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Remembering the Good Humor and the Helms Bakery Trucks

ice cream cone, summer snacks,
Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images

One of my fondest summer memories was the arrival of the Good Humor Man, his white ice cream truck splashed with a colorful rainbow of cool options guaranteed to help curb the heat of those sweltering summer days.

Early afternoon, while playing hide and seek, street football or some other game, we’d hear the faint chime of the Good Humor melody, an upbeat catchy tune that let us know a sweet sensation was soon to arrive.

Our driver’s name was Mack. He was a short burly Irish guy, with a thick head of black hair, who probably ate more of his inventory than he should have. I remember that silver change thingy that he wore around his waist, where he’d dispense dimes, nickels and quarters after you paid him for your chosen treat.

Drumsticks were my favorite, when we could afford them, the ice cream smashed into those sugar cones, drenched in chocolate and sprinkled with bits of peanuts on top. Usually, we could only afford a Popsicle, and I delighted in having Mack recite the list of flavors.

“Banana, strawberry, orange, cherry, grape, lime,” he’d begin, knowing I’d ask him one or two more times before arriving at my decision. I recall asking him to recite these flavors several times a week, although I probably chose a 5-cent orange Popsicle every time.

Sometimes Mack stopped at Carpenter Ave. Elementary School, where swarms of summer children would flood to the front of the school to pester Mack with our antics. Mack always remained calm and patient, despite the flock of students who congregated around him like horseflies. It takes a patient person to put up with a bunch of sweaty 9-year olds.

During that time, our home on Pacoima Court was also one of the many stops for the Helms Bakery Truck, a yellow hybrid of a woody, truck and a van, with its wheezy whistle announcing its arrival of freshly baked goods. The driver, always well polished in his crisp uniform, would get out and open the double doors at the rear of the truck, where the items were dispensed. There was fresh bread, donuts, and a variety of other baked goods.

The whiff of all things wonderful would emanate from the back of that truck, reminding me of the kitchens of some of those TV shows I used to watch, like Lassie, Donna Reed, My Three Sons and Ozzie & Harriet. These were the shows that displayed integrated families with no problems; mothers cooking in the kitchen with freshly pressed aprons, and fathers who never seemed fatigued from those many hours at the office.

Oh, those were the days, weren’t they, when things seemed easy, when milkmen delivered dairy goods before the roosters would even crow, those tall white bottles standing proudly, neatly packed into their metal sleeves, and that gray old crate that showed the ravages of the many doorsteps it had visited.

Sometimes, don’t you wish you could revisit those simpler times, when all we had to do was wait for the sweet pleasures of the day, like a daily visit from Mack, the Helms Bakery truck and the arrival of a few glassed quarts of pure pasteurized pleasure?

I know I do...

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