Where Have All the Ice Cream Trucks Gone?

It’s 2 p.m. and my parents kick my sister and me out of the house.

“Go play outside like normal kids,” they say. Erica and I sit in the driveway, coloring with chalk — always avoiding physical exertion, even outdoors. But a faint jingly song has us running for the front door.

“Please, let us back in!” we shout. “The ice cream truck is coming, can we have three dollars?”

If mom answers the door, bargaining is in store (we dread actually doing chores) but eventually we get the money.

The real challenge is getting to the truck in time: Sometimes my sister flags down the driver, buying us a few minutes to grab some dollar bills. Occasionally, my dad races outside, heroically trying to catch the speeding ice cream truck. Why do they go so fast? Nothing was worse than missing out on a Choco Taco.

In retrospect, I think that near tear-inducing sadness was something deeper than a child denied undeserved ice cream. It was the disappointment of having something within reach, and then denied for no good reason. It was foreshadowing for real life disappointments, of which I’ve admittedly experienced few. But it was memorable, and so were our ice cream truck successes.

Now when I go home, I never hear the sound of the ice cream trucks’ song. In elementary school, our Florida suburb hosted at least two trucks; now, the neighborhood is devoid of any ice cream truck music.

Instead, the childhood thrill I got from unexpected ice cream has been replaced with kids who are Frappuccino fanatics. Five minutes waiting for my own drink, and two mothers sloshing lattes treat their kids to Vanilla Bean confections.

It makes sense of course: Ten years, ago my forward-looking elementary school friends enjoyed the occasional Frappuccino. A parent who treks to the local coffee place with kids in tow will naturally let them in on this lifestyle staple. Some might complain that this new habit is a ridiculous use of money, unhealthy for kids, or snobbier than the old ice cream trucks.

That all may be true, but I think the real loss is that of surprise: The spontaneous possibility of a treat, the clamoring to actually get it, all the emotions entwined with a ridiculous $1.50 snack. Maybe those a decade younger than me will soon reminisce about their family Starbucks experiences, but I wouldn’t trade my sugary memories for theirs.

 

Jacqueline Drayer still loves ice cream and hates physical exertion. This bodes well for her future health and appearance. Photo: State Library of Victoria

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21 Comments / Post A Comment

lrodrigue (#1,315)

ice cream trucks are alive and well in bed-stuy, brooklyn. except they only go around at like 10:30 pm which isn’t the horrifying intro to a GooseBumps episode at all not at all

@lrodrigue My old neighborhood in Bushwick, too! And it came every 5 minutes or so. So if you miss the truck the first time, you are in luck, good sir, because it’ll be back every 5 minutes through the dead of night, again and again until we are all 10,000 years old.

cherrispryte (#19)

Yeah I was on Long Island last weekend and saw multiple ice cream trucks.
Also! Traumatizing story time! (Okay not really.) Growing up, the ice cream truck in my neighborhood clearly had an established route and time, and this involved passing by my house sometime around 9 pm, sometimes later. My father went to be incredibly early, so every year, after the second or third time the truck went by, he’d run out into the middle of the street and yell at the poor driver. One year he went so far as to go to the village hall and print out some applicable laws (music apparently can’t legally be played for promotional purposes, according to some weird zoning rule?) and harassed the driver while waving said pieces of paper.
So the ice cream truck drivers would shift their routes so they completely avoided my house.
This was MORTIFYING, and also, a shitty move by my father. Call up the headquarters and bitch at them, not at the kid driving the truck. So perhaps he is to blame for the lack of ice cream trucks?

breakfast (#633)

The ice cream trucks still come around my neighborhood in Baltimore. At the end of the song loop a scratcy recorded voice goes ‘hello-o’. So when they go by its ‘hello-o’ every three minutes. They used to just park halfway down the block, which drove me crazy because of ‘Hello-o’ until 10 pm.

OhMarie (#299)

@breakfast Ah, I was coming down to post the same thing! It’s way worse than anything I remember from my childhood. I’m in Annapolis, but I can’t imagine that the “hello” is some kind of Maryland invention.

allaswan (#578)

@breakfast Woahh, there’s a “hello-0″ truck in my neighborhood in Chicago, too!

Also there is one that plays Christmas songs.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@breakfast Do you live in Waverly or Better Waverly, perhaps?

(#1,428)

@breakfast I live in DC and we have two of those hello-o ice cream trucks in our neighborhood. They come by rain or shine, all year round, at any time of the day or night. Also, one of them plays the Theme from Love Story. My boyfriend and I are convinced they are a front for selling drugs.

breakfast (#633)

@MuffyStJohn nope. My ice cream truck experiences are Hampden and Greenmount West.

t-square (#1,401)

@allaswan Also in downtown Atlanta! And it goes by at 10:30 pm, too. We think it’s actually a meth truck.

AnnieNilsson (#406)

In Highland Park Los Angeles, where I lived six years ago, there were so many ice cream trucks cruising at all hours that you’d often walk through a musical vortex where you could hear one playing Camptown Races, another blasting Turkey in the Straw and another playing It’s A Small World After All, and mixed together that is some far out shit. They also did the super creepy “Hello-o!” thing, so maybe they all get their soundtracks from some central location?

e (#734)

@AnnieNilsson Mine plays christmas songs. It sits across the street on Sunday nights playing Rudolph. Also in LA we have the ice cream man! (He doesn’t have a truck, just a a hand pushed cooler with hand played bells.) I think there are more ice cream trucks now than I ever saw in my youth.

I miss the Dells Lemonade out here a lot more.

I, too, thought all the ice cream trucks were gone. That is until a Mr. Softee drove down the street I work, which I thought was very odd since the only thing on my street are warehouses and body shops. I did buy a milkshake though, so maybe Mr. Softee’s route makes sense after all.

Megano! (#124)

Here they don’t do the suburbs as much, but you can usually find them downtown anytime there is a festival going on. I know this because one almost hit me when I was trying to cross Dundas Square on Caribana weekend.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

They’re alive and well in the hood. In my old spot in Baltimore, there was a bevy of ice cream trucks as well as a cigarette truck disguised as an ice cream truck. The neighborhood kids loved them! All of them. Even the smokemobile.

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

The ice-cream truck comes here every evening during the summer. Is the disappearance of ice-cream trucks really a thing? Maybe it’s just your neighborhood?

selenana (#673)

We had (and still have) an ice cream bike in our little Oregon town, always driven by some different hippie sucker, including at least a few of my friends. When I was a little kid in Texas and Wyoming ice cream trucks came by on the regular.

I used to hear an ice cream truck in my Maryland neighborhood once in a while, but as I lived at the bottom of a long hill and was forbidden spending money, sweet treats, or access to the world outside the house, I sighingly dismissed the Ice Cream Truck as yet another blissful childhood cliche I would be missing out on. Until my mom randomly became friends with the lady that drove the truck. Then that sh*t was HOOKED UP.

Life lesson, y’all.

Whaat? There are at least 3 distinct ice cream trucks that drive around my neighborhood. I’m pretty sure they’re also dealing drugs, but they look to be stocked with ice cream too!

The same in Scotland. You see the odd one, but now when you do, you realise how creepy the tunes they play are.

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