In the scorching heat of a summer’s day, few sounds beckon to a child like the playful jingle of an ice cream truck in the distance – gradually moving closer, block by block, until it finally turns the corner and heads slowly down their street. At the first notice of the approaching melody, kids scatter in all directions, making a mad dash towards the parents, begging for enough change to purchase a frozen delicacy. And for over eighty years, little white Good Humor trucks have done their part to ensure that ice cream is available to all, offering varieties of the very thing that made them famous almost a century ago – ice cream on a stick.
An Ohio man by the name of Harry Burt, a confectioner and ice cream maker, came up with a few innovations in 1920 that would change the world of frozen snacks. Realizing that the lollipop was considerably less messy due to its stick, he decided that ice cream might also benefit from such a handy device. He also developed a way to coat said ice cream with a layer of chocolate and by combining these two ideas, the ice cream bar as we know it was invented. Harry felt that a person could be kept in good humor (or spirits) as long as their taste buds were kept happy. Therefore, it seemed perfectly fitting to name his invention, and subsequent company, Good Humor. To market his product, he sent out a fleet of little white trucks driven by white-suited drivers who came to be known as “The Good Humor Man.”
These angels of frozen desserts carried a variety of ice cream bars that were concocted by the Good Humor Company over the years. Some of the most memorable have been the ones that consist of vanilla ice cream filled with a flavored center, then dipped in an almost cake-like coating. The Chocolate Eclair, Strawberry Shortcake and Toasted Almond bars all enjoyed great success as did the famous Candy Center Crunch bar, which consisted of a traditional ice cream bar coated in crispy chocolate goodness and containing a surprise chocolate candy center. If that didn’t justify a frenzied ice cream truck rendezvous, nothing could.
In their jingling white vehicles, the well-dressed vendors of Good Humor ice cream roamed the streets of America in official capacity until 1978, leaving a wake of smiling kids in their tracks. And while there aren’t official Good Humor trucks anymore, there are plenty of independent mobile vendors that still offer the Good Humor ice cream truck experience.
The aforementioned plethora of Good Humor bars are also still available for purchase in grocery stores as well as online. But as any former kid will attest, they always tasted just a little more special coming from an ice cream truck – the way ice cream was meant to be acquired, the result of a mad dash frenzy for cash that resulted in a panting child uttering the words “give me one of those” in between gasps for breath. Then, stick in hand, they could proudly walk off into the sunset, chomping at their prize and leaving their mood in what could only be described as … good humor.
If you grew up chasing the Good Humor Man down the street, or if you still seek out a particular Good Humor product that you loved in your childhood, share all of your ice cream memories with us in our comments section, as we remember this staple of summer, here at Retroland.