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I can still hear it … the tinny amplified music that was so familiar. It alerted us kids that the “ice cream man” (women were not hired as vendors until 1967) was in the neighborhood. The music evoked a Pavlovian response to the well developed stimulus, and that was to run from wherever we were and whatever we were doing to find a parent so that you could get some change to satisfy your need for a frozen treat. I believe that process fulfills several of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The predominant ice cream man sold Good Humor products, and they drove Good Humor trucks and other unique vehicles, including pushcarts, bicycles, shoulder boxes and even one boat.
It all started around 1920 in Youngstown, Ohio, when Harry Burt replicated the “Eskimo Pie” and outfitted twelve street vending trucks with bells and freezers, and started to sell “Good Humor Ice Cream Suckers.” A few years later, the Good Humor Company sued the Popsicle Corporation and obtained both a license fee and the right to manufacture similar products. Following Harry’s death, his wife sold the company and it was renamed the Good Humor Corporation of America. Franchises were sold for a $100.00 down payment.
Good Humor franchises were initially located in metropolitan areas, and provided inexpensive treats during the Depression. Following the end of World War II, the company moved out to the expanding suburban communities to serve baby boomers predominantly. More than half of Good Humor’s customers were twelve or younger. By the mid-50s, there were around 2,000 trucks that collectively resulted in around 90% of the company’s sales.
By 1960, Good Humor’s product line had expanded from its three-ounce chocolate-coated vanilla ice cream bar on a stick to eighty-five flavors or combinations. Near the end of the decade, the company became unprofitable, and the gasoline crisis of the early ‘70s caused even more troubles. In the late ‘70s, the decision was made to end neighborhood truck sales and become a stand-alone ice cream distributor. The fleet of trucks was sold, and many of the employees purchased their truck and became independent operators. Some of them will be cruising the neighborhoods as soon as the snow melts.