Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hunting the Ice Cream Man

This past week's New York Times Dining section contained a story about the apparent havoc the ice cream man has been creating in NYC parks. Parents of young children are now trying to blame that familiar ice cream truck tune for screaming, begging and crazed children.

The ice cream man evokes wonderful memories, symbolically marking the end of the school year and the start of summer. What would summertime be without crowds of children running down the street, yelling at the top of their lungs, chasing the ice cream truck?

The ice cream man tradition traces its roots back to the 1820s, with more frequent occurrences in the later 1800's. Today, ice cream men can be found around the world, serving pre-packaged fun bars, hard ice cream and soft serve. Mr. Softee was founded in 1956 and is now even located in the Far East. Most people will recognize the famous Mr. Softee jingle, even if they don't realize it has lyrics.

Yes, it is true that in recent years, the ice cream man has taken on a new, grimier image in some locations: of sweaty and fat old men, working away serving bacteria-infested soft serve.

However, new images of the classic ice cream man can be found in Tacoma, Washington. That’s where Joel Semanko, who owns an ice cream vendor business, Cool Cycles, can be found with his Harley and sidecar and dressed in traditional ice cream shop attire.

Apparently, going to the park has become a hassle for some people because children scream and yell for the ice cream man. This has led parents to complain that sweets have caused children to become addicted to the sound of the ice cream man. The consensus is the best way to combat these problems is to dismiss the ice cream man from service. But, while ice cream vendors could consider moving on, I don’t believe they’ve done any harm.

From the NYT article:

"New York City principals received letters from the advocacy group Asthma Free School Zone, urging them to keep trucks from their buildings.
‘Sometimes you’ll see a child in a stroller parked right next to the exhaust pipe of the truck,’ said Lori Bukiewicz, schools coordinator for the organization, which has been trying to persuade Mister Softee to use biodiesel fuels in generators for their freezers and to get city officials to pass legislation controlling the trucks’ emissions."

Maybe parents are just a little crazed and overwhelmed because of the heat, but the ice cream truck is an image of summer that everyone should recognize for years to come. Don't kill the ice cream man!

Read more at the New York Times.

And, for those of you who are interested in learning the lyrics for the Mr. Softee jingle, here they are:

"The creamiest, dreamiest soft ice cream,

You get from Mister Softee.

For a refreshing delight supreme,

Look for Mister Softee.

My milkshakes and my sundaes and my cones are such a treat,

Listen for my store on wheels, ding-a-ling down the street.

The creamiest, dreamiest soft ice cream,

You get from Mister Softee.

For a refreshing delight supreme,

Look for Mister Softee.

S-O-F-T Double 'E', Mister Softee."

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