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Column: Chewing gum, and other food stories

Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared July 1, 2006.

WORTHINGTON — They sang this on the radio to the tune of, “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain When She Comes.” “I like Chiclets Candy Coated Chewing Gum” and “I’m goin’ downtown right now and buy me some. “I like Chiclets Candy Coated, I like Chiclets Candy Coated, I like Chiclets Candy Coated Chewing Gum.” Remember that? Remember Adams Clove Gum? “By jove, buy Clove. Adams Clove Gum.” I will tell you what got me started on chewing gum, but first let me tell one chewing gum story.

Mexico booted its president, Antonio Santa Anna. He was living near New York City — this was the same year the railroad arrived on the site where Worthington would come to be. Santa Anna hired a secretary, Thomas Adams, to write letters for him and to help him to learn English.

Santa Anna had a habit — he chewed a plant juice called chicle. “Let me try that,” Tom Adams said. Adams took to chewing chicle himself. He thought it might be possible to make tires from chicle, but at last he decided the best use and the only use for chicle was to chew it.

Out of this came Adams’ New York Gum, which Tom Adams sold only to pharmacies. Eventually, Adams’ gum inventory came to include Adams Clove Gum, Black Jack Gum, Dentyne, Chiclets Candy Coated Chewing Gum and —

“Gimme a package of Beeman’s Pepsin Chewing Gum, please.”

The Smithsonian Institution at Washington sends elaborate exhibits to towns across the country as part of a program named, “Museum on Main Street.” For eight years there has been a touring exhibit of U.S. barns named, “Barn Again,” which never came near our area.

Now there is a new exhibit, “Key Ingredients, 500 Years of American Food.” This exhibit is coming to Slayton Aug. 12. It will remain at Slayton through Sept. 19. I think this might interest every resident of our region.

You think chewing gum isn’t food? All right. Let’s go to potatoes. I am getting this from an advance notice of the Smithsonian exhibit.

George Crum, an African American, is chef at a resort in New York State. One of George’s specialties is French fries. A customer complains George’s fries are too thick. Crum slices a batch of fries in half. “Still too thick,” the customer says. “All right,” says George to himself, “We’ll thin them down — I’ll shave them.”

“Oh, these are great!” says the customer. What George Crum has just turned out are potato chips.

This was 1853. I was surprised. I remember a time when I didn’t know what potato chips were. Then — oh, maybe 1939 — I had some potato chips. I thought that was the first of them. Not so. You could get potato chips at fine restaurants before the Civil War.

All right. Another thing —

Frank and Jesse James loved chili. In legend, they always had a meal of “the red” for good luck the day before they robbed a bank. Early in 1876, the year of the Northfield raid, Frank and Jesse ate chili at Fort Worth, Texas. It was so good, the boys said, they never would rob a bank at Fort Worth. Jesse vowed, “Any place with chili this good ought to be treated better.” It was. Frank and Jesse never robbed a bank anywhere near Fort Worth.

One more.

Henry Heinz, school boy, goes door to door selling his gramma’s horse radish in clear jars to show how pure it is. “No leaves, no turnips for filler, no wood fiber,” Henry says. He soon is selling so much horse radish Gramma can barely fill the orders.

By 1893, Henry is at the Chicago World’s Fair showing off horse radish and pickles. He gives fairgoers pickle pins to wear. Pickle pins are some of America’s first promotional pieces.

Three years later, Henry advertises 57 Varieties, although he really does not have 57 varieties.

I am getting this from material for that exhibit which is coming to Slayton — it is coming from the archives of the Smithsonian Institution. Stories and pictures and more.

Toll house cookies. Sliced bread. Velveeta cheese. Hot dishes. Swanson TV dinners. Twelve course dinners.

It will be (I believe) fascinating for everyone.