Ode To Mike
If you were inside, your ears perked up like a Doberman’s hearing a prowler. If you were outside in a group, the group dispersed and the kids ran home to begin their fast paced begging for a quarter. In either case, in and around 1959, our ears were attuned to the jingle of Mike, The Ice Cream Man.
Mike was an older guy wearing an all white uniform like he worked in a nuclear lab. His smile never left his face, and he knew each and every one of our names. His bicycle carrying the huge metal crate of ice cream and popsicles didn’t have a fancy recorded song; it had the jingle of actual little bells on a bar between the handlebars.
I sometimes wonder what it must have been like to be Mike; knowing that when you rang those bells you sent a shockwave of happiness through every kid in the neighborhood. If someone didn’t have the necessary twenty-five cents, it didn’t matter. The popsicles could be split in half and you could always get a friend to share theirs.
Mike spread joy. Not just from the wares he sold, but Mike…Mike spread joy. It radiated from his white uniform and every kid became awash in the positive radiation that was Mike. He gently and happily managed the pandemonium that his bicycle caused, and you knew you were next because he called you by name, even though a little jumping up and down never hurt. The big kids thought they had the advantage, but Mike new the little ones who couldn’t get close, and he’d call their names much to the chagrin of the older kids.
His selection wasn’t huge, and sometimes it varied. It was never anything fancy. Just the basics. Fudgesicles, Dreamsicles, Push-Ups, and popsicles. Sometimes, he had banana popsicles. The most special day, though, was when he had Blue. Blue was not just a color. Blue was a flavor. When Mike had Blue popsicles, the world couldn’t get better.
No one knew if being the Ice Cream Man was Mike’s only profession, or if he could even make a living from doing it. It was a very seasonal career.
One day something strange happened. There was a loudspeaker of music coming down Chappel Ave. and a huge white van. On the side of the van, in big brown letters, it said that the van contained GOOD HUMOR. There were pictures of all kinds of ice cream. Things that we had never seen before. Some of us had money. Some of us didn’t have money, because we didn’t know what the hell this thing was. The guy inside the van didn’t smile much, and when he opened the cavern to sell us what we wanted, he didn’t know our names. It didn’t take us long to learn what this behemoth was.
It was the end of seeing Mike. That’s what it was.