The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for June 28th, 2010

bazaars in the dusk

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mrs. Softee is lonely during the torrid nights, and wonders for whom her man plays his song, knowing that Mister Softee is no damn good.

One of the many occupations enjoyed by your humble narrator (who started working at 7, shining shoes in a mafioso barber shop in 1980’s Brooklyn) was as a Good Humor man. I drove one of the old fashioned trucks, the kind with the little door on the back, and wore the white uniform with a little change maker on the belt. I’ve also worked as a dish washer, pancake cook, supermarket cart and bag boy, aquarium service man, film store clerk, corporate drone, drawn and written comic books, been a fine art mover, advertising studio technician, photo retoucher- once I even took a job shoveling a seven foot by 20 foot pile of dog shit into plastic bags.

Good Humor man is still my favorite.

from wikipedia

Good Humor is an American brand of ice cream novelties sold from ice cream trucks as well as stores and other retail outlets. Originally, Good Humors were chocolate coated ice cream bars on a stick, but the line was expanded over the years to include a wide range of novelties. The Good Humor company started in Youngstown, Ohio during the early 1920s and covered most of the country by the mid 1930s. Good Humor became a fixture in American popular culture, and at its peak in the 1950s, the company operated 2,000 “sales cars”.

In 1961, Good Humor was acquired by Thomas J. Lipton, the U.S. subsidiary of the international Unilever conglomerate. Profits declined when the baby boomers aged and costs increased because of labor issues, gasoline and insurance. The company sold its fleet in 1978, but continued to distribute its products through grocery stores and independent street vendors. By 1984, Good Humor returned to profitability. Starting in 1989, Unilever expanded Good Humor through its acquisition of Gold Bond Ice Cream that included the Popsicle brand. Four years later, Unilever bought Isaly Klondike and the Breyers Ice Cream Company. Good Humor-Breyers is now a large producer of branded ice cream and frozen novelties with nine plants around the country.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A two man operation, the little white truck had actual bells which you’d ring while the other guy drove. It was a one man truck, but for safety reasons, was staffed by two. We’d drive around our route in Canarsie, ringing the bells and drawing the attention of children- who would begin a St. Vitus dance at the merest hint of the sound. Part of the job was to drive slow, allowing the kids to beg for money from their parents, who were generally arranged on folding chairs in front of their homes drinking red wine from a soda glass with floating ice cubes. Vulnerable to their kids, single dollars would be produced and their progeny would jet toward our position, which was mid block, to allow maximum sales. A good night would witness kids a couple of blocks away at the curb waiting.

Ka-chinng. has some restrictions attached to their content, so I’m not going to provide the cursory quotation here, but will instead direct you to click here to see what a Good Humor Truck looked like.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One night, my friend- whose great claim to fame at that time was that he was able to grow a full mustache- pointed out that Mr. Softee had entered our route and was pilfering sales from us by advancing to that next block and arriving there while we were serving the strawberry shortcake, chocolate eclair, toasted almond, and creamsicle pops from our freezer on the first. We instituted a chase, screaming over the roar of our engine, and soon found ourselves in a high speed chase on the service roads which follow the course of the Belt Parkway (which allowed no commercial vehicles). Of course, Ice Cream trucks of the era lost much of their potential motility to the compressors which kept the goods frozen and we never actually got moving much faster than 35 mph. Past Kings Plaza, Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island, Bay Ridge, and under the Gowanus- Mr. Softee evaded us- but we endeavored to serve our revenge cold.

Cold is best, when you’re a Good Humor Man bent on beating Mr. Softee to a pulp.

from wikipedia

Mister Softee is a United States-based ice cream truck franchisor popular in the Northeast. It was founded by William and James Conway (Oct. 30, 1927 – May 28, 2006) in 1956 in Philadelphia. It is one of the largest franchisor of soft ice cream in the United States. It has about 350 franchisees operating 600 trucks in 15 states. The company is headquartered in Runnemede, New Jersey. It is still run by the Conway family; James Conway, Jr. is now President.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Softee lost us somewhere around Williamsburg (a horrible part of town in the 1980’s), and our efforts at vengeance were stymied. Nearly out of fuel, with steam rising threateningly from under the hood, we were forced to swallow our pride and mourn the profits lost. Our adolescent hearts did not consider the confectionary disappointment of the children of Canarsie.

The pattern that we had established, my friend and I, was that he would pick up the truck at the yard and return it for a greater share of the night’s take. He would pick me up at my parent’s house and drop me off at the end of the shift, but as we were quite close to the yard, that night we went together.

That was the first night that I helped bring the truck back to its yard, and although I didn’t know it at the time, it was the first time I entered storied Greenpoint and experienced that ribbon of sense shattering abnormality called the Newtown Creek.


Mister Softee isn’t just dispensing vanilla ice cream this summer, he’s also trying to dish out soft-serve justice to cone-head wannabes.

Mister Softee distributors aren’t soft or sweet when it comes to rogue franchisees who routinely rip off the company’s trademarks without paying the licensing fees.

They hire private investigators to tail imposters and send the U.S. Marshals Service to tow offending trucks. They even spend tens of thousands of dollars every year to sue about 40 truck owners for lifting the cone-head logo, the white-and-blue color scheme and the jingle.

“These guys are mobile,” said Peter Bouzio, the Mister Softee distributor for the Bronx and Manhattan. “It’s an uphill battle.”In midtown Thursday, an ice cream truck called “Softee Treats” infringed on Mister Softee’s trademark, according to the company’s lawyer.

“I’m not Mister Softee, nowhere on my truck does it say Mister Softee,” shouted the ice cream vendor, who declined to give his name.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 28, 2010 at 2:21 am

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