“Marco! Polo!” is to swimming pools what “Wait a minute . . “ is to ice cream trucks. They are universally interpreted to mean whatever they mean, and all children say them the same way (you’re probably hearing them in your head right now).
Oh, the sound of those bells and the kids singing, “Wait a minute,” as they rush into their houses for some change. “Mom! Mom! The Ice Cream Man is here!! Hurry!!!” I like to remember chasing down the Good Humor truck with my friends, but the best memory was driving one.
In 1973 my discharge from the Air Force came through. It was exciting, until I thought, “Now what?” My skill was reading and delivering secret messages. There weren’t an abundance of jobs requiring cryptographic training, and I planned to attend college in the fall, using the GI Bill. I needed something quick to take care of my 3-year-old family. Having a wife and two kids, with no income, can cause anxiety for everyone involved, so I had to find work. Any work.
After a month attempting to sell Ecko Hope Chests on the streets of Washington, DC, and not even sniffing the possibility of a sale or income, the time seemed right for a different venture. My parents’ apartment was closing-in on us, so I began a relationship with the Washington Post classifieds.
I can’t quite remember how the advertisement read. There was mention of Good Humor Ice Cream and driving; two things I like. So I hopped into my new 1973 red Chevy Vega (don’t laugh) and drove to the plant in Hyattsville for the job interview. It was a short question and answer session, which included inquiry about my driving record (having been out of the US for the last four years, I didn’t really have a chance to soil it) and a quick run of the mirror under my nose to see if I was breathing. They gave me the job. Whew!
The truck you see to the right was the typical style of the late 60s – early 70s. Mine was slightly different. It required dry ice (good for entertaining when a puddle was nearby) for the freezer, rather than being plugged-in overnight. And I got out of the truck from the driver’s side, since it was a two-door cab. But the chimes worked great. Ringing those bells while driving around the neighborhoods gave me the chance to be an inspiration to the children and a screen-scratching irritant to the parents. I yanked on the chain as rhythmically as possible. The louder and sing-song jingly I could make it, the more ice cream that was sold. I got “Jiggy wid it,” and pulled in a pretty decent wage.
Ice cream-seeking children are disciplined. They have an internal clock that notifies them it is time for the Good Humor Man. After one or two weeks of conditioning, they knew where and when I would be stopping. At the designated corner, they fidgeted excitedly with money in hand, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Lord of Frozen Treats. It is one job where being late means lower income, because if Mister Softee is lurking nearby and the Good Humor Man makes a habit of not arriving on time, soft serve will be sampled (my family’s Sheltie loved it). A child’s loyalty only survives one or two disappointments.
Most of the Good Humor drivers had their first names on the side of the truck just over the freezer door. Mine read “Menjie.” Usually the kids would ask, “Is that your name?” I would answer, “Yes, I am Menjie Rovasfringle.” Their heads tilted slightly like a puppy, while they wondered if it was true. My answer always remained the same, “That’s my real name.” A little white lie, but it entertained them, as they forked-over their nickels.
The favorite part of my route was the end. I always finished-up at the Fort Belvoir barracks in the evening. The soldiers ate dinner about 4:30, so by the time 7:30 came around, they were ready for pints, quarts and half-gallons; all packed away at the back of the freezer to be sure there was a ready supply. Young GIs, with the munchies, usually emptied the truck, which made for a good drive back to the plant, carrying lots of cash and having plenty of room for tomorrow’s wares.
School started for me in August, ending the experience as a Good Humor Man. Many of the drivers drove taxicabs in the off-season, and I was directed toward Yellow Cab in Marlow Heights for weekend work, while going to school. The parent company, Unilever (Lipton Tea), made a decision in 1976 to abandon direct sales, opting to distribute Good Humor® through grocery chains. By 1978 all the official company trucks were parked, and eventually sold to other ice cream distributors. The Good Humor Man was no more.
Although, I only worked for the company a few months, it is a memory that will live on forever. Hold on a second, that sounds like the Mister Softee truck. I have to go.
“Wait a minute . . . .”
Bake My Fish
5 thoughts on “Ding a Ling a Ling . . . “Wait a Minute . . “”
You were a Good Humor man? I loved the chocolate eclairs. Keep giving us these stories.
I love them.
Man, I remember those trucks. When the Good Humor man was in the back getting ice cream, we got inside the cab until he chased us away. The ice cream was really good.
We did not have a G-Humor truck on our side of town, unless Mr. Softee ran the tardy sucker away. By the way…beautiful truck. I am glad you were successful enough to feed your multitude. The Ecko selling story is still my favorite. It has everything.
Still had to use the made-up name, I see. Actually a good idea until you are done with the “I’ll take any job” jobs. I bet that name comes up in childhood/teen memory stories, except it would be a stretch to believe anyone could exactly remember it.
You have been, and are, a very interesting creature.