Friday, May 4, 2012

Bazooka Joe-Where Art Thou?

When I was a kid, the kind of bubble gum you chewed was very important. Sometimes, of course, you didn't have a choice. If you needed a fix and all that was available was the local penny gum machine (usually clustered with similar machines offering small toys or novelties for a quarter), you took what was dispensed. When you had a choice, however, cool kids chose Bazooka Joe. Now there may be some "Double Bubble" fans out there who disagree, and as I have aged and matured, I've come to accept the fact that there are those that cling to their sad delusions. But let's face facts. Bazooka Joe tasted better. It gave great bubbles, especially after adding the third or fourth peice to your wad, and most importantly, it offered great prizes for collecting their comics! Look at what was offered here...harmonicas (in case you're invited to an impromptu hobo jamboree and are asked to contribute with a rendition of "My Darling Clementine"), two-bladed knives (double the danger! double the thrills! Useful for fighting off both large and small bears, which, as a kid, you always suspected of lurking near your house, just out of ear-shot) and, in my mind the holy grail of Bazooka Joe prizes, the "exploding battleship". What a write-up! I quote: "A direct hit here "explodes" the ship. With the submarine and 3 torpedoes. Free (my emphasis) for 250 Bazooka Comics or send 55 cents and 5 comics to: Bazooka Box 666 London 12 Ontario". Could any kid imagine a more rapturous toy? "Free", with the measily output of 250 comics and the cost of a stamp! Of course, the challenge was gathering the comics. Greenhorns would try to buy and chew 250 pieces of gum and, while this was an appealing idea, would take far too long before the payoff of explosive mayhem. No, the smart kids had a trick-raid the desks of other kids at school! Ok, so maybe it was a little on the shady side of right and wrong, but let's face it, when the prize is an exploding battleship, you tended not to linger over the fine details of morality. Rifling desks usually took place near the end of lunch hour, when most kids were lingering for the last few moments out of the classroom. There was no small amount of tension as you tried to search desks noiselessly while listening for the footfalls of approaching classmates; kind of like starring in a bank-heist movie, or taking part in a daring prison-camp escape with your buddy Sgt. Rock. Comics in hand, I was ready to order my prize! Then...crushing disappointment! They never had the battleship in stock!! Sure I could order something else, but who wanted a locking diary or a "dainty drop pearl necklace"? I already had a knife, and I had already resolved to avoid hobos whenever possible, so the harmonica was out of the question. Thus, here I sit, years later, still cutching my 250 comics-worth of Bazooka currency. Sure I can read about Joe, Pesty, the weird faceless Herman and the rest of the gang, but it's done with a feeling of whistfulness. What might have bath-time been like with that batleship and submarine, duking it out between the suds? I think this is why I take showers now.