We all have those childhood memories - the faint sound of that familiar jingle in the distance, the hot summer sun beating down on your juvenile forehead as you lace up your shoes and beg mom for a dollar to purchase that beloved frozen treat, and the curiosity running through your mind about whether you should buy the 'Chaco Taco' or stick with the classic Ice Cream Sandwich. These memories of the ice cream truck are ones which will never leave us, but rather are memories which remain with us to this day and even serve as a temptation to purchase that vanilla soft serve cone from the Mister Softee truck circling our place of work during the lunch hour.
But just where did the concept of the ice cream truck originate? And what role does the truck itself have on the New York community as a whole?
To answer these questions, we must first look towards the mid 19th century when the ice delivery industry as well as hand-crank ice cream making devices began popularizing. However, due to their modernity and high price margin, these newly-introduced frozen treats were limited to the middle and upper class. Realizing a loophole in the American ice cream market, immigrants from France and Italy, already knowing how to make tasty ice cream, began constructing wooden push carts to sell their product. In turn, the carts saved these new entrepreneurs storefront fees as well as other start up costs involved with the ice cream business.
By the early 1900's, these wooden push carts began flourishing and everyone from messenger boys to Wall Street bankers could be found enjoying ice cream sandwiches on the hot New York streets. With the ice cream business booming throughout the country, it wasn't long before someone would came along with an industry-changing methodology. Fast forward to 1920 in Youngstown, Ohio where Harry Burt, a local candy maker who invented the idea of attaching a ball of candy to a wooden handle, began contemplating different ice cream methods. While experimenting with new ideas, Harry soon invented a new contraption involving ice cream attached to a wooden handle; this in turn, creating the modern day popsicle. With his new invention now born, the 'Good Humor' ice cream bar was established. Although Harry began selling these new frozen delicacies faster than he could produce them, he wasn't finished just yet.
With the fast food and automobile industries exploding during this period, it didn't take Harry long to connect the dots. In 1920, Harry invested in a handful of refrigerator trucks, hired clean cut drivers dressed in pristine white decor, and began selling his new Good Humor ice cream bars throughout the local suburban Ohio neighborhoods. Establishing set truck routes and a creative jingle, Harry had invented what we still have to this day - the modern day ice cream truck.
As Harry's ice cream truck concept began to spread nationwide, it didn't take long before two brothers from Philadelphia, William and James Conway, caught onto the ice cream craze. Seeing a trend with the invention of soft serve ice cream machines in soda shops during the 1950's, the two brothers bolted a soft serve machine to the inside of a refrigeration truck and made some adjustments to the cooling systems inside the trucks, thus creating what we now know as, Mister Softee. These Mister Softee trucks began flourishing throughout the Northeast and can still currently be seen around New York City neighborhoods.
With summer now in full effect, we should ask ourselves: What do ice cream trucks symbolize to each and every one of us? Personally, they represent a nostalgia of hearing that familiar jingle in the distance, digging through my pockets to see how much loose change I have, taking that initial bite into my vanilla soft serve cone and bringing out that inner juvenile happiness which never seemed to leave my side.
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