THE ICE CREAM TRUCK TRIBUTE
by Bradley Mason Hamlin
In 1920, a man named Harry Burt invented a frozen treat called the Good Humor bar, a wedge of vanilla ice cream coated with chocolate, then frozen with a lollipop stick in the middle to act as a handle. Burt was also the guy that invented the first lollipop on a stick, so he had the sticks handy when his ice cream concoction became too sloppy to eat. Just freeze it up and you've got an ice cream bar.
In this case the invention turned out to be the now classic Good Humor bar. And in order to get this super-good new treat into the hands of Americans, Burt created a fleet of 12 chauffeur-driven trucks to hand deliver the ice cream bars. He even outfitted the trucks with bells so you could hear the "Good Humor men" coming down the street.
Of course, over the years, there have been many variations on this theme, many different types of ice cream trucks, many different types of frozen treats, but it all began with the visionary talents of Harry Burt. So, thanks, Harry. You definitely spawned an immortal concept and a timeless image of summer fun.
Chasing the ice cream truck.
When I thought of just that, hearing the crazy circus music of the white truck rolling into the neighborhood, running like mad for your stash of coins or immediately hitting up Mom or Dad for cool cash and the dash out into the street -- when I thought of all that -- my mind reeled back to 1976, the same year the Good Humor people retired all their trucks due to the increased market of direct sales to supermarkets, etcetera.
I believe that was the last year I actually bought a treat from an ice cream truck as a youth. If I'm not mistaken it was a "rocket pop," also known as a "missle pop" (not to be confused with the big orange pop of the same name) or as the new "bullet" from Breyers, basically a rocket pop is a red, white, and blue popsicle.
How American can you get?
However, they weren't Good Humor trucks in my neighborhood, just someone brave enough to roll into East Los Angeles with the frozen goods. You could get ice cream sandwiches, those orange popsicles with vanilla ice cream inside, or maybe just the classic Popsicle itself--another great American invention.
The first popsicle came into the world by accident when 11-year-old Frank Epperson left a cup of powdered soda, water, and a stirring stick on his back porch. During the night the concoction froze into tasty goodness. Frank later added flavor to the mix and invented the Episicle, which his children in typical kid's genius renamed "the Popsicle." Epperson applied for a patent in 1923 and the rest is fat cat history.
Note: The double stick popsicle was invented during the Great Depression to give kids more for their money. You could break the pop in two and share it with a buddy, and it only cost a nickel.
One other worthy mention here is the non-frozen treats you could get off the trucks. My favorite was Wacky Packages. Remember them, the funny advertisement paradies? Hell, they're worth a whole 'nother conversation. We'll catch up with Wacky Packages some other time.
Thanks for reading, and remember ... everybody loves a Popsicle.
"Ice Cream Truck Tribute" by Bradley Mason Hamlin © 2.26.07 Mystery Island Publications. Updated: 05.10.08.
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