HUCKABY: Ice cream truck a great symbol of simpler times

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

So let’s see. Iran is about to go online with its very own nuclear reactor. Israel may or may not drop a bomb on it before they do. The economy still stinks. Two-thirds of Americans oppose a proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York City and the speaker of the House says those people should be investigated. Our court system can’t seem to decide whether gay marriage is a go or a no-go in California. The U.S. is suing Arizona and Virginia is suing the U.S.

And folks wonder why I like to wax nostalgic about the ’50s. Sure, the whole Cold War thing was going on and we and the Soviets were inching closer and closer to potential Armageddon — and gays were still in the closet and society was segregated and women were the weaker sex, but I didn’t know about any of that stuff. I was 5.

Know what I did know when I was 5? I knew that the ice cream truck came down my street every day at 2:30, and I knew that if I could find a nickel Hunky John would sell me an ice cream.

Thinking back, I suppose the reason he came at 2:30 was so we would have time to make our purchases and finish our mid-afternoon snacks before the 3 o’clock mill whistle blew — sending most of our mamas home to cook supper. They might have frowned on our having a frozen treat so close to meal time.

I would begin my search for ice cream money early in the day and on those days that I had been successful in locating a bit of spare change I would be sitting on the front steps, waiting for the familiar jingle. I would rush out, along with all the other kids in the neighborhood and crowd around the friendly-faced man who provided so many wonderful choices in the back of his little yellow truck.

Hunky John offered lots of choices. There was the actual Hunky, of course. It was vanilla ice cream with a hard chocolate shell — on a stick — and it was one of my favorites. He also sold ice cream sandwiches. I loved the way the chocolate cake part of the ice cream sandwich stuck to the roof of my mouth. But there was much to be said for the Fudgesicle, too. And let’s not forget the Nutty Buddy — a sugar cone with a scoop of vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate and nuts. I’m afraid I am making myself hungry here.

Hunky John sold Popsicles, too, and those little cups of ice cream — the ones you ate with a wooden paddle. I never got those because I didn’t like the way the paddle felt against my tongue. It reminded me too much of Dr. Mitchell sticking a tongue depressor in my mouth. Whenever he did that, I knew I was about to get a penicillin shot, right in my rump.

Even today I won’t eat a little cup of ice cream unless I can lay my hands on a plastic spoon.

Nickel ice cream treats cost $1.99 today, and there are probably all sorts of ordinances prohibiting ice cream trucks from carousing neighborhoods. Too much danger of kids getting run over and an ice cream truck might provide too convenient a front for selling drugs or other contraband.

Twenty-four years ago, however, there was an ice cream truck that traversed the neighborhood in which I lived. It was the first week of summer and my job was to stay at home with our 2-year-old daughter, Jamie. We were playing outside — I think I was pushing her in her little purple car — and I heard a familiar tune wafting through the air. I looked up the street and, sure enough, an old-fashioned ice cream truck was pulling into our neighborhood.

At first I was delighted. “What a grand opportunity,” I thought, “to introduce Jamie to the joys of summer.” But then I realized that if we started down that path I would have to scramble around for a couple of bucks every day and stand in the hot sun while my child tried to decide what she wanted. And I was certain she would dribble ice cream all over her face and clothes every day, causing a confrontation with my lovely wife, Lisa, when she got home from work.

So when Jamie looked up and said, “What’s that, Daddy?” I said, “It’s a monster! When you hear that sound, run in the house and hide.”

I didn’t have to buy a single ice cream all summer. But the next time Jamie comes by the house, I think I’ll take her out for a Fudgesicle.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.