(first posted 6/25/2013) What’s that coming down the other side of 18th Avenue, playing that infernal tune ice cream trucks are notorious for? I have a rather deep loathing for that obnoxious sound blaring for way too long as an ice cream truck fruitlessly plies our quiet neighborhood, and have entertained thoughts of shooting them for disturbing the peace. Oh wait; that’s a vintage Cushman; now I really want to shoot him, but with my camera instead of a gun.
Seeing that I’m pointing a camera and not a gun at him, the driver gives me a friendly wave. OK; time to make a U turn, and give chase. That shouldn’t be very hard unlike some of the cars I’ve stalked. Speaking of, Stephanie and I were on our tandem bike last night, and I spotted a cute woody Model T truck several blocks ahead. We gave chase, but couldn’t catch it. Pathetic; getting old is a bitch….
Due to traffic on 18th, it took me a bit longer than expected to change directions, and when I caught up with him on a side street, he was waiting for me with a friendly wave. It’s good to be friendly in this profession. The grumpy old Bad Humor man who used to ply Colonial Court in Towson was anything but. He needed a new gig. And he drove a full-sized Ford, like this.
I think the Cushman’s owner’s name was Manny, and he proudly showed me around his 1985 Truckster four-wheeler. He has a trike too, which he will soon be driving as soon as this one is reliable enough for his wife to take to the streets in.
He’s been doing some wiring work in the cab. The basic mechanicals are fine; there’s an OMC opposed-twin 22 horse engine down under the seat or thereabouts, and a three-speed transmission.
Here’s a video of one with its engine exposed and running, a trike version in this case. That familiar putt-putt sound; the ice cream guy in Iowa City drove a Cushman trike, back when they still rang bells. But it was the put-putting that really got my saliva going.
Well, after the nice tour and chat, I couldn’t not buy an ice cream bar from him. A Mexican style coconut fruit bar, which reminded me of the street vendors with their helado push-carts and bells south of the border (or LA). Now that’s what I’d like plying our neighborhood, instead of that old Chevy Van with the bull horn blaring. Or even a Cushman, with the sound of its engine amplified instead of music …putt-putt-putt…
Looking at the fifth photo made me think that your Scion xB would make a good ice cream truck when you are done with it. 🙂
I had the exact same thought 🙂 How I will spend my retirement summers, but the blaring music would have to go.
I can dig the puttputt that speaks to me Greensleeves over the loudspeaker yeah nar.
Cool Paul a real American Kei car I like it.
Did Manny tell you how he keeps the freezer running, or is it an icebox?
Yes; it’s electric, run from an inverter.
Wow, he gets that kind of power off the Cushman flat-two?
Or did he rig it up with a special HD alternator?
Too many ice cream trucks are dowdy, dirty, graffiti-painted old Chevy, Dodge or Ford vans, or former (but now wasted) real ice-cream trucks originally used by Mr. Softee or some other company, but are now are driven by a dirty, fat, long-haired, ponythailed ex-child-molester/felon (or at least that’s my first impression) and I wouldn’t buy anything from them on a bet.
The Cushman is cute, but the driver needs to dress “cleaner” to further the image of selling something viewed as pure and simple.
I fantasized the other day after seeing the unsavory character in our neighborhood in his beat-up heap, and thought: if I ever would be an ice-cream man, I would wear white, complete with little black bow tie, but a white fedora!
It’s all about salesmanship, folks.
Knock off the lousy, obnoxious electronic “music”, too.
You’re selling food…treats for little kids, for cripes’ sake! Dress the part! Look like Mister Clean with hair!
The clothes make the man, in the work field. If you handle money, you need dress well and expensively. If you’re working with kids, you need to look simple and honest and open.
If you’re working under cars, you need to have a greasy coverall…if you’re too neat to get it greasy, try pre-soiling it. Otherwise, the boss will doubt you’ve been doing anything.
And, me? After years of dodging pin-striped overalls and cap…now they want us railroad boys to wear the same bright orange as the county inmates picking up litter. Cripes…those “safety colors” are becoming like the gray pajamas in Mao’s China. Everyone forced to wear them…
Anyway. He’s got a cute little truck. He needs to get a cute little act to go with it.
I just thought of the movie “Pleasantville”.
This reminds me of the Cushman three wheeler that used to deliver our mail in the suburbs of Fort Wayne in the early 1960s. The thing could drive up into a 2 car driveway, then had a tight enough turning circle to swing around and drive on out, without ever a need to reverse.
I’m with Zackman on modern ice cream men. Every one I see around here is a beat up, rusty Chevy van. I understand the reason for the music, but I still hate it.
I worked with a guy who drove an ice cream truck on summers home from college in the early 60s. He said the melody played over and over has yet to leave his head.
Yep. I’ll bet some folks out there think, by now, that I’m full of what makes the grass green…but I had extensive experience with Cushman Turf-Trucksters. The country club I worked at when I was a kid, had two: A pickup-style and a dump-box style.
They were both three-wheelers; and with open cabs…you sat on the engine box, sans belts or harnesses. We’d just started being obligated to wear hardhats; and it was fun keeping the helmet from blowing off at 28 mph…top speed in those things; and plenty fast on the fairways. They had an interesting exhaust beat…I never looked it up, but given that the exhaust note was uneven, I have to wonder if the two opposed cylinders were served by a single crank pin, instead of two opposite pins.
Oh…yeah. Three-wheel vehicles do roll…I doubt that Reliant YouTube video was very-much staged. I tossed that pickup Truckster over in the parking lot at full throttle…it did two barrel rolls, landing on my leg with one and on the steering wheel with the other. Almost lost my job for that; and I think the only reason I didn’t was that I’d planned, openly, to leave in six weeks.
Neat little van,I never knew Cushman made other vehicles beside the scooter.I learn something new on this site at least once a day,thank you for another entertaining read
The Truckster was one of their biggest products. They were used for everything from industrial gofer trucks to meter maids and mail routes and golf courses.
I saw an Aerostar ice cream van this week! That scared me enough before seeing the driver. I’ll take my kids somewhere legit for frozen confections.
That’s a cool use for a Cushman though…
Awesome, I love these little things and always enjoyed seeing the NYPD three-wheeler versions whipping through traffic when I was a kid. They use some different, non-Cushman thing now (still with 3 wheels, though) which isn’t nearly as cool.
I did, however, see a Cushman today… or at least, something that was branded as a Cushman – I suspect it’s actually a Japanese kei truck. Does anybody know what the thing in the picture below is (picture found online, not the actual one I saw)?
Interesting, I’ve never heard of a Cushman branded mini-truck.
CC effect! I saw one of those just three days ago!
Coming off a dirt service road; couldn’t see more than the screened-on CUSHMAN.
Don’t know nothing about those. Anyone?
Most ice-cream trucks around here are ’90s Chevy Step-Vans playing an electronic version of “It’s A Small World” loaded with a radio morning-zoo show’s worth of boingy sound effects in every play-through.’ There are a few trikes around, too – Ben & Jerry’s experimented with them about 10 years ago (this is right in their backyard in Burlington) but their pricing doesn’t work for a random kid-impulse buy.
I remember a round-front ’50s Ford step van circa 1980; there’s another one around town now but it’s an “upscale” food truck.
It’s been about ten years since I’ve seen (or heard) an ice cream truck, when Joe’s here in Seattle went out of business. They used old RHD postal service Jeeps, and the tune they played was usually “Pop Goes The Weasel.” I’ll have to admit I miss the darn things.
I found a 1997 3 wheel Cushman surplus from Boing. Cleaned it up painted it nice installed an inverter and freezer. Put a sound system that plays a number of steel drum Jimmy Buffet songs, as I live on a small island in Washington. I put on my best Hawaiian shirt and spend 4-5 hours a day selling ice cream. I must say I enjoy the response I get from people and the look on the little kids faces.
Local guy has a restored 1950’s Chevrolet Delicious Ice Cream truck. Available for occasions, he arrives in a spotless white uniform with a smile. Kids love it and the adults think it’s a time machine
For the life of me, I can’t remember what sorts of vehicles were pressed into service as ice cream trucks when I was a kid back in the ’60s. I don’t remember pickups or station wagons; maybe there were some Jeep-based things. Maybe they were panel trucks. I don’t remember ever seeing any like this Cushman. At any rate, none of them had bells when I was a kid. Nope; they had terrible, worn-out sounding recordings of bells playing nursery-tune jingles, over and over and over, through those god-awful public address-type horn speakers that just made the recordings sound more worn out. The sound blended with the cicadas drumming or buzzing, the sound of evaporative coolers (sometimes with failing belts or bearings), the calls of mourning doves and whitewing doves and Inca doves, the song of mockingbirds (or their tuneless squawks once they were busy raising young!), the lawn mowers, the scent of Japanese privet in bloom (they were once very popular as hedges).
It was mostly Bedford CAs when I was growing up, same kind of music: ‘Greensleeves’, ‘Yankee Doodle’, etc. We didn’t have a fridge at home until I was a few years into my teens.
Our neighborhood ice cream vendor uses a pink GEM electric vehicle with a freezer on the back. I don’t how she powers the freezer on an EV, if it’s powered by the batteries or if it’s actually an ice box like someone suggested for the featured Cushman. It wouldn’t need much range, though, as she lives in the neighborhood (I’ve seen it parked in her driveway when she’s not out selling ice cream).
An ice cream driver was wounded in the neighborhood I used to live in ten years ago. It was that kind of neighborhood. He wasn’t robbed, either. My then-wife and I joked that whomever did it was probably tired of hearing ‘Turkey In The Straw’ over and over with a loud obnoxious 104dB ‘HELLOOO!’ between every song every damn afternoon.
“HELLOOO!” “Goodbye” (bam!)
His prices were expensive too. I could go to wal-mart and buy a box of GV ice cream bars for what he charged for two Yarnells. Of course it was a greasy looking guy in a ragged t-shirt driving a rusted Big3 van in dirty white – I don’t think he ever washed it – with ice cream stickers and a price list on the side.
The most interesting ice cream conveyance I ever saw was at Collins Beach in Portland. I was enjoying the day and an ice cream boat (me: ‘An Ice Cream boat?? Cool!!!’) slowly cruised by. They had ice cream in coolers and the usual stickers and price list on a sign. They were enjoying good business too!
I agree with everyone else. If you’re selling and dealing with kids, you need to dress the part. If you don’t, then I begin to wonder just how good the ice cream is and if it’s expired or not. A man dressed in dapper white with a hat and bow tie is obviously doing well and his ice cream is sold before it ages out, right?
“Turkey in the Straw” is the time ubiquitous to ice cream trucks that seems to grate so many people. I love those old ragtime tunes. Everybody knows the ice cream truck is coming because that particular song announces it, from the block over. A truck drives through the auto lots around here, but haven’t seen him this year, yet. One of my old landscape clients was an ice cream distributor that served neighborhood trucks, though he had a few of his own he sent out.
After my parents divorced in the mid-70s, my dad drove an ice cream truck for a little while on weekends. I think it was an AM General, like an old mail truck. His truck didn’t use a generator to power the freezer, most these days have a generator mounted to the back bumper. Dad’s truck used dry ice inside the freezer chest. Id ride with him and he’d used to say, “Don’t touch the dry ice!” Dad served the absolute worst neighborhoods, as that’s where the money is in that biz, and there ain’t much. It was interesting seeing the goings on in those neighborhoods. As dad succumbed further to his demons, I was able to spend weekends with him as he lived in rooming houses in those bad neighborhoods. About half of my maintenance properties when I started landscaping were in those same areas, the other half being million dollar mansions. Go figure. I feel lucky and fortunate to have been able to move about those areas and see how the less advantaged live, as well the better off folks. Gives me a perspective I feel many others are lacking.
In my Seattle neighborhood I’ve heard ice cream trucks play “A Bicycle Built for Two” and the Colonel Bogey March.