If you spend a few moments fondly remembering the idyllic summers of your youth (real or imagined), chances are you'll recall at some point the


I Scream . . .

For the stuff you can still buy for a song.

If you spend a few moments fondly remembering the idyllic summers of your youth (real or imagined), chances are you'll recall at some point the tantalizing, melodic call of the good ol' ice cream truck. No other iconic symbol of summers past seems so universal—not summer camp, not even the swimmin' hole—no matter how old you are, no matter what socioeconomic stratum you happened to crawl out of (or into). Romanticizing childhood is nothing new, but for what-ever reason the ice cream truck's allure has largely weathered post-modern cynicism, increasingly isolated suburban life, even anti-ice-cream-truck legislation—inspired by annoyance over the trucks' sometimes jarring jingles and fears that the drivers might be Popsicle-peddling pedophiles. (Most of these laws were passed not on our coast, but in New York and New Jersey. Go figure.) Is it just that so many of us, across generational lines, share a common memory? When I hear my parents talk about summers spent at "the malt shop" (I'm not making this up), I can only pretend to know what they're talking about; of course, all I get from them is blank stares if I reminisce aloud about afternoons whiled away playing Mr. Do's Castle. ("Honey, wasn't Mr. Do that older man in the house next to the Petersons?") But we all remember the ice cream truck, and—just as with tales told by UFO abductees—the details always sound eerily similar. It's summer. Time has no meaning. You're cavorting with gusto, up to something or nothing as the case may be. Then it comes. On a breeze. A faint jingling—or a few muted, tinny notes, depending on your neighborhood. You and your pals exchange stunned looks, as if to say, "Could it be?" Action figures falter and fall; Frisbees drop to earth, lifeless; joysticks jerk back to center, released in midmaneuver. In the kid equivalent of Defcon One, all units are scrambled. First you race home to shake your parents down for change, then it's back onto the streets for the wild, parabolic sweeps necessary to home in on your target by sound alone. Maybe this is where the collective memory of the ice cream truck transcends mere nostalgia for a more carefree time. When we stand before the truck, panting breathlessly from our all-out run, coins clenched tightly in hand, we're making our own decision with our own money (well, sort of), a rare and cherished event for any kid. Do we buy the ice cream sandwich? Or is the Dreamsicle more to our liking? Or maybe we fancy ourselves more the Nutty Buddy type. (I can recall believing that I liked the loathsome Nutty Buddy well into my teens, just because it was my older sister's favorite.) Choosing becomes both self-definition and practice for adulthood, all in one crinkly wrapper. Or maybe our fascination with the ice cream truck is even simpler than that. The truck represents our first unfettered, unchaperoned access to an almost universally coveted food. For more than a few, ice cream can be a powerful drug, connected to primal, pre-verbal pathways in the brain. Long-distance company Working Assets long ago figured out that while we might yawn at a faceless $75 check from AT&T, a failed bribe to get us to switch companies, we'll drop our old carrier like a broken cone for a free pint of Ben and Jerry's every month. Whatever the roots of the ice cream truck's enduring hold on our summertime memories, the fact remains that the trucks still run and the melodies of these mobile muezzin still call the faithful. If you grew up in Seattle, you probably remember running after the Joe truck, a mail-delivery-style white Jeep with a big orange "Joe" emblazoned on each of its sides. In 1961, Jim McCoy bought a quirky-looking three-wheeled truck from a one-man ice-cream operation called Jolly Joe's. He decided to leave the orange "Joe" on the truck, and Joe Confections was born. Three-wheelers eventually gave way to the Jeeps—mostly '68 and '69 Kaiser Dispatcher DJ-5As, if you're keeping track—and the nowGood Humorsupplied fleet conquered what is today a 40-plus-route territory, spanning from Bellingham to North Bend to West Seattle. A handful of one-truck outfits operate sporadically here and there, but Joe remains the only organized show in town, with routes covering every park, beach, and neighborhood in the area. McCoy has since retired, and now his daughter and son-in-law, Linda and John Drake, lead the Joe troops from their Lake City command bunker. Old-school Seattleites, they run their family business with pioneer efficiency and affable politeness. You won't likely hear the East Coast concerns regarding ice cream trucks raised here anytime soon. Before anyone ever gets the keys to a Joe truck, they'll have undergone a criminal background check and received safety training. And if someone complains about the noise? "We make sure the driver turns their music down whenever they're near that home," says John Drake. But he laughs, saying that calls begging him to send out more trucks are far more common than complaints of any kind. And in what may be one of adulthood's better-kept secrets, the guy behind the wheel of the ice cream truck might be having even more fun than the kids chasing it down. Fred Francis, who drove a Joe truck around Mukilteo last summer, said, "My grandkids thought it was the best thing since Rin Tin Tin when granddad started driving an ice cream truck." Francis grew up in Bothell and remembers well listening for the Joe truck when he was a tyke. "Driving a Joe truck was a great experience. If you've got the desire and the opportunity, do it for a summer. You'll never forget it." What it's called What it is Price The good The bad Gut check Like a . . . Generic Orange Cream Bar Orange ice over vanilla ice cream $1.09 Icy outside, creamy inside Not up to the "Dreamsicle" Orange flavor isn't real Day hike—cheap and refreshing Good Humor "Choco Taco" Fudge-rippled vanilla ice cream folded in a sugar "taco" cone; peanut and chocolate topping $1.50 Tastes as good as it looks. Arriba! On the rich side Some may be unnerved by eating "taco" Night in Tijuana —not quite Mexico, but still fun Good Humor "Mega Warheads" Ice Pop Sour raspberry and black cherry ice with strawberry sherbet Shaped like a head on a stick, with supersour "Mega Warhead" candy as the mouth $1 Tastes as scary as it looks Causes abdominal cramping, anxiety Visit to Wild Waves—great for the kids, though hard to see why Arctic Ice Cream Bar Milk chocolate over vanilla ice cream $1.09 The kind you bought at the school cafeteria The kind you bought at the school cafeteria Artificial flavors! Daylong field trip—better than school, but really what you want to be doing? Good Humor Soft Caramel Magnum Ice Cream Bar Milk chocolate over vanilla ice cream $1.50 Comes dipped in chocolate, dipped in caramel, then dipped in chocolate again Nada Unparalleled smoothness Weekend at a four-star hotel . . . in heaven Generic Ice Cream Sandwich Vanilla ice cream sandwich $1.09 Graham-y chocolate still perfect with vanilla Ice cream is far from "premium" Universally palatable Family day at the public beach—good, honest, America Good Humor Giant Ice Cream Sandwich Vanilla ice cream sandwich $1.25 The classic in whopping 6-ounce form ("Now even bigger!") Larger size screws with delicate sandwich-to-ice-cream ratio Still a smooth operator Family day at a private beach—good, honest, even more American Good Humor "Smile" Bar Lemon sherbet and lemon-flavored ice shaped like a smiley face $1 ܢer-lemon taste appeals Smiley face kind of scary, lemony taste kind of harsh Too tart Day at a folk-music festival—maybe it's your thing, maybe it ain't H䡧en-Dazs Frozen Yogurt Bar Vanilla frozen yogurt coated with fruity sorbet $1.50 Exceptionally smooth, tasty, and fat free! It's fat free! No known side effects Day at the spa— almost too good to be good for you Ben and Jerry's Frozen Yogurt Bar Premium frozen yogurt covered by dark chocolate $1.99 What's not to like? Stout handle provides insufficient leverage (we're stretching here) Yogurt keeps it from being unbearably rich Motorbiking— fun, but never really healthy H䡧en-Dazs Ice Cream Bar Premium ice cream dipped in premium chocolate $1.99 Top-shelf ingredients can't be beat Stick-of-butter taste may inspire visit to cardiologist Very smooth, if a little rich—best to share one Weekend in Vegas—fab, if you can shake the feeling of doing something wrong Popsicle's "Zone" Cherry Collision Slush Cherry ice in a cup $1.50 Tasty like a Slush Puppy Sickly sweet like a Slush Puppy The world slows down Cruise-ship tour— not for everyone "The Big Bang" Popsicle Sour apple, bubble gum, and cherry ice with "fun popping candy" in base Scores high on the fun scale, color may scare off predators $1 Hard to fault it for what it is May require bed rest Week in rehab— frequent headaches and hallucinations

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow