As a kid on those summer days when the sun rose to its high point at noon and the stayed there until six at night here was one thing all of the kids on my street waited for. You have to picture a street oiled and sanded by the city trucks with the smell of used motor oil mixing with that undefinable smell of overgrown weeds that were rampant anywhere a developer hadn’t built a house. It was intoxicating. The street hadn’t been paved properly yet, so the oil and sand kept the dust down and gave city workers something to do with dump trucks that usually plowed snow. The neighborhood kids ran up and down the street ruing PF Keds and school shoes that had outlived their usefulness. There was no stickball or massive games of hopscotch. Just unbridled games of tag that ran over onto fresh lawns. All of the motion belied a waiting. Every kid was waiting for one man. He’d have jingle bells as a harbinger but he didn’t wear a red suit. He was dressed in an immaculate white suit driving a white Good Humor truck. On our street the Good Humor man showed after six because the more lucrative housing project was nearby with at least twenty kids at each stop. On the suburb streets there was maybe ten or eleven kids. It didn’t matter, we waited. One kid would hear the bells and then another and another until we were all digging in our pockets for change we’d scrounged through doing chores or ‘borrowed’ from our parent’s or sibling’s change. When the truck turned up the street we tried to figure where the driver would stop. Line precedence was important. The good stuff went quick. The treasured Toasted Almond treat was coveted but if you were at the end of the line your chances of ending up with a lame bi-flavored popsicle increased as every one of your friends stepped away from the truck peeling the paper wrapper off and biting into their treat.
It was thus for most of the summers. Until there was a different set of bells. Not with the same timbre as Good Humor. They sounded cheaper, a bit tinny. When the truck finally made an appearance on our street, we saw why. It was a jerry-rigged cooler on the back of a pick-up and the bells came via an electronic megaphone. This guy was cheaper than GH and the ice cream was the same brands that you could find in the supermarket. He wore jeans and a tee-shirt and usually had a cigarette in his mouth when he climbed out of the cab. He wasn’t patient. We were moved through the line and he was gone to the next street. The Good Humor man stopped coming and we were left to the mercies of somebody named Jimmy.
I told the above two stories to tell you two more.
I was in the military from 1967 to 1971. A good portion was spent in tech school. First in Mississippi and the in Illinois. I was stationed in Biloxi to study electronics but pneumonia and over-reaching on my part got me sent to Rantoul IL. One thing both places had in common was Pizza Pop. That was a guy who drove up to your barracks door in his car and yelled “Pizza Pop” as loud as he could. He’d near be run over by students who wanted a sixty cent pizza you wouldn’t eat drunk on Free Pizza Night at the sleaziest bar you could possibly imagine, and for me that don’t take too much effort. Wash this down with a soda pop so acidy that it ate your teeth if you let it stay in your mouth too long. I ate my share. It was a standard at both tech schools. The pizza, the soda, identical. The Pizza Pop guys? NCOs supplementing their government paycheck.
This story is in the present. I know when summer has arrived when that annoying ice cream truck with the “Happy Time” music playing on a loop. In might vary, but I doubt it. Some evil b*****d is franchising the whole thing and hopes to take over the world. It starts in May and ends near October and kids pester their parents so they could get an over-sugared iced treat. For parents it’s a tough choice; give up the dough and have a hyper kid to wrestle into bed or withhold the cash and be a cruel parent with a kid with DCS on speed dial.
Have a nice week. The apartment is redolent with the aroma of a primo batch of chili.