By Dan Shine
The Good Humor Man
It seemed as if there was no escape from the August heat wave. The boy and his two friends sat on their bicycles, too hot to move. Sometimes on days like this, the boy dreamed of wintertime, and playing outside in the cold and the snow; for in the summer of 1959, there was no home air conditioning, and nighttime brought with it no escape from the heat. Each morning, the boy woke up covered with sweat.
Suddenly, they heard the sound of approaching sleigh bells, and as the boys looked up, they saw a Good Humor truck coming around the corner! As the truck approached, the boy’s two friends dropped their bicycles and ran inside their house. Moments later, they returned, each carrying a dime and two pennies. At the sight of this, the boy dug into the pockets of his jeans, knowing full well that he had no money, but hoping that by some sort of miracle, the twelve cents would appear. But such was not the case.
By this time, the Good Humor truck had stopped, and the man was standing beside it, ready to help the other two boys. The Good Humor man opened the little freezer door on the back of the truck, and as he did, a thick ball of frost-laden air rolled out from the magical darkness into the hot August Sunshine. He took the boys’ money, inserted it into the coin changer on his belt, and handed them each an ice cream on a stick. As the boy watched hungrily, the others unwrapped Toasted Almond bars—his favorite—and began to eat them, all the while casting sly glances his way.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how a little memory like that can carry down for over fifty years?
The Good Humor Company started in Youngstown, Ohio in the 1920s. An ice cream parlor owner named Harry Burt developed the first Good Humor products with the help of his children. Burt envisioned the idea of fleets of white ice cream trucks, driven by white-uniformed Good Humor men.
The bells that Burt attached to the first Good Humor truck came from his son’s bobsled. The children of that era, and of the next several generations, spent their summer days playing all day long on the sidewalks and in the streets in the summer sunshine, and became Good Humor’s loyal customers, a fact to which many Baby Boomers and their parents can attest.
Good Humor was featured in countless magazines, films and Broadway shows. In the early 1950’s, it was the subject of a hit movie, “The Good Humor Man” starring Jack Carson.
However, the 1960s was a period of dramatic change, and one of the many things that began to be affected was Good Humor. With the arrival of televisions in every home, children began to spend more and more time indoors. Changing tastes, rising gas prices, rising insurance costs and other factors made Good Humor’s business model untenable: they sold their fleet in 1978.
These days, a visitor to the West Haven Boardwalk on a hot summer day will see ice cream trucks bearing signs stating that they proudly distribute Good Humor ice cream. In addition, Good Humor products are also available in stores. But for the boy of this story, and for all those children who are long since past their childhoods, the Good Humor man and his little white truck live on, but only in the world of their memories.