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The Ice Cream Man Cometh Not

November 17, 2017

The Ice Cream Man Cometh Not (with apologies to Eugene O’Neill).

I’m hoping that someone besides me remembers the ice cream trucks from the 1950’s and 1960’s. They are a delightful piece of Americana that has completely disappeared.

When I was a child (no it wasn’t in the Triassic Era), we had ice cream trucks that drove up and down the streets of rural America peddling ice cream to waiting throngs of children. Sometimes even the adults patiently awaited the truck’s arrival. These trucks had bells that alerted the public to their arrival from a block away. Their timetable was so regular that you could set a watch by them. Occasionally you would be lucky enough to buy an ice cream bar that had a free stick in the middle of it. That entitled you to a free ice cream bar. The gimmick was so effective that I remember buying bars by the dozen just to get a free one. In my part of the country, California, those trucks were predominately those of the Good Humor Man. Here is a brief history from their site

1920 Our delicious history started in 1920 in Youngstown, Ohio, when confectioner Harry Burt created a chocolate coating compatible with ice cream. His daughter was the first to try it. Her verdict? It tasted great, but was too messy to eat. Burt’s son suggested freezing the sticks used for their Jolly Boy Suckers (Burt’s earlier invention) into the ice cream to make a handle and things took off from there. The Good Humor name came from the belief that a person’s “humor”, or temperament, was related to the humor of the palate (a.k.a., your “sense of taste”). And we still believe in great-tasting, quality products. Soon after the Good Humor bar was created, Burt outfitted a fleet of twelve street vending trucks with freezers and bells from which to sell his creation. The first set of bells came from his son’s bobsled. Good Humor bars have since been sold out of everything from tricycles to push carts to trucks.

1923 After waiting three years for a patent, Burt took a trip to Washington, D.C., in 1923 with a five-gallon pail of Good Humor bars for the patent officials to sample. It worked – his patent was granted.

1929 A Good Humor plant opened in Chicago in 1929. The mob demanded $5,000 in protection money (that would be almost $70,000 today), which was refused, so they destroyed part of the Chicago fleet.

1933 During the Great Depression, Good Humor introduced a bar for 5¢ – half the price of a normal bar.

1936 In the early days, Good Humor men were required to tip their hats to ladies and salute gentlemen. It took three days of training and orientation to become a Good Humor Man.

1976 Good Humor sold its fleet of vehicles in 1976 to focus on selling in grocery stores. Some of the trucks were purchased by ice cream distributors and others were sold to individuals. The trucks sold for $1,000 – $3,000 each.

That’s the brief history of the Good Humor Man. The company and their local competitors were such an integral part of America that there was even a sappy little song I was required to learn in school. It went somethings like this:

Here comes the ice cream man.
His truck is spic and span.
He rings his bell
So you can tell
Here comes the ice cream man.

Flash forward to today’s streets which are now devoid of fun. Schlepping into a local market to buy frozen yuppie yogurt in 80 flavors just isn’t the same thing. The Ice Cream Man cometh not and that’s a shame.

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  1. KiM permalink

    I don’t recall an ice cream truck ever coming down a childhood street. However, as I impatiently waited for my car to be serviced at a local dealership an ice cream truck’s ring sounded and most of the mechanics stopped working and went to get ice cream. I should’ve joined them… my car was going to take as long as it took anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You may be too young. These trucks prowled the streets of urban America during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Dinosaurs like me remember them well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice imagery, Allen, as usual!
    As a kid living in the projects in Brooklyn, the daily appearance of Johnny the Ice Cream Man was one of the few bright spots in our everyday life. Johnny drove a three wheeled bicycle/freezer and wore a white uniform and a white hat. He was from Greece, and he barely spoke English. We all do things in our lives that we wish we could undo, and something I did over 60 years ago haunts me to this day. Johnny had boxes of chocolate wafers tied to the top of his cart with string. One day, for no good reason, I thought it would be funny to break the string. So I did – and all the crunchy chocolate wafers, intended to make ice cream sandwiches, tumbled to the ground, breaking into a gazillion pieces. I thought it was hilarious! But soon the ugliness of what I had done sank into my juvenile brain, and I’ve been haunted by it ever since. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I still see ice cream trucks around. Don’t think they have the variety they used to, but they are still in some neighborhoods.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. No gelato trucks either?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on allenrizzi and commented:

    🎵Here comes the ice cream man🎵


  6. We still have an ice cream man here in the New Jersey suburbs, Allen. Though his regularity leaves something to be desired.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Steve Sawyer permalink

    I remember the eis mann used to come to the American housing area in Germany. My 4 small kids would beg me for money and run out there. I told her I had some german money on the kitchen counter. I decided to go out and get me a cone so came out just as my oldest daughter was treating the whole neighborhood. That was in 1981 and the cones were tiny.

    Liked by 1 person

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