, the very statues I was violating.

Later still, when I began teaching again at Western Reserve Academy (fall 2001), the headmaster at the time, Henry "Skip" Flanagan, was an Anti-Gum Guy of the Highest Order.  He would occasionally chide the students at our all-school morning meetings, at which time I would stop my gently masticating jaws (I preferred Eclipse gum then--still do), allow a frown to furrow my face, a frown I intended to communicate to Skip, should he look my way, that, yes, gum-chewing is vile,and I vow here in this Chapel, this Chapel rich with history, that I will dedicate my life to its eradication.

And spent the rest of the day chewing.  Not enforcing.  Not representing.  Not being a Good Role Model.

As I still do, in retirement--chew, that is. And for the first time since I was five years old, I don't have to pretend I'm not.

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