Al Cooney loads ice cream into his Good Humor truck at the start of the season at the Good Humor offices at 4825 W. Arthington St. on April 1, 1965, in Chicago.
“For Chicagoans of a certain age, the sound of bells on a hot summer evening is a hallowed childhood memory. It called a timeout to schoolyard softball games. Ball players would scramble to line up at one of the Good Humor trucks or three-wheelers, 150 in all, that roamed city and suburban streets in the 1960s. Their ting-a-ling-a-ling may have woken up older folks dozing on front porches, but their arrival solved a dilemma for kids with a few coins to spend on a treat. At a drugstore, youngsters would have to decide between candy and ice cream. But the Good Humor man didn’t ask customers to choose. He offered a wondrous hybrid: a bar of ice cream encased in chocolate. It had a handle — a wooden stick reminiscent of a doctor’s tongue depressor — so a spoon or plate wasn’t needed. … That joyful familiarity made the Good Humor man an American icon. He inevitably cropped up in the culture at large: in the 1950 movie ‘The Good Humor Man’ and as the subject of a children’s book, where the good-natured character found a lost puppy along his route. Newcomers to the Chicago area soon learned about this neighborhood institution. In 1975, Tran Huu Loi, who had been an American interpreter in Vietnam, and his family arrived in Chicago. Within a week, he proudly told the Tribune, they were already acquainted with the cultural markers of their new home: supermarkets, traffic jams and the Good Humor man. In addition to its feel-good chapters, though, the story of Good Humor ice cream touches on the vagaries of human experience in an unexpected way. Its arrival in Chicago was marked by a boom. Two booms, to be exact. On May 23, 1929, two bombs exploded alongside the factory at 4649 W. Armitage Ave. that produced Good Humor bars for the Chicago area. The blasts smashed the building’s windows and destroyed two company trucks. … With that dirty deed, the Chicago mob inadvertently did Good Humor a favor. Newspapers picked up the story of a company refusing to bow down to gangsters, which solidified its reputation as a reputable enterprise. When Wall Street crashed later that year, Good Humor’s stock didn’t go down the tubes, like many others. Indeed, the Great Depression that followed was boom times for Good Humor. At 10 cents a bar, it was an affordable luxury in the 1930s, when the unemployment rate reached 25 percent. And with jobs scarce, the company had no trouble recruiting drivers or subjecting them to a quasi-military discipline. They were all men until 1967. …”
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YouTube: Good Humor Ice Cream Trucks – Life in America