Fruit gum memories

Apr 4th, 2009 | By | Category: Personal Columns

The return of the lady of the house from a sojourn in the North brings with it an abundance of bulging bright orange Sainsbury’s carrier bags.  It is observed that the urging of the Minister of Finance that people should shop around has obviously not fallen on deaf ears; a pity that shopping around means finding that almost everything is cheaper across the border.

Amongst the numerous treats brought from the North are packets of Rowntree’s Fruit Gums.  Why?  Do they not sell Fruit Gums here?  The opening of a packet brings the unmistakable aroma of 1968.

August 1968 was my very first summer holiday.  An uncle and aunt were taking me with them to Cornwall on a camping holiday.  My aunt is only twelve years older than me, so was nineteen at the time, but she was my auntie and was always grown up.

We left Yeovil in Somerset on an August Saturday morning in my uncle’s little blue Simca to travel to Perranporth on the north coast of Cornwall.  The journey was maybe a hundred and twenty miles, but there was no motorway and the entire population of the country seemed to be heading westwards.

All went well until we were crossing Bodmin Moor in a constant line of traffic.  The heavily laden car broke down.  My uncle was always very organized and an AA patrolman on a bright yellow motorcycle came along and fixed it, though the delay seemed almost unendurable for a small boy.

We reached the campsite by teatime, to join another uncle and aunt and five of my cousins. Unpacking the car brought laughter: the Simca was rear engined and my other uncle, mug of tea in hand, walked over to look into the boot at the front of the car, where all the bags were stowed, “Pat”, he called, “it’s no wonder you broke down.  The car has no bloody engine in it!”

The sun shone brilliantly the next day and we descended the cliffs to the huge sandy beach with the Atlantic waves bringing brilliant white surf.  Rowntree’s Fruit Gums from a yellow box were passed around.  Monday came damp and misty and there was no chance of the beach;  we went to Penzance and sat in the car and ate Cornish pasties looking out at the rain.  By Tuesday, the sunshine had returned, the sky was vivid blue and the whole day was spent doing whatever a seven year old did for a day on the beach.

My next memory was Wednesday morning, the wind had blown down our tent and heavy rain was falling.  I had continued sleeping, even with no tent over me.   We packed and headed for home.

The whiff of Fruit Gums brings memories as fresh as those of last year.  Odd how the brain can retain the smallest details from a four day period forty-odd years ago, yet loses completely much more recent moments.

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  1. Ian, I love your childhood tales…you were very lucky having a box…I can remember the time I found out they did them in boxes….You know they could have been a present from you for one of my birthdays…….Holidaying in Cornwall doesn’t change much….It rained a lot when we were there last year for our hols…..We must have had the global warming in ’68 also!!!!

  2. But I didn’t get the box! It was guarded like a great treasure. Didn’t Fruit Gums in a box used to come in the shape of the fruit they were meant to taste like?

    1968 must have been a bad summer – the was a Bristol History website with photos of the Bristol floods that summer, but the address now seems occupied by some American company trying to sell website addresses.

  3. Ian, do you remember the black horse and horseman at Carbis Bay when the clan was there again?

  4. No, and I know why I don’t, because I wasn’t with you when you saw it. We had all split up and gone in different directions.

  5. Rowntree’s Fruitgums, now that takes me back! I remember the paper wrapped rolls before the boxes. The advertising gimmick in the late fifties was How long can you suck one for? To be a ‘Gumster’ you had to make it last 60 full minutes! I never did. And then the favourite flavours: the green orange and yellows were so-so, the reds were good, and the black the best, but always too few in the packet. Later on they sold tubes of all blacks, but they cost more – 4d rather 3d I think. A big investment when pocket money was 1d for each year of your life!

  6. Sixty minutes! I can eat an entire packet in about ten. The blacks were/are definitely the best. I suspect that the additives in times gone by were considerably stronger. There’s probably a law suit for someone somewhere citing the negative effects of Fruit Gum e-numbers on their academic career.

  7. We’re clearly all about the same age. I remember sucking them until they were flat and thin as cling wrap. I fear I’d lose a filing if I tried it today. As for the memories . . .long term memory improves as we age whilst I can hardly remember what I did last Friday!

  8. Baino, did you never put four or five into your mouth at the same time and then have to pull your teeth apart. It was necessary sometimes to cram as many as possible into your mouth to avoid the danger of having to share the packet with someone.

  9. I can hear Uncle Bill saying that as clearly as if he were standing in the room next to me and then laughing that unique laugh of his. I can also hear Aunty Vera calling him by his full name and telling him to stop swearing. Lol. Brilliant. Do you remember on another trip going straight over the roundabout? Uncle Bill again.

  10. I love this story and the additional chapters too!

    ‘Don’t forget the fruit gums, Mum!’ Ours came from England about once a year/

  11. Grannymar,

    Were they not on sale here, like the Curly Wurlies in a later generation?

  12. oh my god this is fantastic!!!!!! i think we are all so privelaged to have such fond memories of our childhood mine are mostly of den making on the farm whilst spending a week there each year and getting the cows with grandad before coming back to a bowl of cornflakes with the most amazingly creamy milk stright from the churn,oh happy days!!!!!! Even now in mums cupboard there is always a jar of wine gums bless her.Mum has fantastic piccies of this very holiday,i love looking at them,i’ll try and post them on here somehow.Please post other happy memories i love reading them.XX

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