Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lost Art

I recently realized that I'm a practitioner of a lost art: making a gum wrapper chain. My friends and I succumbed to this fad in approximately 1969, stringing together the colored paper wrappers that enclosed sticks of gum. Our interest may have been enhanced by the charm of being able to start a conversation with any boy, anywhere, anytime, as long as he happened to be chewing gum, by asking if we could have the wrapper.

Here's what the chains looked like:

(photo courtesy of

When my friends got bored with their essentially useless chains (or found other ways to strike up conversations with boys), they gave them to me. I added them to my chain, making it something like 25 feet long. That's nowhere close to the world record, which is 58,266 feet. (I read about this record on the internets, so you know what that means. Grain of salt.)

There are some more pictures of the chains here, if you're interested.

I meant to do a little demo of how you make the links, but I discovered that almost no one sells gum in paper wrappers anymore. Sticks of gum come in tinfoil only these days, and most gum is packaged in smaller, fatter sticks, or those little punch-out pellet packs, like prescription medication. Here is a source for the old-fashioned wrappers, together with a tutorial on making the links, in case this is your kind of handicraft.

I actually remember some of the "finer points" of making these chains, like which brands made the best links, which way to face the links when putting them together, and so on. Not that I'm ever going to need this knowledge again . . . . Yet another example of how the semi-useless stuff is so easy to remember, and stuff I really need to know is sometimes so easy to forget.

Anyway, believe it or not, this chain smelled divine, like all the flavors of gum mixed together. Wrigley's Spearmint and Juicy Fruit were the basic flavors, but there were also flavors like sour apple and mixed berry that were big scores when I could get them. They smelled a whole new sort of delicious. Gum was kind of a big deal in my life for a while, just for the wrappers.

Eventually I lost interest in the chain, but I could never quite bear to part with it. It became one of those sentimental heirlooms that kids leave behind at their parents' house when they move out. While I was at college, my mother, for reasons she could never quite explain, decided to glue the chain together in a circular pattern. Perhaps she grew tired of seeing it draped around my old room, over the curtain rods and across the tops of the pictures. So the chain turned into a big mat, equally useless but easier to store.

Not knowing what else to do with it, I had it framed a few years ago. It actually looks kind of cool hung on the wall. You might never know what it was, if you weren't part of the fad.


  1. I LOVE that it's glued together and framed. What a cool conversation piece! My chains were mostly Juicy Fruit.Did you know they sometimes sell Teaberry gum at Cracker Barrel? Now I'm really showing my age.

  2. How incredibly cool of your mother! It looks great. I have to confess, this isn't something I heard of or did up in Canada, though we had the gum wrappers. I liked juicy fruit best....

    What is teaberry gum by the way? If someone gets some, I'd love to try it.

  3. It looks like a rag rug. Or a placemat :)

    My mil LOVES teaberry. I think it's weird. Kind of like wintergreen, but not so strong.

    I had forgotten how lovely the chain smelled. Mmmmmm. Mine hung out in the open too long to retain even a whiff.

    I remember making sure the patterns were all facing the right way, alternating the halves of the wrappers. I was obsessive about using groups of 10 wrappers and was horrified when the gum started coming in packs of only SEVEN sticks. Darn inflation.

    Extreme Cards and Papercrafting

  4. Wow, that's incredible! I've never heard of this before. Fascinating. :-)

  5. Awesome! I was just thinking about these things the other day when I realized that you can't make a chain out of a modern-day gum bubble pack.

    Email me your address at so I can sent your attic book.

  6. Apparently Doublemint has never changed their wrapper style! Wow!

    LOL J.G. That's definitely different. I never heard of it before although in my day we went more with BubbleYum or HubbaBubba than chewing gum, so it's a lost art for sure.

  7. Wow. I love that you kept it, framed it even. What a weird and wonderful thing to have!


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