The other day I was on a webpage that showed this picture.
I have no idea what those things are, but they evoked a childhood memory: The Bubble Burger. The Bubble Burger was a large collection of layered gum that had “buns,” “meat,” “cheese,” and “lettuce” and it came in a little clam-shell box meant to look like the Styrofoam boxes burgers came in back in the bad ol’ days when burgers still came in Styrofoam boxes.
The pictures don’t do it justice, and these may have been the beta version, because by the time I was buying them in the last dying days of the ‘70s, they were multicolored and multilayered and looked more like the picture that prompted this post. Regardless of their appearance, however, this was one humongous wad o’ bubblegum, and would fill a pre-teen child’s mouth so completely that there was barely enough room to move your jaws enough to actually chew it. It was an obscene amount of gum to be chewing all at once. If you had a stuffy nose, there was probably a very real chance that you could suffocate, but this was in the days before warning labels. These were the days where children like me could outgrow cribs with the slats too far apart, and, should they survive toddlerhood, wander their town and buy potentially fatal chicle-based products at will. The older I get, the more I realize how safe and free my small-town childhood was, compared to kids who lived elsewhere. Time moved more slowly in the U.P.; I used to joke with Antiguo that we had the exact same childhood, 20 years apart. It’s funny, you see, because it’s absolutely true.
Our house was approximately 3 blocks…no, maybe 4…from a corner store called the Hob Nob, where my parents would send us to pick up necessaries that were forgotten when they went to the store, and where we spent what money we’d received, found, or otherwise obtained on candy housed in a glass case, and arranged on shelves according to price. Penny and nickel candy was on the top, and the expensive candy bars (they were a whole quarter!) were on the bottom. You actually had to ask the clerk for what you wanted. And with a note from your parents (and cash, of course), they’d send you home with cigarettes.
Where did we get the money? Primarily from can and bottle refunds, as we were living in Michigan then. Always sharp-eyed and entrepreneurially inclined, my friends and I were not above picking cans off the street or out of open pickup truckbeds in order to fund our sugar fixes. Two glass bottles would finance a reasonably decent sugar high that lasted until dinner, longer if you confined yourself to penny and nickel candy.
Although the Burger Bubble was in the pricey candy bar range, the gum wasn’t even that good, if I recall correctly. It was made by Fleer, after all, the people who brought you those sad, shattered, thin planks of pink gum in collectible cards of all kinds. (I collected the Grease ones, and the ones from Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.) Its appeal was the novelty of a hamburger made of gum, the cool container, and the pure spectacle of the world’s hugest piece of gum, a piece of gum from which monuments could be sculpted on bedposts and under desks; a piece of gum that, if stepped on on a hot day, could leave you scraping your shoe for hours.
It was, quite simply, epic gum.