Every single evening this week, just as we’re settling into our evening routine, the calm is shattered when the music comes up the street. Both kids lose their minds, and run for the curb with a few grubby bucks stashed in their hands, ready to exchange them for a frozen confection.
Juniper Farms is our local ice cream truck, and they’re always staffed by a friendly college kid with the greatest summer job ever. About the only disappointment is that the trucks are your basic Grumman delivery trucks, and not the super-cool ice cream trucks the company used to have back in the 1950s, when it started delivering ice cream to overheated kids in and around Hudson, Massachusetts.
The earliest example we could find on their website was this 1948-vintage Chevrolet, with a custom body, purpose-built for vending cool cones. In those days, the coolers weren’t refrigerated. They were stocked with ice that kept the confections cold for the day.
Ice cream vending via trucks has a history that stretches back to 1920, when an entrepreneur named Harry Burt kitted out a fleet of a dozen Ford C-Cab trucks with coolers, along with a bell to lure the kids out of their hot apartments. Those 12 trucks were the very first Good Humor trucks.
Good Humor wasn’t alone, though. Ice cream was being dispensed all over the country by thousands of vendors, in all kinds of different vehicles. According to Shorpy.com, Carry’s Ice Cream was named for its owner, Albert Carry, who got out of the beer-brewing business during Prohibition, and switched over the t0 ice cream:
The truck is interesting: It’s a Walker Electric. It’s name is pretty apt, because at full rip it could thunder along at just nine miles per hour. It weighed 5,600 pounds and had 44 battery cells to go a range of about 50 miles.
Not far off, near Philadelphia, Mister Softee was turning soft-serve ice cream delivery into a science. Its popular trucks were Boyertown Merchanisers. You get a good look at one in the Martin Scorsese film After Hours:
It’s the same truck that ended up as a SWAT team vehicle in some episodes of Kojak:
The Boyertown Merchandiser was produced by Boyertown Body and Equipment Works, and in 1959 alone, Boyertown built 800 ice cream trucks for Mister Softee on 1-ton, forward control Ford chassis.
DIVCO typically built milk delivery trucks, back when milk showed up on your doorstep. They were truly built for efficiency. Instead of a having a full seat and doors, DIVCO trucks had sliding doors that drivers could keep open in good weather, and a swing-away stool that left the driver in more of a standing position to minimize the time he took to get out and make his delivery.
The DIVCO-Twin Model U was in production from 1937 until deep in the 1960s, and was one of the longest continuously produced vehicles in history.
The Chillwagon delivers ice cream in a beautifully restored DIVCO Model U, in and around Greenville, South Carolina.
The truck underwent an extensive restoration, aimed at making it not only look great, but work as a reliable delivery vehicle. A more contemporary, yet still cool Chevrolet 350-cu.in. V-8 powers the Chillwagon to its destination.
Fat Daddy’s Ice Cream in Las Vegas slings ice cream from a 1970s era Chevrolet Step Van (or its identical twin, the GMC Value Van), complete with a full, low-rider air suspension and flame thrower exhaust:
Good Times is operated by Elizabeth Bailey in Austin, Texas. Her truck is an earlier version of Fat Daddy’s truck, a 1964 Chevrolet P10 Step Van:
Why bother restoring a vintage Chevy that plays music? “Because ice cream just tastes better from a musical truck,” says Elizabeth.
Kurb Side Ice Company isn’t delivering “ice cream,” exactly, but New Orleans-style shaved ice, around the Twin Cities in Minnesota.
The truck is an achingly awesome 1958 Grumman Olson Kurbside delivery van, restored to an amazing standard.
Do you have a super-cool ice cream truck in your region? Post pics on our Facebook page!