Ahh… nothing says summer’s here more than the dulcet sounds of the ice cream man. A child can hear that music from miles around.
Growing up, there were two ice cream men that we knew, Tonibell and Mr. Whippy. Each had their own distinctive music and we always seemed to be able to distinguish who it was by the tune. I couldn’t begin to tell you what the tune was, but having done a search on the internet, it seems that Tonibell had their own music that was specifically written for them. (That's all very la di dah, isn't it?) Mr. Whippy, however, played Greensleeves, in that tinkling, old cell phoney kind of a way.
As a child, it didn’t matter what you were doing when you heard that music, whether we were playing around the house, in the garden or down the road on our bikes, everything stopped and we would scurry in to our mums pleading for some ‘pennies’ for an ice cream. “Mum, Mum, it’s the ice cream man – hurry, hurry before we miss him!!” If we were ever lucky enough to get a few pence from her, we would run back as fast as we could to the van. Invariably you were never the first there and you would have to queue because some lucky bugger had got his money first.
Depending on how much money you had been given, you then had to decide what you wanted. My favourite was always the 99, but I would never seem to have enough money for one of those. They were saved for special occasions, or when you were at your nan’s house, because she always seemed to give you more money than your mum. If you chose the regular old ice cream you would always watch him twirling the ice cream into your cornet, hoping that he would pull the lever a bit far and give you too much. [Never happened] Or you could have a Rocket or a Fab ice lolly, a Popeye, which was an ice cream cone with the Rocket stuck in the top of the ice cream, or a Screwball which was a plastic cone filled with ice cream with bubble gum at the bottom. Oh, those names bring back so many memories.
Those little vans, specially built to be a ice cream vans were wonderful and always looked really, really clean. Not so much here in California. The vans my children had to run out to were/are dirty old banged up transit vans with stickers all over them and dodgy looking men selling lollies they just got at the cash and carry and not a whippy ice cream in sight. I think I've even seen some of them sell cigarettes! *Sigh*
Ohh....If only I could import a Tonibell [or Mr. Whippy] van to California – I think I would make a bloomin' fortune. Hmm…. Food for thought. Anyone want to go halvsies - I'll give you a 99?