Here's the random old-timey gum review you didn't know you needed
ยท Jun 18, 2024 ยท

I readily admit that I'm not the biggest gum chewer in the world, certainly not as an adult, possibly due to having been traumatized some years ago by a piece of saltwater taffy which pulled off a crown (which I then inadvertently swallowed).

And no, the crown "never turned up" ifyouknowwhatImean, strongly suggesting I have the early makings of a gizzard, which might explain why I can digest scrapple.

In any case, gum is far less likely to detach dental work, so I do still chew it on occasion and was particularly happy to come across some old-timey flavors at one of those eclectic gift and novelty shops, the kind you find in touristy areas - in this case, Rehobeth, Delaware.

They sold silly gifts:

Did I mention this was Rehobeth, the Greenwich Village of the Delaware seashore? Trust me, this is about the only one I feel comfortable showing you.

They also had a section devoted to old vinyl records:

(Don't judge me, it was for my brother.)

Vintage comics:

And yes, old-timey candies:

I personally settled on four gums as they are the ones you typically come across as nostalgia gum, and most of which I specifically remember having as a kid.

These are brands, and perhaps more importantly, flavors, that have largely slipped into obscurity, left behind like apple-currant Pop-Tarts, and relegated to the novelty category as discarded cultural artifacts of a bygone era alongside candy cigarettes and a functioning constitutional republic.

Yes, they all had their heyday, but It's not like licorice-flavored sweets are sweeping the nation outside of assisted living facilities and The Netherlands.

(And yes, the very first flavored chewing gum, called "Black Jack," was licorice-flavored.)


You ever notice how everyone looks grumpy in old pictures?

Now I know why.

It's been a while since I had the clove, and as I placed the oddly flavored gum in my mouth and started to chew, I had two immediate reactions.

  1. The sudden urge to yell "dagnabbit" about something, possibly "kids these days."

  2. A deep and abiding new respect for my elders because if this was considered a treat, I can't imagine how regular life was.

As long as we're hitting the spice drawer for flavors, why not oregano? How about rosemary while we're at it. You could have a whole line of McCormick-inspired treats! Truly, what was the thinking process here?

Again, keep in mind, many of these early treats were, at least in part, marketed as health tonics of one sort or another, and clove gum had developed a reputation for being able to effectively treat the widespread malady of being looked upon as a drunk (in that it was apparently effective in masking the smell of alcohol on your breath).

Of course, that created a new problem:

You smelled like you were making Christmas hams all morning.


Beemans (originally "Beeman's" for you historical nitpickers) is a gum named after Edward E. Beeman.

I rather like the idea of a flavor being named after the individual who created it. It feels more personal, more real. I prefer that over something like Eclipse "Winterfrost." What is that? I mean, other than a generic corporate focus-group-tested name concocted in a conference room full of accountants and marketing executives and stripped of all character and personality?

While I recognized the Beemans name, I did not originally recall ever having tried their gum, and could not recall the flavor off the top of my head.

Then I opened the package and took a whiff.

Yep, I remember that!

While overwhelmingly wintergreen, it also has some other things going on making it a distinct flavor.

Beemans originally contained pepsin, and developed a reputation among pilots for reducing nausea - and was also considered helpful in keeping the mouth moist when using oxygen at high altitudes. It was even featured in the movie, The Right Stuff, among other productions.

Overall, an excellent mint-flavored gum.

Black Jack

Here's what you need to know about Black Jack gum: Either you like licorice (or anise), or you don't.

As mentioned earlier, it does have the distinction of being the first modern chewing gum, including being the first sold as sticks.

That means that when you chew a stick of Black Jack, you're not just chewing gum, you're chewing history.

Okay, that's not as profound as I could have hoped, but like clove, it's at least worth trying just for the novelty. For me, I like it, and its' one that will stay in general rotation.


This is the one I have chewed, when I could find it, throughout my life starting as a kid. I did not know this previously, but it had been around for decades before having it's heyday in the '60s (which is about when I would have started chewing it) in large part due to this commercial and others like it:

The Teaberry shuffle apparently became a thing, although I don't remember it in particular. I have to admit, it is kind of catchy.

In any case, my love for teaberry, a kind of subtle wintergreen, is well understood in my family. In fact, early in my marriage when my mother-in-law heard of this during a visit up in rural Pennsylvania, she said there were some teaberry bushes across the road. She took me there and showed me these bushes that were brimming with what were purportedly ripe teaberries.

"You should have some," she said.

As I eyed the berries suspiciously, I asked her, "these aren't going to kill me, right?"

"No," she replied, a grin spreading across her face.

I did try them, and they were phenomenal.

Teaberry is a popular flavor in Pennsylvania and is supposedly the most searched ice cream flavor in the state, according to this random web site I found:

It's certainly possible. I used to search it out in small towns when it was made in small batches by Hershey Creamery (apparently no relation). It's been a while since I've come across it, but apparently its still made here and there by local creameries.

If you've never had teaberry ice cream, you should give it a try. As for the gum, it's my hands-down favorite, and has been for literally decades. If I had my way, more things would be teaberry flavored.

In fact, my dream would be teaberry whoopie pies.

The Ranking

My #1 favorite is obvious, teaberry by a mile.

My son's, however, I did not expect.

"The clove," he told me without hesitation. "It was cool. I just like the taste."

Well, can't argue with that, although I will have to keep an eye on him around the spice drawer.

A few days after that he happened to have grabbed a piece of Wrigley's Doublemint gum I had (for one last test as you'll see in a moment). I had just walked into the kitchen when he said, without prompting, "this is really good."

"Oh yeah, that's a classic," I said, "How does it compare to the old-timey gum?"

"It's not as good as Clove," he answered matter of factly.


He had teaberry second, which redeemed him in my eyes. Somewhat.

My Ranking
  1. Teaberry

  2. Beemans

  3. Black Jack

  4. Clove

Son's Ranking
  1. Clove

  2. Teaberry

  3. Beemans

  4. Black Jack

All these old-timey gums share one drawback, at least as they are currently manufactured: The taste doesn't last long.

They all clocked in around 2 minutes and change.

Let me know below which ones you've had, if any, and note your favorites in the comments.

Happy chewing!

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