Ice Cream Lady [Non-Fiction]

“Do you hire girls?” I asked.

It was 1969 and I had called about an ad for an ice cream truck driver.  I found it under “male/female help wanted,” but in those days women did not drive trucks.

“Oh, yes,” replied the company owner.  “I prefer to have women drive my trucks.  They treat them more gently.”

The next day at my interview, I was hired in a few minutes and sent out with the owner’s son to learn my route.  Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?  My trainer’s truck played it over and over.  I thought it was funny and I hoped that would be my vehicle. However, what I would be hearing all day, every day, all summer was Old Mac Donald Had a Farm… but I was excited that it came from a new, white half-ton Chevy pick- up. Except for the height, it felt like a sports car to me—tight steering and a manual transmission.

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In my first neighborhood everyone cheered when they saw the truck, “Here comes the ice cream man, the ice cream maaaaaa-n oh, it’s a lady.”  One boy told me his father wasn’t going to let him buy from me because he thought that I was a long-haired hippy freak. But when he saw I was a lady in a ruffled apron, he just laughed.

I got a big kick out of the children, like the little boy who held up two nickels and asked, “I have two nickels; can I buy two popsicles? ”  The mothers loved that I drove slowly and had patience and respect for my young customers. On some very hot days, there was a lemonade stand on every block, and to my stomach’s distress, I bought from every one.

The favorite mischief that summer was turning the street signs around, making it tough for me in large, unfamiliar housing developments.  One day a mother stopped me. “We like you, Linda,” she said, “and don’t even mind if you arrive at lunch time, but please don’t come down our street 3 times in 10 minutes.” Oops!

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All the parents were getting charge accounts that year, and the kids didn’t see why they couldn’t have them for the ice cream, but we operated strictly on a cash basis. I did, however, make one exception. There was an elderly couple’s dog who loved to run with the kids. He also loved ice cream, but it was difficult for Olaf and Thelma to come running out to pay each day.   So I allowed them to pay every Friday, and each day I would take the cover off and give Rover his Hoodsie, which is a small cup of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, if you are not from New England.

I made straight commission, so this job was like having my own little business.  In fact out of the whole 15-truck fleet, every day I was one of the top two in sales. With a tan and good wages, I sure was glad that this girl answered the ad for a truck driver.

Written by Linda A. Johnson

Edited by Maggie Dinzler Shaw

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