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jo’s gum gallery

Airstreaming Joanne's Gum Gallery Quartzsite Arizona

 

When Airstreaming through any town I always check Roadside America, your one-stop source for offbeat attractions like Muffler Men, UFO and space alien-related tourist traps, and “world’s largest” balls of twine, fiberglass animals, etc. Weirdo Quartzsite has several listings, including Joanne Brunet’s Gum Gallery.

“Oh my god,” I said, when Joanne unlocked the door. “This is amazing.”

“It IS amazing!” she chirped. (I love people who love their things.) “My sister actually started it, back in the 1940s, then she grew up and got married and went oversees and I inherited it. We’ve been here twenty years now.” 

“Here” is a little pink shed at the end of a gravel driveway out behind her house on a residential side street. If it’s a pop culture celebrity or sports star or a sexy joke or a superhero or a comic book character or a political candidate, there’s an associated gum wrapper, and Joanne has them all neatly arranged. (“People don’t realize all the competition with gum,” she mused.)

Since a couple of newspaper and magazine articles were published about the Gallery, gum from around the US and the world has been steadily making its way to Joanne—recently, “four cases of gum people have found, oh my, it’s wonderful,” she laughed.

The gallery is organized by year; start your self guided visit on the left to view the oldest gum first. Except for the most ancient factory-produced examples—from 1914!—actual gum is still inside the wrappers and packaging. On the far wall are Jo’s international selections. Handmade notebooks here and there explain how gum is made. An instructive little laminated poster tells the story of gum from the time ancient Greeks chewed mastiche, a tree resin, to 1985 when Susan Montgomery Williams blew the world-record sized bubble (22 inches). The “man cave” next door, now locked and unused, belonged to her late husband. “He supported me here,” Joanne said. “He made all the cases.” Now her son pitches in.

The traveling version of the collection has been on display at various random locations across the country, including the post office in Death Valley. 

When you get to Quartzsite, give Joanne a call: 928.916.0905. Hopefully she’ll be home. “Some people are excited and say the gum reminds them of their childhood,” she said. “Others are reluctant; ‘oh, ok, I’ll go’. But they always end up enjoying it! I love it when people take the time to stop.” 

You’ll receive a little parting gift: a souvenir refrigerator magnet depicting a highway map of Arizona and a knockoff Warner Bros. Road Runner blowing a pink bubble. Why you don’t get a stick of gum instead eludes me.

 

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