Summer memories: The ice cream man.

While doing research for a video biography I unearthed a couple of photos of Good Humor trucks from years past. They really brought back happy memories for me. So with summer here I thought I’d share some of my sweet remembrances.

Pavlov could’ve been an ice cream man. That’s because the stimulus response he pioneered with bells and dogs worked its magic years later on me and the other kids in my neighborhood. Only we weren’t salivating over savory canine treats, but frosty ones in cones and cups and on sticks.

I remember a number of mobile vendors servicing my New Jersey neighborhood during the 1960s. We had a fix-it guy who’d drive around with a workshop on wheels. He’d repair household tools and sharpen knives – or anything with a blade. There was also a farmer who sold fresh produce out of his truck. It was a real roving farmer’s market; I can remember him stopping right by our corner so my mom could buy some corn-on-the-cob.

Of course, the real stars on wheels as far as the neighborhood kids were concerned were the ice cream and Italian ice guys and gals who materialized every summer. Good Humor, Mr. Softee, Carvel, Little Jimmy Italian Ices and Mama Rosa’s Italian Ices all competed for our nickels, dimes and quarters. You could hear them coming from blocks away, their approach announced by either ringing bells or canned music. In my mind I can still hear the rhythmic tinkling of the Good Humor bells and the tinkly, music box-like tune Mr. Softee played. The trucks were all different, too. You had the white Good Humor truck with the open cab and the freezer on the back. Mr. Softee offered soft ice cream in cones made on the spot and sold out of white vans. Carvel trucks were big and silvery, almost like an entire ice cream store on wheels. You could get a variety of soft ice cream, in addition to ice cream cakes, from them.

I was also a big Italian ice fan. I loved all the flavors, from basic lemon to bubble gum. One of my greatest treats, when I had a quarter to spend, was a freshly-scooped rainbow ice from Little Jimmy, featuring not one, not two, but three flavors of my choice. Truly icy heaven in a cup. Wow, I’m salivating just writing this.

Summer just wouldn’t have been the same without the sights, sounds and tastes offered up by the ice cream and Italian ice guys. I’ll never forget them. How about you?

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