Crazy ’90s Bubble Gum!

Before I drone on and on about old gum, some updates!

1. Join in Dino Drac’s Patchwork Project! Readers from around the globe are sending in extremely random images to be part of our virtual quilt, and judging from the submissions so far, this is going to be EPIC. There’s still time left to doodle, so get to it!

2. Dino Drac now has a slightly updated look, thanks to Cliffpro. Aside from some minor cosmetic changes, I hope we’ve addressed the cache issues that were keeping certain readers from seeing new posts. For more info, please see the first comment in this post!

Okay, now it’s gum time.

In today’s issue: Four strange brands of bubble gum from the ‘90s! (Actually, the assorted gums are all perfectly normal. It’s the containers that are weird.)

What looks like old candy is really so much more. These gum brands are windows into our collective past. The parts we liked, and the parts we’d rather forget. Mostly the latter. Let’s chew.

Probably the most famous on this list, the Bubble Beeper hid an odd number of gum sticks inside a faux beeper. And I mean “odd” literally. There are seventeen sticks of gum in there. How the hell did they come up with that number? Maybe it was secretly smart marketing, because when a pack of gum comes with seventeen sticks, you’re going to find someone to talk about that with.

Matt: Dude, you see those Bubble Beepers?

Cliff: No, but continue anyway.

Matt: They come with seventeen sticks. Seventeen! Who ever heard of a pack of gum with seventeen sticks?!

Cliff: But here’s the thing. I’m guessing Bubble Beepers come in some kind of beeper-shaped container, right?

Matt: Yeah.

Cliff: Well then you can’t call it a pack. It’s a container of gum.

Matt: Are you saying that “pack” can never be synonymous with “container?”

Cliff: “Container” may be synonymous with bundle, bale or parcel. But not pack.

Matt: You are being too literal. And your name backwards is almost “Flick.” You’re a third-string player from A Christmas Story.

Cliff: Actually no, I’m a giant bat. *morphs into a giant bat*

Beepers were all the rage for a while, and not just with the people who needed them. Plenty of my friends had beepers that they never used, not even for parental reminders about dinnertime. It was more a fashion accessory than a convenience.

Plus, according to the faculty at my junior high, owning one meant that you killed people.

I never bothered to ask for one. To me, the beeper seemed like part of that special thing known as “cool kids’ clothes.” The thing with cool kids’ clothes is that you have to already be kind of cool to get away with wearing them. I learned this the hard way. I remember that year when all of the cool kids wore ugly Fila sneakers. So, I got my own. Stark white, puffy and hideous. The response was not “welcome to our club.” It was more along the lines of, “you have no right to wear those sneakers.”

The wrappers included all sorts of zany beeper-related phrases, in what was a poor attempt to make the gum seem as important as the container it came in. But that could never be. We bought Bubble Beepers for the containers alone, which were to be used as a clip-on coin purses long after the gum had been chewed.

I can still hear the clickety-clang of those quarters now. All three of them.

Hammer, don’t hurt ‘em. Don’t hurt ‘em with your weirdly out-of-focus photograph, badly printed on a tiny tin can. You’re making my eyes move faster than your feet. And why is your backdrop the skin of an alien zebra?

Is this your idea of “outrageous,” MC Hammer? I see that you’re pointing to the sun. If I look up, will the sun be neon green and wearing your sunglasses? You’re a rapper, not a Warhol.

Yes, it’s MC Hammer gum, part of the “Rock Express” collection. One must assume that there were other musicians-turned-gums in the line, otherwise it would’ve made little sense to call it “Rock Express.”

I tried a piece. It tasted like star anise. So I’m guessing it used to be cinnamon. I dunno, shit’s old.

The Bubble Lock brings back awful memories.

We never really had static lockers in my school. I mean, we did, but nobody seemed to use them. Combination locks were only needed for gym class.

When I was a high school freshman, the good gym lockers were in short supply. It’s not that they didn’t have enough. The gym had plenty, but only some of them could actually fit anything. Those looked like whatever you picture when you think “locker.” The rest were these tiny little boxes that seemed more like PO boxes than something I was supposed to wedge my schoolbag into.

Of course, I got one of the tiny boxes.

Anyone who did was always on the lookout for a normal-sized locker. For one reason or another, certain people abandoned them as the year rolled along. After several weeks of tiny locker hell, I finally spotted one, and was quick to move in. Oh, the glory!

Oh, the short-lived glory!

The next day, my new locker had been vandalized. I guess the previous tenant (not in the same class) forgot his combination or something, and expected to resume ownership of his amazingly huge locker the next day. When he saw my lock on there, he flipped. Smearing deodorant all over it, he also took the time to tape a note onto the locker door.

And I quote: “I KNOW WHO YOU ARE. BETTER GET OUT.”

So I went back to my tiny locker, and spent the rest of the year waiting to be jumped by the Padlock Mafia. Thanks for dredging up that memory, Bubble Lock!

Twisting the combination lock-thing, you’re treated with tiny balls of pink bubble gum. The Dippin’ Dots of the gum arena. I know this type of gum well! If you eat it piece by piece, it dissolves. Only when you down twenty or thirty at once can they gain enough strength to take the form of a wad. There’s a type of science at play here, and I don’t think it’s been adequately studied.

Finally, and if you ask me, most impressively, is the Super Gumputer. Yes, Gumputer.

Calling this a “gum” is such an undersell. Gum’s just the bonus. This is an outright toy.

Presented like a superhero headquarters mega computer, each of the buttons activates an electronic sound effect. The sound effects are very familiar: They’re the same machine gun, bomb and laser fire noises that so many other gizmos used to come with. Usually, those sound effects were reserved for “weapons themed” doodads. I’m not sure what war noises have to do with a computer. Distracting me from thinking about this further, I’m impressed with that tiny red light bulb, which actually still works today!

You could “program” the Super Gumputer to deliver tiny-sized fruit, watermelon or grape gumballs. If you lived on the edge, you could have all three at once. With the Super Gumputer, the world was your oyster. Only with this could you instantly summon tiny gumballs, machine gun sound effects and a blinking red light. Let the other fools do that with multiple devices. We only needed one.