I love ice cream!
Wait! Piggie loves ice cream, too!
Piggie is my best friend.
Should I share my ice cream with her?
Should I share my
cool ice cream?
from Should I Share My Ice Cream?
an Elephant and Piggie Book
written and illustrated by Mo Willems
Hyperion Books for Children, 2011
read on YouTube by AHEV Library
I love ice cream. As much as Mo Willems’s Elephant, I’m sure. Probably as much as anyone. Maybe more.
Mom always kept ice cream in the freezer at home. Dad loved chocolate. Mom was vanilla, all the way. She liked White House, the kind with the cherries in it. I’m sorry to say, I don’t know my sister’s favorite, or my brother’s. True to my child-self, I mostly cared about my own choices, doused with chocolate syrup when I could get it.
One day we kids heard a calliope-sounding jingle getting louder and louder. We ran outside. An ice cream truck was cruising our neighborhood, passing by as slowly as possible, right in time for a snack for the very lucky neighborhood kids.
But not us. Never us. Our ice cream was in the freezer.
Mom kept cones on hand, too. The pointy ones. She’d make us cones and let us eat outside, but it wasn’t the same, at least not for me.
I’m not sure what thoughts Mom had about kids who ran into the street after a slow-moving vehicle ready to thrust quarters at the white-suited driver. It wasn’t a good look for her, though. Besides, why should we spend our money on an inferior product when a better substitute was right there in our freezer?
Well, to be like the other kids, Mom.
She finally gave in. I decided on a drumstick. I ripped off the paper, which was in itself a novelty, and discovered perfectly shaped ice cream extending past the cone for probably 2 full inches, chocolate-dipped and flat-topped. But, it was frozen custard, not real ice cream. And the cone was soggy. Mom was right again.
But, whether we bought the ice cream or not, whether we liked it or not so much, the jingle stayed with us for the rest of the day.
I can conjure it up, still. “Turkey in the Straw.”
Who knew the tune had racist overtones? Not me. Not The Good Humor Company, started 100 years ago, right here in Youngstown, Ohio, when Henry Burt created a chocolate coating that would stay on the ice cream. When his young daughter said it was good but too messy to eat, he froze it onto a stick and a new confection was born.
Since 1920, Good Humor treats have been sold out of everything from tricycles to push carts to trucks.
By 1936, Good Humor men went through a rigorous three-day training program. In 1960, the company sold over 85 different products.
But times change. The fleet of trucks was sold in 1976, when the company focused on marketing to grocery stores. The trucks went for $1,000 to $3,000 each. Some were bought by ice cream distributers, and some were sold to individuals.
And the iconic song went with them.
When the tune was originated early in the 1800s from British and Irish folksongs, it had no racist overtones. That addition came soon after, when it was performed in the United States in minstrel shows. Some songs were sung with the same melody, but highly offensive lyrics, performed in black-face.
The short re-cap below is from American Heritage: https://www.americanheritage.com/blackface-sad-history-minstrel-shows itself the reprint of a 1978 article.
Begun with the creation in 1828, of a character named “Jim Crow,” White performer, Thomas Rice became an American sensation. He blackened his face and reddened his lips to present the caricature that quickly became an ingrained stereotype.
More popular in the North than the South, and more popular in cities than rural areas, the song and dance of the minstrel shows actually did allow Black performers to “break into” show business. The problem, though, to be successful, they too had to carry on the charade of the stereotype. What image does Stepin Fetchit conjure for you? I know. Me, too, and I’ve never seen his films.
But these shows are part of our history. The songs became popular, lurid and derisive lyrics and all, perpetuating a cruel satire and exploitation. The shows were meant to be light and meaningless entertainment, but were in truth, so much more.
The entertainment was lively, fresh, and complex. It drew on original music, dance, and one-liners. But the extremely popular shows depended on portraying enslaved people as “happy, dancing, carefree children for whom life was a continual frolic.” The message of the show, that Blacks could only “succeed” in the confines of an enslaved life and cared for by a kind master and mistress was not lost on anyone.
By the twentieth century, our had country moved on to concerns other than slavery, and the minstrel show faded. Left behind, though, was the stereotype that Black people could not survive in the complex society of urban life.
And the songs.
The racist lyrics were lost to most of us leaving only the calliope jingle on an ice cream truck. Now that has finally changed, too. Good Humor recently engaged RZA to create a new melody for a new time. He did. Here’s about a minute and a half of RZA’s explanation with the new jingle in the background. https://www.goodhumor.com/us/en/jingle.html
Finally, scroll down to find Good Humor’s statement on its commitment to racial equality and racial justice.
-—stay curious! (and eat ice cream)