733.5 Higuera St.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Dog-Friendly: Yes Kid-Friendly: Yes
History: According to the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Business Improvement Association, the origin of the gum is “a little sketchy”. Some historians believe that the tradition of the alley started after WWII as a San Luis Obispo High School graduating class event. Others believe it started in the late 1950s, as rivalry between San Luis Obispo High School and California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) students.
By the 1970s, Bubblegum Alley was well established. When shop owners complained that it was “unsanitary and disgusting”, the alley underwent a full cleaning. The gum graffiti survived two full cleanings in the 1970s. In 1996, the BIA unsuccessfully attempted to have another alley cleaning.
Recognition: Bubble Gum Alley has had many notable features from television shows, news programs, and in newspapers around the world. Some of those features were from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, MTV, That’s Incredible!, Real People and on PBS.
In chapter seventeen of the novel Mr. Monk On the Road by Lee Goldberg, Bubblegum Alley is mentioned, described, and forms the setting for Monk’s discovery of a dead body. Bubblegum Alley is also mentioned throughout Megan McDonald’s book “Judy Moody: Around the World in 8 and a Half Days”.
“Weird Al” Yankovic name-checked Bubblegum Alley in his 1978 song “Take Me Down,” an ode to San Luis Obispo.
Professional artists: The Alley has inspired professional artists such as Matthew Hoffman. On the east end of the alley, up high on the north-facing wall, a giant self-portrait of Hoffman titled “Projectbubble Gum” is created entirely with bubble gum.
The picture of the artist blowing a bubble required a tremendous amount of gum, which he was able to get with the help of the community. His theory is, “if an individual participates in their community they will earn an invested interest in their community.
“Projectbubble Gum” is the largest piece in the Alley and is higher up than most to ensure its survival.
Personal Experience: This is a very short adventure, mainly for photographs I would imagine. This alley is in the heart of SLO’s (San Luis Obispo) downtown so there is plenty of shopping you can do. The Madonna Inn is 5 minutes away too so if you’re in the area make sure to scope it out!