Gut Rumbles

June 01, 2006

the ice cream truck

One of the most consistently exciting, heart-pounding experiences of my youth came when my friends and I heard the sound of the ice cream truck tooling through my neighborhood. It had big loudspeakers mounted on top, from which issued a tinkly, static-plagued version of "London Bridge (is falling down!)" to alert "The Children" of its presence.

When we heard that sound, we dropped whatever we were doing, shot home to shake a dime out of the trusty piggy bank, then ran barefoot down the street in hot pursuit of the truck. It was piloted by a cranky old man named "Shorty" and I don't believe that he liked kids at ALL, the bastid.

He would SEE us coming, yelling and waving frantically, and he just kept going, purely to make us suffer. Sometimes, we chased him for BLOCKS before he finally pulled over and stopped. Then, he acted as if he were doing us all a BIG favor by selling us ice cream.

Looking back now, I think that "Shorty" maybe had this problem. The old bastid was as surly as a mongrel dog and just downright mean to kids. The Ice Cream Man ain't supposed to be that way, but Shorty WAS.

But we still wanted the goods he carried, and we all were fascinated by the coin-dispenser that he wore on his belt. You remember those, don't you? That thing-a-ma-jig that had cylinders for pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, with a button on top of each cylinder, much like the keys on a trumpet. Shorty made change by pushing those buttons and having coins shoot out the bottom of the device. It was really cool.

Ice cream trucks don't come where I live now. In fact, I haven't even SEEN one in years. Do they still operate? Are they still piloted by malevolent assholes like Shorty? Do they still play that horrible, static-plagued music over big loudspeakers on the truck? Do excited kids still chase them down the street SOMEWHERE in this country?

Did ice cream trucks go the way of the drive-in movie and just fade away to extinction? Or do they still operate in the inner city--- selling crack cocaine as their "snow" cones and dealing joints instead of popcicles? Maybe instead of becoming extinct, ice cream trucks EVOLVED to fit a new market.

I don't know, because I haven't seen an ice cream truck for a long, long time now. If kids today never have the chance to chase one, they're missing a memorable experience in life. I WISH that I could chase one today.

What a sight that would be: a decrepit old Cracker, hobbling down the street and yelling at the ice cream truck to STOP!!! Heh. Chances are that a good, drunk-driving ice cream man would turn around and run OVER me, for the good of humanity.

Maybe it's a nostalgia thing, imbedded deep in my psyche, but the Mexican popcicles I buy in the grocery store today don't taste NEARLY as good as the popcicles I remember buying off the ice cream truck when I was a kid.

Maybe part of that goodness was the thrill of the chase when I was young. Now, if I'm expected to chase ANYTHING, I don't, because I don't want it THAT much. Growing old sucks.

And if we don't have ice cream trucks anymore, well... that sucks, too.


Our neighborhood gets two ice cream truckes per night. One of them, Uncle Ron, blasts "Home On The Range" (why?) over the loud speakers and, um, I can't remember the other tune. And the kids DO still chase them down. We tell my son that when the music is playing it means they're out of ice cream. He's 12. He doesn't believe us.

Posted by: Ronda on June 1, 2006 12:15 PM

Not only do I remember the little coin changer thing he wore on his belt, but I recall he had to get OUT of his truck, and open up little individual doors (depending on what kind of ice cream you wanted) AND he wore a white uniform!

Posted by: Ruth on June 1, 2006 12:22 PM

Shit, when I was a young boy, the ice cream man pushed a small cart down our streets, no truck, no music and cooled everything with hot ice. Almost everything was a nickel, except nutty buddies and ice cream sandwiches and they would choke a horse they were so damn big.

Posted by: Catfish on June 1, 2006 12:27 PM

Red, White & Blue Bomb Pop for me, Please!

Posted by: andy on June 1, 2006 12:35 PM

We still have one that comes through Hopkins, MN on occasion but this particular one doesn't play any music. He has bell that sounds like the old bicycle bells but quite a bit louder. This one happens to be driven by a character that our daughter thinks is Osama bin Laden so she won't buy anything from him. Another sign of the changing times I guess. Shorty may have been an asshole but at least the kids didn't think they were funding terrorists by buying from him!

Posted by: Noodles on June 1, 2006 12:38 PM

We still see them here in Central PA, but it will now set you back $2!

Posted by: PyroJake on June 1, 2006 12:44 PM

Yep, ice cream trucks here in rural Texas; however, they are now manned mostly by Hispanic families, much like the roach coaches located at construction sites.

Posted by: Surfie on June 1, 2006 12:46 PM

The Icecream man is alive and well here in NJ. He comes down my street at least twice a night. Come to think of it, I have not seen him in a few days. The kids all still run to him. My son can't have icecream, so I don't have to run to see the guy. LOL

Posted by: Lisa on June 1, 2006 12:52 PM

We still have ice cream trucks in my home town in Ohio. They don't sell the soft serve ice cream like they did when I was a youngster. They play "It's a small world after all" at deafening volumes. We also still have a drive in theater. There is traffic backed up for over a mile 3 hours before the movies are to begin on Weekend nights.

Posted by: Cedubya on June 1, 2006 01:06 PM

One summer during my college years, I drove an Ice Cream Truck. Yes: Elisson was the Good Humor Man.

Long hours, miniscule pay...but what an experience.

Posted by: Elisson on June 1, 2006 01:31 PM

Yeah, I remember ice cream trucks, too. We had two visit my neighborhood regularly. One was white; the other yellow. I recall the yellow one having a "Frenches'" logo, and it had the better ice cream in both taste and selection. One hot July afternoon in Tucker, when I was about ten, a friend and I were bored. So we decided to awaken the neighborhood kids from their heat induced stupor. What did we do? We ran up and down the street screaming "Ice cream man! Ice cream man." Kids came rolling out of their houses only to find that there was no ice cream man in the neighborhood at that time. I think he came later that day. I guess I lost some credibility with the kids, but it was worth it. In retrospect, it was hilarious.

Posted by: Pensat on June 1, 2006 01:55 PM

We had Ice cream men on bikes. Mostly boys to be correct - the 'Dickie Dee' boys. The premier of my province was once a Dickie Dee driver...too funny

Posted by: Lisa on June 1, 2006 02:00 PM

I saw that story on the local news last night. Obviously we still have ice cream trucks. But smart parents cringe when they hear them coming, not because they're waiting for the kids to mob them for money for ice cream, like in the days of my youth, but because they're mostly operated by predators and drunks.

Posted by: Jane on June 1, 2006 02:06 PM

The neighborhood my kids were living in near Quantico a year ago had one that came through every afternoon while I was out there in January -- played this music that sounded like a Chinese children's choir on crack -- very bizzare!

Posted by: Marianne on June 1, 2006 02:25 PM

We still have them here; most of them I see are being driven by someone who resembles Apu on The Simpson's, and doesn't speak English as well as Apu does.

Posted by: BobG on June 1, 2006 02:35 PM


Posted by: Tessa on June 1, 2006 02:44 PM

Ice cream trucks here in the San Francisco Bay Area all seem to play the same mind-numbingly annoying version of "Pop Goes the Weasel," done on a xylophone, I think. It's a recording made at about 120 beats per minute, and the most annoying aspect is that they NEVER PLAY THE "Pop Goes the Weasel" part!!!! It's just "da dah, da dah, da da dee da dah; da dah, da dah, da da dee da dah," over and over and over, with NO RELEASE. AAAUGGH!

Consequently, I hate it when the damn things drive through the neighborhood.

Posted by: David on June 1, 2006 03:02 PM

We still have ice cream trucks and ice cream carts here in Tucson--far too many trucks for my liking, due to the scratchy blasting of "Popeye the sailor man" and other such banal tunes from their speakers.

It used to bother me more, now I mostly tune them out like I tune out the A-10's and other assorted military aircraft that fly low over my house.

I kinda feel sorry for the ice cream *cart* vendors. They're staffed mostly by Mexican nationals with a city franchise, but pushing a couple hundred pound cart through the scorching streets of Tucson can't be a great way for anyone to make a living.

Posted by: Desert Cat on June 1, 2006 03:22 PM

In Richmond CA, we have an ice cream man that roams the neighborhood in a beat up van. You can hear the music blaring for blocks. But but by the look of his ensemble, you would not want to have your kids chasing after him for ice cream without some adult supervision! Our kids have long given up on him because they think he's kinda creepy.

It would be interesting to know if he gets much business.

Posted by: DogsDontPurr on June 1, 2006 04:24 PM

Oh yeah, they're still around.
And, the music they play still sounds like the soundtrack of a Hitchcock movie.
Creeps me right out...

Only way I'd ever drive one of those things is if I could pick my own music and "Helter Skelter" has always been at the top of that list. And, if that ever got monotonous, there'd be some Ozzy Osbourne, G-n-R (Welcome to the Jungle, among others) and a lot of AC/DC, the more raucous, the better.

Of course, I'd be a "Jack-Nicholson-starring-in-The-Shining" kinda driver.... *weg*
Having to do that for a job would drive me to it in no time, decent rock-n-roll or not...

Posted by: Stevie on June 1, 2006 05:05 PM

"but pushing a couple hundred pound cart through the scorching streets of Tucson can't be a great way for anyone to make a living."

Well, it's a job no American would do....

Posted by: ScottG on June 1, 2006 05:08 PM

Yes, we still have the ice cream man. The same music, the same truck but it's usually some illegal Mexican who speaks no english driving.

Posted by: Sam on June 1, 2006 06:02 PM

David, I'm not sure why that cracked me the hell up. Poor fella!, waiting for the POP! Would drive me insane too.

We still have an ice cream man too, sounds like everyone else's, mexican or arab, can't speak english except to say 3 dolla.

The only person I loved more than the ice cream man was the "Damian" man. Were we the only oneds who had those? To this day, I'd kill for a lemon Damian with real lemons in it. YUM!

Posted by: Dawn on June 1, 2006 06:16 PM

We used to have three different guys that came. Mr. Softee, he had a pretty good song. I loved me a chocolate dip, chocolate cone. The Good Humor guy just had bells as far as I remember and then there was a guy on a white three wheeled motorcyle kind of thing. The freezer part was in the back. He didn't have much of a selection but the popiscles were cheap. I forget the name of that one. Maybe it was just a local franchise.

I always thought it looked like a fun job.

Posted by: Libby on June 1, 2006 06:40 PM

We get two a different ones that make the rounds of our neighborhood at least once a day, sometimes twice. Once early afternoon and then again early evening.

I'd like to wave one down for some icecream too, but. Not good for me.

Fortunately, the trucks move on fast enough that I can't talk myself out of being good.

Sometimes, I wish one would get a flat tire right in front of my house.

I want icecream.

Posted by: Nancy on June 1, 2006 08:06 PM

We have Ice Cream trucks down here in Palm Beach County. The people driving them don't speak english. They sell more crack than they sell ice cream. They play gotdam La Cucracha so loud that your windows rattle in your house. When they send all the illegals home (I can wish can't I?) we will have a large fleet of Ice Cream trucks available down here and a big shortage of crack. The kids with good sense in my neighborhood throw rocks at the Ice Cream truck and tell the driver to shove an ice cream up their ass.

Posted by: assrot on June 1, 2006 11:25 PM

"Well, it's a job no American would do...."

**snork!** Ha! At least they're here legally.

I think about that though. See if this guy would ditch his ice cream cart and join a roofing crew, he'd probably quadruple his daily take, albeit illegally.

Posted by: Desert Cat on June 1, 2006 11:37 PM

Yep, still do in San Jose CA. A converted postal service truck comes thru blaring some stupid electronic jingle that drives one nuts driven by what I think is an east indian complete with a turban. And a cart or two comes thru pushed by hispanics, with the little row of bells on the handle.

Posted by: Norm on June 2, 2006 01:05 AM

The real "Good Humor" trucks used to have a row of bells that the driver manually jingled as he drove along. Those were the big trucks that they driver had to get out of and reach inside individual doors into the interior of the refrigerated compartment on the back, to fish out your icy treats out of boxes inside the fridge.

Now we have the predictable 15 year old beater truck with the window that the guy sits behind. The hispanic guy. poquito anglais. Much of the time, he pokes his head outside to see what you're pointing at on his menu board.

Posted by: Patrick on June 2, 2006 09:33 AM

We still have the ice cream guy here in Queens, NY but he sits there close to the park about 2-4 PM every afternoon when it's nice out. We also have a guy who pushes a cart with Italian Ices (4 different flavors) along teh sidewalk beside the park.

They got an ordinance that you can't play the music up before the local council here which should really get rid of the noise problems/snarky comment/. some of the parents are complaining because the music makes their kids want ice cream and they think that making the guy stop playiing the music will make the kids not want the ice cream. Did I tell you how much I hate the city of NY/state of NY/blue states in general? Nanny is alive and well and living here where I do.

Posted by: dick on June 3, 2006 02:40 PM
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