Every evening, I hear it: Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer," wafting in through my open window. No matter what my kids are involved in, they tear through the house, yelling at the top of their lungs, "ICE CREAM MAN!!!!" Only now, the truck is just a beat up old GMC delivery truck. In the old days, ice cream trucks were (pun intended) COOL.
In 1920, Harry Burt outfitted a fleet of twelve street vending trucks -- based on Ford C-Cab trucks -- with freezers and bells for street deliveries. They were the very first Good Humor trucks.
Ford exclusively supplied the chassis, engine and front clip, but everything from the dashboard back was provided by Hackney Brothers coachbuilders, a North Carolina company that was a major supplier of ambulances, school buses and refrigerated trucks.
Mister Softee was another popular ice cream truck franchisor in the Northeast. Based in Philadelphia (and now New Jersey), the company was founded in 1956. Today it has about 600 trucks running around the country. Most of those trucks these days are your basic GMC step van or the Freightliner version of a Dodge Sprinter.
But in the heyday of the ice cream man, Mister Softee trucks were almost exclusively the bailwick of the Boyertown Body and Equipment Works, manufacturer of the Boyertown Merchandiser. In 1959 Boyertown built 800 ice cream trucks for Mister Softee on 1-ton, forward control Ford chassis.
Mister Softee trucks have been featured in quite a few movies and TV shows, including Martin Scorcese's After Hours, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. One also used to appear done up like a SWAT team van in the TV show Kojak.
DIVCO (Detroit Industrial Vehicles Company) was founded in 1926 exclusively as a builder of delivery trucks. The company developed the DIVCO-Twin Model U in 1937, and it evolved into one of the most poplular delivery vehicles this side of a UPS truck. They were in production from 1937 through the 1960s, making them one of the longest-standing, continuously produced vehicles in history.
DIVCO-Twins were generally the domain of milk and diaper delivery services, but many were in service in the ice cream delivery racket, too. DIVCOs are unique for their swiveling seat, which allows the driver to lean on the seat, or drive the truck standing up to speed delivery times.
I'd post more pictures . . . but I think I hear something and if I let the ice cream truck go by again without grabbing a box of frozen chocolate eclairs for the office, I'm going to be in trouble. Share your favorite ice cream truck memories and pictures in the comments.