Chewing Tar

So the other day whilst in my local tire shop waiting for a wheel alignment, there were two older gentlemen, most likely in their mid to late 60s. As a background I am a 20 year old college student. It was just the three of us in the waiting room. They were going on and on about how the “Good 'ol days” were far better than today’s. They were going on about only having 3 television channels, making scooters out of old wooden crates, etc. It went on and on. As I was reading a waiting room magazine, one of the older gentleman pulled me into the conversation by saying: “You won’t remember this, but when I was a kid we used to take a chunk of tar from a freshly paved road, and chew on it!” He continued, “It was the best thing to use to clean your teeth!” The other gentleman agreed. I looked up with a look of mild disgust. The man proceeded: “I’m friends with two retired dental hygienists and they said that chewing on fresh tar was better than anything else in the world to clean your teeth.” The other man agreed and stated, “Yup, but you could never do that these days, they changed the formula.” I shook my head and went back to reading my magazine. Shortly after, they were both called, their cars were finished.

So, is what they were saying true? I asked my father about it and he said they must’ve been joking (or crazy at the least). They seemed completely serious and both men agreed on the subject of tar chewing. I have never heard of this before! What are your thoughts?


My dad used to tell me that, growing up in Louisiana, his town was too poor to put in a basketball court. So when they wanted to play they had to stun about 50 alligators and lay them out in a rectangle over the mushy swamp. Then they’d stun 2 more, and stick them in the swamp tail first, prying open their jaws to serve as baskets. They’d know it was half time when an alligator would wake up and eat one of them.

Moral of the story: Old(er) people like to screw with you. Ignore them when they start spouting BS :wink:

I did, I wasn’t even paying half attention to them until he brought me into the conversation. It was quite fun listening to them though!

Those guys were pulling your leg. It’s an old trick to put BS into a legitimate conversation. I’m not quite that old but I can tell you that chewing gum was very cheap back then and was far preferable to chewing tar. If you drive through tar it usually takes some kind of solvent to get it off your vehicle.

There may be some truth to this (some), although I doubt that “everyone” did it.

They have changed the formula. That much is true. I don’t recommend anyone try this.

1 Like

Back In 29 A Guy Got “Loose Wits” From Breathing Noxious Tar Fumes And The AMA Warned Children Not To Chew Road Tar. My Father (at 9 years old) And Brothers Chewed Tar At About That Time.

Link to 1929 Time Magazine article:


It’s possible, although I’m sure it wouldn’t be especially healthy. Don’t confuse tar with asphalt containing aggregate stone-- you certainly couldn’t chew on that.

1 Like

I have previously read about people chewing tar many years ago, and I tend to think that the old gents were telling the truth.

However, the fact that they did this, and even the fact that they are still alive today, does not necessarily indicate that this was a healthy habit. Heck, it wasn’t that long ago that MDs thought that smoking was benign.

Just because someone did something “back in the good old days” and lived to tell about it, that does not mean that their actions were healthy or advisable.

1 Like

I’ll bet the practice is back far enough when your life expectancy was 50 years and who knew what shortened it. I’d be willing to guess that did.

You Mean Like Gargling With Kerosene ? That Was A Common Remedy At One Time, But Hey, Life Was Tough And What Didn’t Kill You Sometimes Actually Did Make You Stronger.

We played with mercury and ran with scissors. I made an ashtray as a Kindergarten Christmas gift project, we had no seatbelts or airbags in cars and I as A teen when I road morocycles nobody wore helmets. We thought nothing of it at the time.

Say what you will, as dangerous as everything was, there’s something to be said for living without all the government intervention, regulations, red tape, and a constant bombardment of doom and gloom stories from the news programs.



Yes, many of us played with mercury, ran with scissors, smoked, and rode motorcycles without benefit of head protection–and we survived.
We had no seatbelts or airbags, and yet we survived.
And, not everyone contracted polio prior to the advent of the vaccine.

However, those who died during their childhood or young adulthood are not here to tell us about their misadventures.

Also–I vividly recall the horrendously disfigured face of a young friend whose father’s car was in a relatively low-speed accident–without benefit of modern safety devices.

Do you advocate cutting out the seatbelts in your car?
Do you advocate disabling the airbags in your car?

The ultimate test for the safety of the foolhardy practices of yesteryear is…
Would you advise your children to do these things?

Probably right up there with drinking bacon grease.

Gargling with kerosene is amateur stuff. People used to drink uranium water:

1 Like

“Would you advise your children to do these things?”

Definitely No. My youngest child just turned 16.

Ignorance is bliss and I remember fondly those years of blis. Now one watches the TV news or reads the paper and finds that coffee is harmful to health. The next week it’s reported that coffee is good. The next week it’s bad, again. Then there’s red wine, tuna fish, chocolate, water, hand washing, . . .

Once you’re exposed to the information warning of life’s perils (right and wrong), things get more complicated and more worrisome.

I will say without hesitation though that after playing with mercury, living with asbestos in brakes and clutches, getting sunburned (OMG, no sunscreen), drinking excessive coffee, breathing car exhaust from no emissions restrictions on cars, leaded gas, nothing but unhealthful food, etcetera, I shouldn’t be here by now , according to the nightly news.

I am here and eating a much more healthful diet, and excercising religiously, buying cars that are safe, but chuckling and taking with a grain of salt all the latest scares pumped out by scare mongers. Young folks today have no idea unless we tell them.


If my dad was alive he’d be over 100…

When he started smoking (around 1918)…smoking was considered HEALTHY…

You don’t have to go as far back as 1918 to see that type of thinking.

My mother told the story of going to the family doctor, back in 1942, because she was feeling very nervous and jittery during her first pregnancy. The doctor suggested that she take up smoking in order to calm her nerves! During pregnancy!

During the same era, England’s King George VI was advised by his Royal Physicians that smoking would help his stuttering problem by “relaxing the vocal cords”. It is interesting to note that he died of lung cancer about 12 years later.

As late as the mid-'50s, I can vividly recall many magazine ads, picturing real MDs (not actors or models) endorsing various brands of cigarettes because they were milder than their competitors.

Clearly, medical science has evolved quite a bit over the past decades.

Speaking of smoking and cars, I know a guy who smokes, doesn’t exercise, eats poorly and wouldn’t think of missing an oil change in his car. Guess his plan to out live his car needs revising. Bet chewing tar would make sense to him as well.

I know a few people like that too…Keeps up with all maintenance on his cars…and house…Always wears $1000+ suits…

Smoker…morbidly obese (well over 300lbs)…over 50…And I seriously doubt he’ll see 60…He’s an avid golfer…but can’t walk the course…MUST ride…Just walking 1 hole almost killed him…But at least his car is in great shape (well maybe not the drivers seat)…and his house is beautiful condition.

awesome…quote shadowfax … :slight_smile: