The Good Humor Truck, Helms Bakery and Freshly Delivered Milk

Ah, the simple pleasures of the day.

One of my fondest summer memories was the arrival of the Good Humor Man, his white ice cream truck splashed with a rainbow of cool options guaranteed to help curb the heat of those sweltering Studio City days. 

Early afternoon, while playing hide and seek, street football or some other game, in the faint distance, we’d hear the chime of the Good Humor melody, an upbeat catchy tune that let us know a sweet sensation was soon to arrive.

Our driver’s name was Mack. He was a short burly Irish guy, with a thick head of black hair, who probably ate more of his inventory than he should have.  I remember that silver change thingy that he wore around his waist, where he’d dispense dimes, nickels and quarters after you paid him for your chosen treat.

Drumsticks were my favorite, when we could afford them, the ice cream smashed into those sugar cones, drenched in chocolate and sprinkled with bits of peanuts on top. Usually, we could only afford a Popsicle, and I delighted in having Mack rehearse the list of flavors over and over.

“Banana, strawberry, orange, cherry, grape, lime,” he’d begin, knowing I’d ask him one or two more times before arriving at my decision. I recall asking him to recite these flavors several times a week, although I probably chose a 5-cent orange Popsicle every time.

Sometimes Mack stopped at Carpenter Ave. Elementary School, where swarms of summer students would flood onto the front of the school to pester Mac with our antics.  Mac always remained calm and patient, despite the flock of students who congregated around him like horseflies. It takes a patient person to put up with a bunch of sweaty 9-year olds.

During that time, Pacoima Court was also one of the many stops for the Helms Bakery Truck, a yellow hybrid of a woody, truck and a van, with its wheezy whistle announcing its arrival of freshly baked goods. The driver, always well polished in his crisp uniform, would get out and open the double doors at the rear of the truck, where the items were dispensed. There was fresh bread, donuts, and a variety of other baked goods.

The whiff of all things wonderful would emanate from the back of that truck, reminding me of the kitchens of some of those TV shows I used to watch, like Lassie, Donna Reed, My Three Sons and Ozzie & Harriet.  These were the shows that displayed integrated families with no problems; mothers cooking in the kitchen with fresh aprons, and fathers who never seemed fatigued from those many hours at the office.

Oh, those were the days, weren’t they, when things seemed easy, when milkmen delivered dairy goods before the roosters would even crow, those tall white bottles standing proudly, neatly packed into their metal sleeves, and that gray old crate that showed the ravages of the many doorsteps it had visited.  

Sometimes, don’t you wish you could revisit those simpler times, when all we had to do was wait for the sweet pleasures of the day, like a daily visit from Mack, the Helms Bakery truck and the arrival of a few glassed quarts of pure pasteurized pleasure?

I know I do…

teresa mcgrath August 02, 2011 at 02:42 PM
loved the article mary. we could only afford the 5 cent single stick popsicle, as the ten cent had indentations, more flavors, and 2 sticks. mac was always friendly, and he was so efficient with the nostalgic coin changer. we discovered another ice cream truck that was cheaper, and asked that driver to come to carpenter before mac. we were looking for a bargain, and he delivered. when mac drove up, he was livid about being passed over. it was a cruel manuever, and a lesson of capitalism, frugalness, and humanity. i still feel badly. adohr delivered on on our back porch, and you could see the cream sitting on top of the milk, just under the cap. the dew would settle in, and made the milk look inviting. the photo of mom with stormy, the cat, is classic. the helms also had potato chips that our rich laurelwood friends would buy us for a nickle, as it was forbidden at home, except during the holidays.
Jennifer Evans Gardner August 02, 2011 at 03:29 PM
I love this article. My son told me that the ice cream man who stops his truck near the middle school got into a fight with one of the kids and pulled a knife (!)... not exactly like the old days :) Lovely writing - thank you for taking me back.
Mary McGrath August 02, 2011 at 03:39 PM
Thanks Teresa and Jennifer for your post. I do remember only being able to have the 5 cent single popsicles...I didn't remember the new driver at Carpenter! Oh, they bought us potato chips? I didn't remember that!
teresa mcgrath August 02, 2011 at 08:11 PM
it was certainly a class thing with the expensive popsicles vs the cheap ones...geez things have changed with the ice cream vendor regarding the knife...nothing like solving problems with violence!
Leah August 02, 2011 at 09:26 PM
Remember the Good Humor man, the Helm's Bakery Truck, The Arden Farms and Adhor Farms milk trucks, the Christmas lights that hung across Ventura Blvd. the Midnight Madness sales on Ventura, Coast Hardware with Santa sitting in his sleigh, Meatball Manor (BEST MEATBALL SUBS ever!), Thrifty's drug store food counter in the back (Those "green river" sodas!!), Curries Ice Cream Store, Newberry's, Bond's Market and Stop and Shop, etc., etc., etc.! What a great area for all of us to grow up in!!!
Leah August 02, 2011 at 09:28 PM
Oh...and that wooden foot bridge that took us from Carpenter Avenue's kindergarten area across the gully to the elementary school yard!!!
Mary McGrath August 02, 2011 at 11:13 PM
Loved that Carpenter bridge Leah...Kit Kraft, "Lemon" who served ice cream at Thriftys....So many memories....
Andy Steiner August 03, 2011 at 12:29 AM
I remember Fudgicles and Creamsicles from the ice cream truck that drove through our neighborhood. http://blogfiles.wfmu.org/LB/0510/Pink_Panther_Pops_Awesome.mp3
Mary McGrath August 03, 2011 at 04:36 AM
My pal Bruce Brizzard reminded me that it was also called the "Rainforest"...Thanks Bruce!
Mary McGrath August 03, 2011 at 04:37 AM
That's the tune Andy! Still have that on your iPod, eh? Can you dance to it though?
Leah August 03, 2011 at 04:29 PM
I sure wish something can be done with decorating Ventura Blvd with Christmas lights like it was done back in the day....those tinsel covered lights with bells that were strung across the blvd. so it looked like a tunnel as we drove down the street. Nowadays...there is NO holiday feeling or decorations on the street...just some in the store windows but not enough to get people in the spirit of the season. It is more festive on Riverside Drive and on Tujunga than it is on Ventura. Sad to see there is so much apathy among our business owners and the Studio City Chamber.
Mary McGrath August 04, 2011 at 02:06 PM
I do remember those Christmas decorations...wasn't there a big bell in the center of all that tinsel? Leah, when did you go to Carpenter? Were you there when we were? (1959-1965 ish...)
Leah August 04, 2011 at 04:21 PM
Yes, there was a big bell!!! I remember your brother, he was a half of semester ahead of me. Lloyd Schwartz and Roger Anthony were in my class.


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