Ice cream truck: Friend or foe?

How can we hate something that makes kids so happy?/Ryn Gargulinski

How can we hate something that makes kids so happy?/Ryn Gargulinski

As kids, the ice cream truck makes us scream with delight. As adults, on the other hand, the thing can simply make us scream.

Maybe it’s because it makes normally well-behaved children clamor for Creamsicles right before dinner. Perhaps we’ve been stuck behind one in neighborhood traffic. Or maybe it’s the incessantly loud and tinny music.

It’s gotta be the music.

But it’s just not right to hate the ice cream truck. How can we hate something that is filled with so many goodies and so much glee?

To soften any hardened perspective on the ice cream truck, I moseyed on over to one ambling through the Reid Park parking lot on a recent Saturday afternoon.

Its speaker was blasting “The Entertainer.”

Katrice Vega in the ice cream truck driver's seat/Ryn Gargulinski

Katrice Vega in the ice cream truck driver's seat/Ryn Gargulinski

Katrice Vega, 31, was in the driver’s seat, working the ice cream business her mother-in-law has manned for the past 20 years.

Sister-in-law Juanita Villegas was dispensing the treats to eager children. The two regularly go out on ice cream rounds, paying extra for things like permits to sell ice cream in Reid Park – and loads of the tinny music.

Yes, loads of the tinny music. Unlike the olden days when the little electronic music box only had as few as three or four songs, the box has gone digital and includes a fine selection of all types of ice cream truck music.

“It goes through my head all night long,” Vega admits.

Digital music box attached to ice cream truck ceiling/Ryn Gargulinski

Digital music box attached to ice cream truck ceiling/Ryn Gargulinski

“The Entertainer” can now be supplemented with “Pop Goes the Weasel,” “Happy Birthday,” “Popeye the Sailor Man” – and the everlasting staple of “Turkey in the Straw.”

“The Entertainer” is pure joy compared to “Turkey in the Straw.” Actually, a jackhammer in the eyeball would be pure joy compared to “Turkey in the Straw.”

Another pure joy of the job is definitely the children, Vega said. “The best part is the kids getting so excited.”

Vega works the ice cream truck part time and holds a second job – are you ready for this? – as a teaching assistant at the Pima County Jail.

Decisions, decisioins/Ryn Gargulinski

Decisions, decisioins/Ryn Gargulinski

While the gigs may seem like they are on opposite ends of the spectrum, she notes the similarity that ensures she enjoys both. “Both involve working with people.”

Vega said the toughest part of the ice cream job is the heat. Even though the truck is outfitted with a freezer, it’s tough to sell ice cream through a closed window. Heat seeps up from the asphalt and sweeps into the truck, licking at armpits and leaping at brows.

Although the heat may be the toughest part of the job, Villegas points out the most dangerous aspect.

No, the most hazardous aspect is not the potential to gain some 25 pounds from eating ice cream drumsticks and the best-selling chocolate tacos. Nor is it kids who dash and bolt at all angles into the street.

It’s the thieves.

Thieves think the truck is an easy target/Ryn Gargulinski

Thieves think the truck is an easy target/Ryn Gargulinski

“In this economy, people are trying to steal,” Villegas says. “Ice cream trucks make easy targets. You have to keep your eyes open for anything – and be ready to act quickly.”

Their own truck has been the target of two different robbery attempts. While Villegas did not say whether or not the robberies were successful – or if the ice cream truck has a handgun holster next to the Bomb Pops – she did say suspects were usually easy to spot.

They often appear strung out on some type of drug.

Or maybe they’re just strung out from the music – we hear strange things do happen after repeated exposure to Turkey in the Straw.


Heaven on wheels/Ryn Gargulinski

Heaven on wheels/Ryn Gargulinski


Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who thinks ice cream trucks should play Stravinsky and the Violent Femmes. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at and E-mail


What do you think?

Does the ice cream truck fill you with glee – or dread?

Do you agree with New York City’s Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s 2004 proposal to ban ice cream truck music in neighborhoods and instead ring a bell?

What ice cream truck song drives you the most insane?

(HINT: Turkey in the Straw)


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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32 Responses to Ice cream truck: Friend or foe?

  1. fraser007 says:

    Great article!! Good topic.

  2. azmouse says:

    I love hearing the ice cream truck!! It brings back great memories.

    • Rynski says:

      it does have a slew of fond memories, azmouse – but the childhood one that sticks in my head the most is hearing the ice cream truck, yelling STOP!!!!
      …and then hiding under the window.

      • azmouse says:


        The memory I recall best is running on hot pavement in my bare feet for three blocks, screeming at the top of my lungs, ‘Wait Mr. ice cream man, please stop!!!’

      • Rynski says:

        hahahha! aww – i hope he DID stop! and how polite of you to call him ‘mister’!

  3. John Kennedy says:

    I like the old fashioned ice cream trucks. Extra points if they have the brass bell instead of the music, but it’s all good.

    • Rynski says:

      i agree, john kennedy – old fashioned ice cream trucks have their special charm – although i don’t think i’ve EVER seen one that still had brass bell
      i also like some of the newer ones that are an incredibly hideous neon green or other monstrous color.

      • azmouse says:

        We have a cool neon orange and white one around here that has a bouncy clown head on top and those crazy rims that keep spinning after the truck has stopped.

      • Rynski says:

        yesssss! THOSE hideous ones – hahahha – although bouncy clown head might send me over the edge…..

  4. Ice Cream Trucks are an absolute abomination, especially the drivers. I myself am a victim of the ice cream man, I have scars to prove it. They are evil beings that torment kids with their chimes, only to jack the price up for cheap cold treats or abandon you when you aren’t ready with your money that very second.
    That is why it has been my mission to condition kids into hating the ice cream man. That when they hear his song from the streets, they are running in anger rather than glee to heckle the dessert slinging bastard. For more information on my cause, visit

    • azmouse says:

      Love the movie trailer with Ron Howard’s brother.
      Very cool

    • Rynski says:

      think you just made my day, patthew s meterson – thanks!! have a bomb pop on me, will ya? hahahhahahahah

      …on a more somber note, if you are not kidding about the ice cream man scars, i am sorry to hear about them – please tell us what happened, if you wish, to serve as a warning for others.

      • You can read all about in the Inception section

      • azmouse says:

        Wow, quite a story. You’re a great writer!

        Sorry about your wrist. That kind of stuff can be traumatic when you’re a kid.
        Do you think though…just a thought, that maybe you were a bit of a sensitive child?
        I mean, I have three kids and I would have told them it was their fault for banging on the glass.   😀

      • Yes, I admit my actions were quite irrational, however I was only 10. I think that at that age, you are very impressionable and the ice cream man is someone you should be able to trust.
        I can only imagine what other children would have done in my place. And that is why I am doing this, so that kids learn not to be so trusting.
        …that and I hate kids and think it is funny to drive faster when they try to flag me down.

      • azmouse says:

        Ah-ha! The truth comes out….kid hater!!!  HAHA!

        Oh the drama we all go through as kids. It’s a wonder we ever survive it.

      • Rynski says:

        awww, patthew – what a sad, sad story indeed.
        did you need stitches? did the doctor buy you ice cream after the stitches to make up for it maybe?
        i am sorry to hear you’ve had such bad luck with all of the below (if i may quote from your inception section):
        Figures such as magicians, spirit leaders, clowns, barber shop quartets, and people dressed in animal/reptile/weird…beast costumes that appear to be high spirited and full of joy but are actually dark soldiers of the underworld.

      • When I presented my wrist to my mother, she looked at it and said I was fine. No doctor and definitely no ice cream.

  5. leftfield says:

    Growing up in Michigan, if you heard the ice cream truck coming down the street it meant it was summertime, the weather was kind, you were out of school and the world was your oyster (so long as Mom would give you a dime for a popsicle).

    • Rynski says:

      for sure, leftfield!
      since michigan summers – or any season other than winter – are o so brief!! those seasons are incredibly special and keen.
      i loved the ice cream truck in michigan – only began to hate it in nyc when it would go blasting around cramped neighborhoods around 11 p.m. (which was about the time mayor toyed with getting rid of the music…)
      but now i’ve come full circle and am a fan, once again, of the ice cream truck.

  6. flylowguy says:

    Lots of neighborhoods are quite sterile for children.  The ice cream truck breaks that up just a little.

  7. koreyk says:

    I lived in Bellevue Washington from age four to six.  Our neighborhood had a bakery truck that sold everything from bread to brownies to cookies to donuts.  People would throng to it as they would to an ice cream truck.  It was kind of like a small bus, with steps leading up through an open back.  There were drawers and cubbies full of goodies on the sides and a wide aisle down the middle.  Sometimes we stayed in back and rode around the neighborhood.  Liability concerns would certainly prevent that today.

    Your purchases were put into a white paper bag that had one of those endless drawings (I don’t know the technical name);  a smiling man (or woman) holding a bag that had a smiling man holding a bag…on and on until the last one was just a dot.

    • Rynski says:

      yum yum NOTHING smells as delish as fresh baked anything! what a wonderful memory, koreyk.
      i LOVE those endless drawings things – you know you can create your own if you open a  medicine cabinet mirror at just the right angle as another mirror to make the reflections go on and on forever….don’t ask why i know this..hahahah.

  8. radmax says:

    Rynski, the ice cream truck is a mixed blessing; while at first it was a nice break for my daughter and I to grab a bullit or some concoction that looked like tweetie bird, it becomes annoying once it becomes a daily routine.
    Ps- Turkey in the straw rocks Rynski! I saw Kiss do this rocker as the encore number back in ’74, brought down the house… 😉

    • Rynski says:

      i can just imagine kiss doing turkey in the straw – oh, man – how twisted!
      glad you had at least some early joy regarding ice cream truck before it got routine (and prob expensive). what concoction looks like tweetie bird? do they have frozen peeps?

      • radmax says:

        Yes Rynski, there are frozen peeps. They are not for sale though.
        Seems they are saving the little bugger’s cryogenically frozen heads in the misguided belief that there will come a time in the future when folks actually find them edible. 😉

  9. Mark B. Evans says:


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