Monday, June 9, 2014

Rant #1,223: Ice Cream

We finally had a decent weekend, really didn't have to rush around for anything, and my wife and I ended up in the backyard pool for a few hours yesterday afternoon.

We use an incredible radio when we go into the pool. This is a bathroom radio that I believe my mother got us around the time we were married 21 years ago.

We put in the batteries way back then, and listened to the radio when we swam outside.

We have never put in another pair of batteries since then.

Don't ask. I can't figure it out myself.

Sure the power is running down by now, and yesterday, we were just about able to pick up a local station where they were doing a lot of recollections about the past, and how kids were brought up in the 1950s and 1960s, interspersed with a lot of Italian pop music from the likes of Dean Martin and Jerry Vale.

And it got my mind and my wife's mind going about ice cream.

I mean, it was over 85 degrees yesterday, it is nearly the summer, and for former Queens kids like us, any conversation about the past has to include ice cream.

Ice cream was one of the lifebloods of our existence back in the mid to late 1960s. Playing in the park all day, when the ice cream truck rolled around, we were ready with our money, and the line was long to get this kids' delicacy from the truck into our waiting hands.

Ice cream trucks were probably even more important to generations ahead of us, because a lot of people didn't have refrigerators or freezers in their homes--think "The Honeymooners"--so back then, the ice cream truck probably almost signaled the coming of the messiah.

But for us 1960s city kids, the ice cream truck simply meant a cool break to what we were doing.

And for 25 cents yet.

Where I grew up, in Rochdale Village, South Jamaica, Queens, we had circles that the buildings were positioned in, and in our circle, the third section of the development, we often had three ice cream trucks there at the same time: Good Humor, Hood and Mister Softee, and there were long lines of kids at each one.

We even occasionally had one more venture into the neighborhood: Bungalow Bar. This ice cream was really the lowest of the low, to me at least, and there was even a jingle attached to this brand of ice cream:

"Bungalow Bar
The more you eat it
The sicker you are."

Anyway, I preferred Good Humor out of all of them. Their ice cream simply tasted better on a hot day than the others.

Frank was the Good Humor truck driver's name. He came around each summer, strode out of the truck in his white uniform--cap down to his sneakers--and stood there, reaching into the truck's freezer for ice cream. I loved Strawberry Shortcake, and really any pop was fine. My mother would not allow my sister or I to have ices, so it had to be ice cream.

Then it was about 1969, and Frank wasn't around anymore. Yes, Good Humor came around, but for some reason, this old 70-ish guy embellished the ice cream, and getting it from somebody else wasn't the same.

We later found out that Frank, our Good Humor ice cream man from 1964 to 1968 or so, every summer, had died.

And with that, our summer ice cream simply didn't taste the same anymore.

Sure, we still got it for the succeeding summers I lived there through 1971, but it just didn't have the same taste.

Who knows, maybe it was because I was getting older, and ice cream didn't have the same fascination to me as it once had.

But ice cream never tasted the same anymore to me.

This weekend, while shopping with my wife, I guess I had ice cream and Frank--we never knew his last name, to us his full name was Frank theGoodHumorIceCreamMan--on my mind, so to honor Frank and those days, I bought myself a box of Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake from the supermarket.

Yesterday evening, I had my ice cream, and I have to tell you, Frank's death still has something on me and ice cream.

It just didn't taste the same as it did when Frank doled it out to us.

So here's to Frank, my Good Humor ice cream man from more than 40 years ago.

I hope if he is reading this column from heaven--where else would a deceased Good Humor ice cream man go--he is getting a good laugh out of it.

And here is a song that has about as much to do with my ice cream experience as "House of the Rising Sun" does, but at least it shares its name with this summertime treat, and experience, that I will never, ever forget.


  1. See, this is where location makes a difference. I don't remember getting ice cream from a truck except when I visited my grandmother in Queens -- lots of trucks came through her neighborhood in Kew Gardens. Our big ice cream treat was driving over to Carvel's.

  2. We had a Carvel in the neighborhood, but honestly, we got our ice cream from the trucks. It is really an urban thing, at least during that time period. I just remember that dozens of kids would line up at each truck, and for a quarter, you had five minutes of cool fun. When it was gone it was gone, but the trucks were probably still there, doling out the ice cream. It is just one of the magical memories I have from all those years ago that I don't think that kids today can fully understand. And yes, when we lived in Kew Gardens Hills, among the first things I ever bought all by myself was ice cream from a truck.



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