Where Have All the Ice Cream Trucks Gone?

by Jacqueline Drayer

It’s 2 p.m. and my parents kick my sister and me out of the house.

“Go play outside like normal kids,” they say. Erica and I sit in the driveway, coloring with chalk — always avoiding physical exertion, even outdoors. But a faint jingly song has us running for the front door.

“Please, let us back in!” we shout. “The ice cream truck is coming, can we have three dollars?”

If mom answers the door, bargaining is in store (we dread actually doing chores) but eventually we get the money.

The real challenge is getting to the truck in time: Sometimes my sister flags down the driver, buying us a few minutes to grab some dollar bills. Occasionally, my dad races outside, heroically trying to catch the speeding ice cream truck. Why do they go so fast? Nothing was worse than missing out on a Choco Taco.

In retrospect, I think that near tear-inducing sadness was something deeper than a child denied undeserved ice cream. It was the disappointment of having something within reach, and then denied for no good reason. It was foreshadowing for real life disappointments, of which I’ve admittedly experienced few. But it was memorable, and so were our ice cream truck successes.

Now when I go home, I never hear the sound of the ice cream trucks’ song. In elementary school, our Florida suburb hosted at least two trucks; now, the neighborhood is devoid of any ice cream truck music.

Instead, the childhood thrill I got from unexpected ice cream has been replaced with kids who are Frappuccino fanatics. Five minutes waiting for my own drink, and two mothers sloshing lattes treat their kids to Vanilla Bean confections.

It makes sense of course: Ten years, ago my forward-looking elementary school friends enjoyed the occasional Frappuccino. A parent who treks to the local coffee place with kids in tow will naturally let them in on this lifestyle staple. Some might complain that this new habit is a ridiculous use of money, unhealthy for kids, or snobbier than the old ice cream trucks.

That all may be true, but I think the real loss is that of surprise: The spontaneous possibility of a treat, the clamoring to actually get it, all the emotions entwined with a ridiculous $1.50 snack. Maybe those a decade younger than me will soon reminisce about their family Starbucks experiences, but I wouldn’t trade my sugary memories for theirs.

Jacqueline Drayer still loves ice cream and hates physical exertion. This bodes well for her future health and appearance. Photo: State Library of Victoria

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