recess radio program

On the Way to Candyland
    by John Cech

Here's something to contemplate -- the mere thought of it may give you cavities. American children and young people under 18 annually devour a little over two pounds of candy per capita, to the tune of well over $16 billion dollars. And a whole lot of it was left in those emporiums that line our highways, where you can get everything from a new set of tires to a plate of eggs to a copy of Lao Tsu's Tao Te Ching. I was in one of those establishments recently, waiting for a table and inspecting the gum.

Ah, the pleasures of gum. Remember your first stick of spearmint or cinnamon, or your first chicklet (grandmothers always seemed to have a supply of those), or good ol' pink bubble gum. No wonder Americans spent $1.5 billion dollars every year on gum alone, according to the National Confectioners Association, and kids account for at least a third of that chewing. There's gum that comes in a sack and is meant to look like nuggets of gold, and there's gum in the shape of crayolas that dye your tongue the colors of the rainbow when you chew it. Gum comes packaged in little paint cans, and in the shape of bandaids -- in strawberry, watermelon, and grape flavors. You can buy a little dispenser of gum for about two dollars that will keep a second-grader busy for most of the way from Billings to Barnstable, spelling out messages, like "Are We There Yet?" and then printing them up on the six-foot spiral of apple-stinger gum that's rolled up into the plastic dispenser.

Flavored powders are big this year, too -- like the cauldron filled with magic stuff that you dip a lollipop into, or the little alchemical mixer that blends sweet colored granules together in a twisting mini-laboratory of plastic tubes, that you can then dispense onto your waiting tongue. And then there are simply plastic test tubes filled with "shock buds blasting powder." Strange. But not as strange as the flavored waters you can blow edible bubbles from. But back to the gum. Before they called our name for a table, I knew what I probably would have asked my parents for if I was a kid hitting the road today: a "mega foot," made of chewable, multi-colored gummi something, about a size ten or eleven sole, toes and all, that you could probably chew on half way across country. Talk about putting a foot in your mouth.

Copyright 2006 John Cech

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Friday, 30-Jun-2006 16:19:35 EDT

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."