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HUCKABY: Summer brings nostalgia for the ice cream man

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

For all practical purposes, summer is here. I know we haven't gotten to the day of solstice yet, and those watermelons you see on the side of the road are probably coming from Mexico -- or maybe Florida -- and not Cordele, but school is out and the sun, when we get a peek at it, is hot and the pre-season football magazines are on the shelves so -- I repeat -- for all practical purposes, summer is here.

Know what I miss about summer? I mean other than August and going barefoot. I miss hearing the melodious jingle announcing the arrival of the ice cream truck in the neighborhood.

I like ice cream, in all forms. My family is noted for its homemade ice cream and the great Methodist preacher, John Ed Mathison, has been known to travel all the way from Montgomery, Ala., to the red clay hills of Georgia in search of a cup of my son Jackson's patented peach concoction. We'll haul out our churn and freeze up a gallon or two on a moment's notice, too -- but those moments aren't as common as they once were and my lovely wife, Lisa, never lets us keep any leftovers for fear that I might devour them when she isn't looking. Smart lady, my wife.

I also realize that they sell some pretty good ice cream in the local supermarkets, but, again, we aren't allowed to keep such in our freezer because I tend to follow a "see food" diet when ice cream is available. I see it; I eat it. It's really quite simple.

I also know that you can buy frozen treats at any convenience store on any corner, but it's just not the same. They keep those freezers as cold as a well digger's bottom in Alaska in January and the goods are frozen hard as a rock. Besides, it is hard to wax nostalgic over an Eskimo Pie that you bought from the same guy that sells lottery tickets and cigarettes.

Oh, but back in the day! Back in the day we had Hunky John. I don't know who you had, but Hunky John belonged to the children of Porterdale. As soon as school was out for the summer he would begin his daily runs through the village. He had a loud bell on his yellow ice cream truck and you could hear him coming long before he arrived in front of your door. We were always playing outside, anyway, and as soon as we heard his jingle we were racing into our respective homes, looking for enough change to buy an ice cream bar of some kind.

It didn't take but 5 or 6 cents, but 5 or 6 cents was a lot harder to come by back then than it is now. Plus, since I had a sister who liked ice cream, too, we had to come up with 12 cents. That's a lot of coppers to get lost between the cushions of the couch or to find lying around in your mama's Sunday purse.

But coming up with my stake was often the easy part. Deciding what to actually buy was hard. Hunky John had so many good choices on his wagon. There were Popsicles, of course, which weren't ice cream at all, but still tasted good on a hot summer day. If we could only come up with enough loose change for one treat my sister and I could break a Popsicle in half and share.

There were also Nutty Buddies and Ice Cream Sandwiches and Fudgesicles and hunkies themselves, which consisted of vanilla ice cream, frozen on a stick, with a hard chocolate shell. Hmmm, hmmm. I wish I had one right now.

I live on a farm now, so I don't guess the ice cream truck would come down my driveway even if we still had ice cream trucks. When my daughter Jamie was almost 4 -- the last summer before we moved to the farm, we still had an ice cream truck, though. Being a teacher, I spent my summer days taking care of Jamie. We were playing outside and I heard the ice cream man coming through the neighborhood, playing "Pop Goes the Weasel" over his speaker.

Jamie's little ears perked up and said, "What's that, Daddy?"

Then I did the worst thing I have ever done as a parent. I said, "It's the boogey man! We need to run inside and hide until he goes away!"

We raced into the house and dove on the bed and covered our heads with pillows until the sound of the ice cream wagon faded. All summer Jamie would head for cover when the 1980s version of Hunky John rolled through our neighborhood, and I didn't have to buy a single Nutty Buddy or Fudgesicle all summer.

I should be ashamed, but I'm not. I guess it serves me right, though, that Lisa won't let me keep ice cream in the house now.

Oh, well. The 4th of July is only four weeks away. For all practical purposes summer is just about over.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com