My wife and I were leaving our development here in Bradenton when we spotted a truck painted in a beautiful pastel purple. I thought it might be an ice cream truck making the lives of older people just a little bit brighter on a hot summer’s day.
It turned out to be a portable pet grooming service making a cocker spaniel’s day instead.
But it got me thinking of hot, August days many years ago when an ice cream truck was all you had to look forward to make your day playing curb ball or stickball just a little sweeter.
When I was a pre-teen, the ice cream was delivered to us by the Good Humor man who peddled a bicycle-powered cart while ringing bells announcing his arrival. It was the Leland Avenue equivalent of “Gentlemen Start Your Engines.”
Good Humor always had special ice cream bars. The Fourth Of July always had a red, white, and blue concoction to enhance your patriotic spirit. Then there was Strawberry Shortcake for no apparent reason, followed by Chocolate Eclair. My favorite was Coconut, or sometimes I would have a Toasted Almond just to shake it up a bit.
In the evening, the Bungalow Bar man would drive his truck down the street to pick up any of the stragglers who missed out on Good Humor earlier in the day. The truck was more interesting than the ice cream inside. The truck had the roof of a small house perched on top and a picket fence for the driver’s door. The ice cream? I forget. I know he had dixie cups and the like, but nothing truly memorable.
Then, of course, there was Mister Softee.
He was a newcomer complete with a head made out of an ice cream cone topped with soft serve vanilla. The ice cream was good and resembled Carvel Ice Cream, but Tom Carvel had no delivery vehicles, and the nearest Carvel was at least a mile away.
The only bad thing about Mister Softee was that damn jingle!
It was beautiful initially, but after the fifteenth time you heard it, you had enough, and you couldn’t wait for the truck and its ice cream to move on down the road.
Of course, our summers were filled with more than ice cream.
Despite the heat and the fact that baseball was still in season, playing football in the street took up most of our time. Just the smell of a good football was enough to forget about the heat for a while, realizing that fall and a nice cool down was on its way.
Perhaps the most unsettling thing about hot August afternoons was when you heard the Robert Hall commercial on the radio.
“School bells ringing, children singing, it’s back to Robert Hall again…”
Man, that was depressing!
But you couldn’t deny it. We would be going back to school before you knew it.
It was already getting darker earlier in the evening. I could smell the classroom and new books. They had that musty, haven’t been open in three months smell.
So, as I sit here longing for the sound of a bell or jingle announcing the coming of a summer treat, at least I won’t have to be going back to school in a couple of weeks.
But maybe I wouldn’t mind that either?