Sky Rocket Bubble Gum — Made in Memphis

Awhile back, at some family outing, one of the Lauderdales was yammering away (as usual) about the "good old days" and he happened to remember Sky Rocket bubble gum, which he would purchase by the box at the cluttery TG&Y store a few blocks away from his home. He would turn in empty Coke bottles for the 2-cent deposit, ride his Schwinn Tornado down the street to the store, clutching his dimes and quarters in his sweaty little hand. There he would peruse the fine selection of cheap candy by the cash register, and would sometimes be stupified by the astonishing selection: just rows and rows of packets of Milkduds and Pom-Poms and Zero bars and ... ah, there it was: Sky Rocket!

It turns out that this chewy delicacy was actually manufactured in Memphis, and since it's kind of an interesting story, and I get paid by the word, I'll tell you about it.

Sky Rocket was produced by a firm here called the Saymore Company. A fellow named Sam Myar started this little business in 1959, and though I can't say for certain, I like to believe he realized that his name sounded much like "say more" which (he must have reasoned) made a catchy name for a candy and gum company. So he purchased a building at 985 Kansas and began to crank out Sky Rocket bubblegum in four somewhat unusual flavors: fruit, wintergreen, banana, and cinnamon. ("Fruit" is a bit vague, if you ask me, if you already have "banana.")

Saymore also manufactured hollow-center gumballs — most folks called these "jawbreakers" — in what they called "straight" flavors: orange, grape, and red hot. I know this because I chanced upon an old postcard (above), which showed me these tasty products. The postcard cleverly includes a cup and plate, as if you could make a whole meal out of all this stuff.

Several things about this postcard intrigued me. For one thing, the Sky Rocket gumballs weren't even wrapped! Did you just reach into the box on the counter and pull out a gumball with your grubby paw? Also, notice the price — back in those days, you really could buy something for just one penny. And finally, as you can see, the company also produced bubblegum called "Sum-Mor." (As in: We want sum-mor, Mommy!")

All that gum must have kept local dentists busy, but Saymore didn't stay in business long at all. By 1965, Sam Myar was no longer listed in the old city directories. Shortly after that, I understand the facility was acquired by the DonRuss Company (the name forged from the two founders, Donald and Russel Wiener), which became one of this country's largest suppliers of those flat sheets of bubble gum that used to come with baseball cards. But that's a whole 'nother story.

I don't know what the DonRuss slogan was, but something tells me it didn't have quite the ring to it as "Say More!"

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and Inside Memphis Business. Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

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