CHICAGO — Raise your hand if you never really cared for Twinkies or Ho Hos. Did you, like me, get annoyed by all the self-indulgent retrospectives that resulted from their trip into oblivion?
To hear some tell the tale, Hostess’ sugary little bits of Americana molded character, marked the passage to adulthood, and provided light in the darkest of moments. As I tried avoiding the crush of reminiscences, I kept thinking that those tributes were probably written by people who hadn’t let a Hostess product pass their lips in a decade.
The lack of similarly-themed missives about Bazooka bubble gum killing off its long-time gum-wrapper comic strip hero, Bazooka Joe, pretty much confirms the fact that Bazooka Candy Brands is making the right decision.
For the record, the news actually saddened me in a way that the end of my beloved Crumb Donettes did not. I have warm-enough memories of eating Ding Dongs as a child but nothing compared to the amount of gum I’ve chewed — and loved — in my life.
If I could get back every penny I’ve spent on bubble gum in the last 30-some years, I bet I’d have enough money to buy myself a car. In fact, the money I’ve spent on gum just this week would probably order a half-way decent pizza. But even I stopped paying attention to Bazooka Joe a long time ago.
Oh sure, when I was little I’d save up all the comics and mail away for prizes, but what kid would care about such things these days?
When I asked my two early-teens sons — much of the household gum purchases go into their mouths — what they thought about Bazooka Joe’s demise, they shrugged. To them, gum either comes as pink tape or in mini-stick form.
Usually these little chewable rectangles come in super-manly packages with vaguely techie names that don’t actually bring food to mind as much as they do a certain exciting ethos. Mondelez (formerly Kraft’s snacks division) has a gum brand called “Stride 2.0” that features “Winterblue,” “Mintacular,” “Tropical Trance” and “Spark Kinetic Berry.”
Wrigley’s equally “extreme” gums are packaged under their “5” brand, sporting “flavors” such as “RPM,” “Vortex,” and “React 2.”
As a gum purist, I stick to Bubblicious, Hubba Bubba, Big League Chew and Bazooka, turning my nose up at the boring — by today’s pomegranate-raspberry-mango standards — grape or watermelon flavors. But I’m the odd bird in this respect. Most people today are looking for the thrill of dessert flavors and bacon. (Take my word for it, in some circles, bacon gum is huge.)
Poor Bazooka Joe, his time has come and gone. That’s the price of growing older: You have to watch old favorites fall to irrelevance.
But that’s OK by me because while old Joe and his constantly shocked expressions have gone extinct, my plain old bubble gum flavors get to stick around for another day. And let me tell you that in this excited-tropical-fruit-gum world, this makes me very grateful.
Esther Cepeda is a syndicated columnist and an NBC Latino contributor.