Many businesses got their start during the Baby Boom years to capitalize on selling their products to the increasing number of children. One summer-related business that can fall into that category is Mister Softee.
Mister Softee is the now-ubiquitous soft ice cream served up in your neighborhood by familiar white and blue trucks. It was begun by two brothers, William and James Conway, in Philadelphia in 1958. Within a couple of years, its franchises spread across the country. The company was a pioneer in constructing its own trucks, which it dubbed “an ice cream shop on wheels.”
In 1960, the company adopted the jingle that is so closely tied to its brand; the jingle plays as the trucks roll down the street, calling boys and girls like a Pied Piper of summer treats. Depending on your point of view, then as now, that jingle could be one of the most annoying songs ever broadcast in public, or it’s a catchy jingle that to this day evokes a taste of Boomer Age summer. Written in 1960 by Lester Morton Waas, an advertising jingle writer, he based it on The Whistler and His Dog, by Arthur Pryor (1913). Many boomers recall the music streaming out of the rooftop speaker on the Mister Softee truck, but do not realize the song has lyrics. The lyrics were often sung by children in TV commercials that the company ran during the 1960s. Still operating today and Conway family-owned, you can download the sheet music for the jingle — which includes the lyrics — from mistersoftee.com. If you can’t get enough of that particular memory, they offer a ringtone download as well.
Mister Boomer recalls the trucks crawling down the street in his suburb. Kids would run out of their yards and houses, yelling, “Wait, wait!” until the driver took notice and stopped the truck, all that while playing that earworm of a jingle. Yes, Mister B falls into the group that finds the sound of that jingle akin to nails on a chalkboard.
When Mister B and his family succumbed to the siren of the soft-serve, he always got the same thing: a cone of chocolate. Sometimes his brother would choose a milkshake, and his mother might have a sundae, but generally speaking, it was cones for the Mister B family. Like Dairy Queen’s soft-serve, Mister B didn’t think it tasted much like ice cream, but it was cold and chocolatey, which was pretty good on a hot summer day. Mister B recalls that cones were ten cents, with sundaes and milkshakes being a nickel more.
His neighborhood seemed to be the perfect demographic for ice cream trucks, as Mister Softee, Good Humor and a local ice cream vendor all vied for business, sometimes hitting the same streets within hours of each other on the same day. Unlike Mister Softee, though, the Good Humor truck and local vendor rang bells as they inched down the street. In both cases, a series of bells mounted at the top of the truck’s windshield were tied to a rope that the driver pulled to make them ring.
The kids in the neighborhood became connoisseurs of the frozen confections, knowing that Mister Softee had soft-serve, Good Humor had Toasted Almond, Strawberry Eclair and Chocolate Malt bars, and the local guy had push-ups and frozen pops. As long as your mom had a few coins, the clanging of bells or playing of the jingle were the summer sounds of the suburbs.
Did Mister Softee’s route include your street, boomers? Can you sing the lyrics to the Mister Softee song?