Blast from the past: A tradition of Ewwwww

In April 2008, as a part a family vacation to San Luis Obispo, we visited the city’s famed Bubble Gum Alley. My wife graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo (Go Mustangs!), so she knew of this bizarre little attraction. Located off Higuera Street near Broad Street in downtown San Luis Obispo, the alley is about 100 feet long. As its name suggests it’s covered with little bits of chewed bubble gum. No one really knows how the tradition started, but from the ground up to about 7 or 8 feet high (or about the reach of an average human), dots of gum of every hue are stuck to the brick walls. Some people have even spelled out words with the stretchy, sticky stuff.

Over the years the elements have weathered the older pieces, making the newer ones stand out (especially the brighter colored ones). The gum was so concentrated in some places that the brick of the walls could no longer be seen.


9-year-old Tyler McKibben of Pismo Beach, tentatively sticks a wad of chewing gum on a wall of Bubblegum Alley off of Higuera Street near Broad street in downtown San Luis Obispo


As we were looking, a woman with her 9-year-old son came up to leave their mark on the walls. As she urged him on, he timidly reached out and stuck a piece of gum atop generations of older ones. They left, and it seemed that his mom was confident that a tradition, no matter how gross, was passed on to the next generation.

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