rejectomorph (flying_blind) wrote,

Tinkle Tinkle

An ice cream truck just passed by on the road at the end of my block. Its "music box" was digital, and sounded like a cheap midi being over-amplified. But it made me nostalgic for the ice cream trucks that used to troll the neighborhoods where I grew up. I seldom bought anything from the ice cream man, as both of my childhood homes were around the corner from a neighborhood grocery store, and, unlike trucks, the stores were always there.

Still, there was something alluring about the music of the ice cream truck, and something devious. It would tell you that you wanted ice cream, even when you hadn't been thinking about it. In my case, this reminder often benefited not the ice cream man, but Mr. Moran or Mr. Mayo, proprietors of the neighborhood grocery stores near my first and second houses, respectively.

I have no clear visual memory of Mr. Moran, as we moved from our first house not long after I turned six years old, but I remember Mr. Mayo quite clearly. We didn't call him Mr. Mayo, though. He was a short, balding fellow in late middle age, and all the kids in the neighborhood called him by his nickname, Dinky. He was a veteran of the First World War, and it was commonly believed that he picked up the nickname in the army. Whatever the name's origin, Mr. Mayo never seemed to mind being addressed as Dinky.

You didn't get music with your ice cream at Dinky's store, but there were plenty of other sounds to listen to: The fans and compressors of the various refrigerated devices, the whine of the slicing machine on which Dinky sliced lunch meat, sometimes the growl of the meat grinder when Dinky made hamburger to order, the hum of the fan that vented the small shop, and the clinking of coins changing hands. Well, sometimes you did get music, if Mrs. Mayo (who had no nickname) was listening to the radio in the living quarters behind the store, and happened to open the door between them. But the music would then be either a singing commercial or the theme song to a soap opera or quiz show, as soap operas and quiz shows were what Mrs. Mayo listened to.

The ice cream itself was kept in a freezer near the middle of the store. When I first went there, it was one of those freezers with several small, solid doors on top that one would lift open. Later, Dinky upgraded to a new freezer with two big sliding lids of glass through which one could see the various confections in their boxes below. There were standard chocolate-coated vanilla ice cream bars, the brand name of which I can't recall; Popsicles, and their less expensive knockoffs, Freeze-Ee Bars; ice cream sandwiches; Half-and-Half bars (vanilla ice cream swirled with orange Popsicle); Fudgesicles; Push-Up Bars (ice cream in a cardboard tube with a cardboard disc at the bottom attached to a stick you could use to push the ice cream from the top of the tube a lick at a time); and my personal favorite, the Drumstick: a waffle cone full of vanilla ice cream that was coated with chocolate and chopped peanuts.

For a while Dinky sold something I can't recall the name of, but it was a Posicle-like confection in a closed, soft plastic tube. You would tear off the top end of the tube and squeeze the ice up from the bottom. It was not at all practical. For one thing, lacking a stick to hold onto, your fingers would get very cold. For another, the heat extracted from your fingers would speed the melting of the ice, and it would accumulate as liquid in the bottom of the tube, and you would usually spill some when you tried to drink it from the open end of the tube. Everybody's mom hated these things, as they were so messy, and I think they vanished from the freezer in less than a year despite a heavy advertising campaign on radio and kids' television shows. I didn't miss them.

Thinking back, I must have bought some sort of ice cream from Dinky almost every summer day (and many days in other seasons, Los Angeles being a fairly warm place much of the year) for the decade or so that he operated the store while we lived there. That was probably upwards of two thousand frozen confections, probably averaging three or four ounces each, or probably more than six hundred pounds of frozen goodies altogether. Considering that I was also buying candy bars, penny candy, soft drinks, and various sugary baked goods, not to mention greasy, salty chips and such, it's a wonder I didn't become a fat kid. I stayed skinny, though, and didn't even have to chase the ice cream truck to stay in shape. The walk around the corner to Dinky's store was apparently sufficient.

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