For baby boomers, the sound of the tinkling bells of the Good Humor man were as much a part of summer as lightning bugs, roasted marshmallows on a stick, hunks of chilled red watermelon, games of hide and seek, and long, endless, drowsy afternoons.
The diminutive white trucks that coursed up and down neighborhood streets had a distinctive chocolate-coated vanilla ice cream bar on a stick, with one bite removed, painted on the side of the refrigeration compartment that kept the inventory of ice cream treats cool.
The “Good Humor men,” who were dressed in white uniforms, also wore white shirts with black bow ties and carefully creased white hats with black visors. They dispensed the vanilla ice cream bars, toasted almond bars, chocolate eclairs, strawberry shortcakes, Popsicles and chocolate cakes, which were just some of the 85 products.
At the sound of the bells, kids ran curbside with their quarters in hand and lined up to make their selection from the friendly driver who in turn made change from a dispenser worn on his belt.
Harry Burt established Good Humor in Youngstown, Ohio, during the Roaring ’20s, when he figured out a way to coat a vanilla ice cream bar with chocolate, and then inserted a stick to make it easier to eat.
Good Humor, whose territory extended west to Chicago, north to Connecticut and south to Washington, sold off its nationwide fleet of 1,200 trucks in 1978. Many were bought by former drivers who then became independent Good Humor route owners.
Baltimore’s Good Humor plant on Windsor Avenue in Northwest Baltimore, which once produced enough ice cream to fill its local fleet of 140 trucks and sate demands for its products, closed in 1984.
Rising costs and changing buying habits also factored into the company’s decision to end the operation of its trucks, according to news reports at the time.
Adding to the company’s woes in Baltimore in the 1970s, its vendors increasingly became targets of street robberies. “Vendor Robbed of Cold Cash,” reported The Baltimore Sun in 1975.