Bubble gum was one of my old Dad’s pet hates. Any gum was bad, but bubble gum was beyond the pale. Of course we kids adored it and took no  notice of him whatsoever.

Look at me Dad!

It was invented by an American (well naturally eh?) in 1928. When  a young Walter Diemer came across the correct formula after many attempts he promptly lost the piece of paper he’d written it on and spent  five months working it out again. Oh yes, and then he had to perfect bubble blowing himself so that he could teach other people. The familiar pink  colour was because  he wanted to distinguish it from ordinary chewing gum.  Pink was the only colour  available at the confectionary factory he was employed by.


The gum was an instant success. It was cheap enough for kids to buy  during the Great Depression and there was a lot of fun to be had for one cent.



It took quite a while for bubble gum to reach Australia, The girl in the following photo got in early.  

Imported bubble gum from 1947

Source – The Brisbane Telegraph, Oct. 3 1947

It wasn’t long before the gum was widely available and bubble blowing contests began here.  

Bubble gum blowing contest.

Source -,Sydney Sun. Sept. 18 1949.


Two months later it was the evils of the gum that were being reported;

Most movie theatres have banned the gum  It is very aggravating and a nuisance to people in close proximity. ‘Lolly boys’ are not allowed to sell the gum in the theatre. If a child is seen ‘popping’ the gum an usher asks him to stop. Another theatre manager, confirming this, added; ‘We also object to the horrible habit of parking the gum under seats and even on arms of seats. Schools which have banned bubble gum include the  Brisbane Girls’ Grammar and Nundah State. Several children are away from the Blackstone School, Ipswich, suffering from sore lips. 

Head teachers at suburban schools are endeavoring to discourage bubble gum in playgrounds. Chewing is taboo in classrooms. More than 12 cases of sore lips in the past week have been reported in the Graceville area. (Brisbane Telegraph, Nov. 12 1949)


When I at school, aged about six,  we had to  line up  after lunch before marching inside. On one occasion the teacher said she was going to check our mouths for bubble gum. OMG! I took my wad out and hid it in my hand. I forgot that the whole idea of lining up was actually  to ‘show hands’.  I still remember the horror of revealing  that sticky, pink mess. My punishment was to clean all the infant school sinks.

I was very amused by the following letter from a thirteen year old girl, published in The Age on February 3 1950;

The youth of Australia should not follow the bad example set by the American counterpart – chewing bubble gum.  I think bubble gum is no more than an ugly, dirty, vulgar practise, Furthermore, I do not think it should be sold – anywhere. 

Bubble gum chewing is not restricted to children – adults are bad offenders. Only recently while travelling to school in a bus, I saw a married woman trying to blow bubbles.

Pam Blackham, 148 Station Street, Carlton.  

Well you sound a lot of fun, Pam…NOT.  😨

This could be my favourite bubble gum photo. Eleven year old Kevin Williams won a competition at Lane Cove, but the photographer was just that little bit late in  capturing the shot.  Dear me, how annoying for Kevin to wake up and see himself in the paper with a burst bubble. 😎  

When the bubble bursts. Winner of a bubble gum blowing contest.

Source – Daily Telegraph, July 7 1951.


Worse was to come for my father with the introduction of  bubblegum tattoos. or ‘transfers’ as we called them.  

Remember you had to moisten your skin first…we probably used spit if necessary.

Bubble Gum transfer.    

Bubble gum tattoos.

An extra little joy.



My rose-coloured view of bubble gum continued for many years. It all changed, appropriately enough. on my first visit to  the United States when I was in my thirties.  As a special treat I walked down New York’s Fifth Avenue and bought myself a designer jacket. Two days later I wore it for the  first time on a visit to Niagara Falls.  In that  spectacular setting  I was  as wide eyed and open mouthed as the school children around me.

At the end of  an  exhausting day  my partner Rob and I returned to our overheated motel room and I  dozed off, fully clothed.  I woke an hour later to find  myself attached to the bedcover by a thousand sticky threads. OMG, it was like a scene from Gulliver’s Travels.

Was Gulliver bound by bubble gum?


Children are practical little blighters. When they gape at something in awe they take the precaution of removing their bubblegum and parking it  in a handy spot.  I feel sure  the  boy  beside  me  at the Falls meant  to retrieve his precious wad  before he left.   It was my misfortune that he forgot. It was also my misfortune that  I failed to spot the gum before  leaning back against the railing as Rob took my photograph.


Parked gum in the United States.

The staff at  Howard Johnson  were remarkably  understanding about the damage to their  duvet cover. I was also thankful that my new jacket responded so well to dry cleaning.  I can’t help feeling that some of  its  designer aura was removed along with the damn gum though. My father and Pam Blackham of Carlton would have called that KARMA.




  1. A delightful read Pauline , which brought back many childhood memories for me , over here in the UK. We had a small local penny sweet shop, selling most sweets in oz’s & quarter’s but ‘ Bubbaliscious’ bubble gum was always on my list . I never quite remember getting the ‘sore lip’ syndrome though !

    • Pauline

      Hi Maria, no…I don’t remember sore lips either. I think they made that up!!

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