Mister Softee

Thieves and socialists don’t make good businessmen. I learned this lesson, about myself, way back in 1966 at the tender age of seventeen.

My older brother was on his summer break from college, and it was my first summer in the last three that did not require me to attend summer school, so my father came up with the idea to put my brother and me in business. He believed that we could make money with a Mister Softee truck, selling ice cream to the hordes of children who would not be able to resist the obnoxious jingle, or the thought of sweet soft ice cream cooling them off, while running down their throats and faces.

The plan was simple enough. My dad would put up the necessary funds for us to rent the truck, and my brother and I would take turns driving our assigned route. We were taught how to mix the ice cream, run the register, nothing else, and off we went. Never mind that I had just received my driver’s license and that the truck was a beater with at least six inches of play in the steering wheel. Driving it was road roulette, and I don’t think I was legal to drive it at all.

As I weaved my way into the first neighborhood, I turned on the jingle from hell. Shrill and annoying, it was intended to make every dog in a five mile radius foam at the mouth. Children would then see the foam, think of ice cream, and hear the jingle. Most of them had money, and lines would form in anticipation of the gooey treat. I realized early on that I could not say no. There was one boy who looked to be about 6 who had large square freckles and curly hair. He never had enough money, but I couldn’t resist how cute he was so I would make him a cone or grab him something frozen. And it wasn’t just him. If a line formed I wanted everyone on that line to come away with something. I also liked to amuse myself by making contests. Who can tell me the Yankee score from last night? That kid got himself a free treat. How much is five times eight? Another cone. And while the cones were supposed to weigh so much, I didn’t give a shit and made them tall and proud. More than one set of eyes would get real big when I passed that monster through the window.

I became popular. Perhaps I was the softest Mister Softee of them all.  Maybe it was an early indication of a generous heart, and a socialist mind set. I looked forward to seeing the munchkin with too few nickels and square freckles. To celebrate those square freckles I gave him free round sprinkles. I also ate my fair share of ice cream, and every Friday I would end my shift by yanking a few handfuls of change, so I could play poker or take my girlfriend to a movie. I suspect my brother was as generous to himself. Maybe even more so.

Three weeks into this venture my father did the books and discovered that we had not made a dime. Or at least that is what he told us. Maybe the last handful of change was scooped by my father. I do know he informed us that the business was closed, not at all aware of the loss freckle boy would feel. I didn’t really care that it was done. I also did not realize at the time that I was still a boy, not much older than the kids I was selling to. As monotonous as it was, it was still better than summer school.

© 2013 Michael Fiveson

http://gothamist.com/2009/03/27/mister_softee_truck_jingle_driving.php

63 thoughts on “Mister Softee

  1. I’m a little late to this post, however…
    I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and fondly remember Mister Softee, Good Humor, and Carvel ice cream trucks rolling down our block north of Sheepshead Bay. Whenever we went to Brighton Beach, we would stop at one of the trucks for a cold treat that mostly ran down our sun bronzed arms as we struggled to keep up with the melting mass. Colored sprinkles were the best part!

    Great memories!

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  2. The compilation of memories like the one you narrated is what make us rich! It’s not only the money what counts. Good work my friend!
    I treasure all the events in my life and I always feel like the richest man in the world! 🙂

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  3. Great story and post Mike. Ahh those were the days huh when you could drive those POS on the road, LOL. As Eddie Murphy would say “I have some iccee creeam”.

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    • I fear that when I vanished and took my free ice cream with me, freckle boy became quite despondent and turned to petty thievery. He started small, with stealing ice cream but it escalated over time and eventually the lad did a short stint in a juvenile facility. The good news is that he did get himself together and married a girl with round freckles and pert breasts. He lives happily after with 3 grown children who bring him much joy.

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      • Hmm… I thinks it awesome, remembering something over four decades ago is almost superhuman in weaving a story where people can read it.

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      • Well that is certainly more than I expected. Superhuman, eh? The problem is remembering what happened 4 hrs ago, the 4-5 decades ago is a piece of cake.
        I do know this…..kindness is the easiest thing we can do. It takes no effort at all, and can change lives.

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  4. So, I’m guessing that if you were to drive the ice cream truck around today, that you still wouldn’t make any money … though, not from swiping handfuls of change, but from handing out all the ice cream for free…. right? 🙂

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  5. Another great story, Mike. I thought Mister Softee was a Brits institution. The ice cream van still used to tour through our village when our kids were small and he always arrived just as we were starting a meal. Many a meal was ruined when there was a rush for the door and the carefully prepared meal went cold. Mister Softee’s arrival was more often than not greeted with an expletive deleted sentence or two – usually issuing from my wife’s mouth who had cooked!

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  6. We don’t have ice cream trucks where I live. That would be so nice. but when we used to go camping in Galveston an ice cream guy would drive through the campground. I loved that sound! Nice story Mr Mike!! You’re quite a guy!

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    • Yes, I am one helluva guy! Wait, what I meant to say is that everyone deserves an ice cream guy, especially those living in humid climates like….Texas. And of course, thank you very much.

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    • Great! I am assuming you would be my little brother, which bodes well for you because at Thanksgiving, when Judy, Pumpkin, and I arrive I will be bringing you an extra gift or two, and who knows….one of them might be a stuffed animal!

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      • I’ll have to think! You know, I just remembered that for a day or to you were using a color photo of yourself but you’ve gone back to the b&w. This one’s more mysterious! I like it. Any reason why the switch to, and then back?

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      • I like that picture for facebook, but did not like it on WP. Just a change of heart and mind. I like being mysterious here.

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