Feature Stories

Remembering the Ice Cream Truck

Remember when it was just the Good Humor® truck? It would come pling, pling, plinging down the street and every kid on the block would run screaming, “It’s the ice cream man! It’s the ice cream man!” He’d stop without completely pulling over to the curb, walk around to the side of the truck and open that small square door to fish out the requested treat. Don’t even think there was a menu back then. There were only three or four flavors and every child in the neighborhood knew them by heart. Those pling, pling, plings were the most beautiful sounds of summer.

Then came the generic ice cream trucks. They were bigger and offered a wider menu that was painted on the truck’s side. They had candy and snow cones in addition to more flavors of ice cream. In place of the ice cream man dressed in his white shirt and pants, there was often an older teenager who didn’t even get out of the truck. He just walked into the back and handed things down out a side window.  Gone too was the plinging. Instead it played tinkling bits of recognizable songs, like It’s a Small World After All, incessantly. Still the kids came shouting, but it was “It’s the ice cream truck! It’s the ice cream truck!”

Then we grew up and somewhere along the way the sound of ice cream trucks was declared a suburban nuisance and all but disappeared. Except in Barre, Vermont, where I was surprised to hear It’s a Small World After All playing in the distance the summer we moved here. Of course, there was first that annoyed reaction one has to that over-played tune. Then, from deep within my old soul, came the excited joy as I thought, “It’s the ice cream truck!  It’s the ice cream truck!” At that point, I knew we had better ice cream in the fridge. Over the years I’d sampled old favorite brands when I found them at gas station convenience stores; they just didn’t taste as good to a grown up.

The distant tinkling stayed distant. Our dead-end street had no children. Clearly the ice cream truck person must have known.  All summer long, for 6 summers, the sound would come closer and closer before passing our street by and drifting off into the distance. My wife would find me looking out the front window and down our street to where I could see the truck pass by our corner without turning. In spite of knowing I didn’t like those ice creams anymore, I promised myself that if he ever came up our street, I was going to get an ice cream.

Then on my seventy-first birthday, the ice cream truck actually came up our street. (Kids had moved into the house across the street the last fall.) My heart leapt. What a great birthday surprise! I raced upstairs, grabbed my wallet, ran down the stairs and out the front door. As the truck drove down past our house, I waved frantically. The young person driving looked over, smiled, waved back, and drove down the street without hesitating. I went back inside and had another piece of birthday cake with extra icing.

Scott Funk lives, works, and writes (and gardens) in Vermont.  His Boomer Funk columns are available at VermontFunk.com, as are his blogs and archived Aging in Place columns.

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