Mister Softee

It’s the jingle heard in every neighborhood, and it hasn’t changed since the 1950’s.

I got stuck behind a Mister Softee ice cream truck on the way to a local park. I didn’t mind, I was smiling the whole time, mostly at the childhood memories.

In some neighborhoods that we’ve lived over the years, its popularity was in decline. Many homes have ice cream treats in their own freezer.

Vintage Truck

Vintage Truck. Pinterest.

But in the 1950’s, that soft ice cream was special. Everyone, and I mean everyone, ran to the street and got in line. I believe the cones were about 10 cents at the time.

It didn’t matter that they often came in the early evening on a hot summer night, sometimes during family dinner hour.

We all waited, we all begged. Parents fought the good fight, but we usually won.

Living 30 miles west of Philadelphia, we might have been some of the first suburban targets.

The first ice cream van with soft whip ice cream had emerged in 1956 around the streets of West Philadelphia. On St. Patrick’s Day, two Irish brothers named William & James Conway gave away free soft green ice cream from a Chevrolet panel van.

This “moveable feast”, made possible with a freezer powered by an electric generator, emerged as Mister Softee, spreading the joy to the rest of the nation.

And in case you want to torture your family, here is the jingle. In a 10 minute loop.

I apologize.


This entry was posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Food and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

103 Responses to Mister Softee

  1. Jim says:

    I think I’d end up killing someone if I had to listen to that all day.

  2. Elyse says:

    What a lovely memory! Mister Softee came by our house twice a day where we lived until I was six. The second time it came in the evening, and I would strain to stay awake to hear that music. If I was awake I could have one; if not, “better luck next time,” my Dad would say. I think it helped me be a better loser! (In a good way — not to sweat it if you don’t always get what you want. Not as in it made me a loser because we can all agree that would not be a good outcome!)

  3. Nurse Kelly says:

    I heard the “ice cream man” in our neighborhood for the first time yesterday, as a matter of fact! It isn’t Mister Softee, though. You know, food trucks are so popular now, wouldn’t be surprised to see them start traveling more… who knows, maybe we will see them in the neighborhood eventually!
    That was a very sweet memory, Van, told in your typical charming style. Have a lovely Tuesday! xo

  4. We’d hear the truck coming down the road and it was always a scramble to find money and dash up out long driveway in time. Great memories, Van 🙂

  5. I lived for Mr. Softy as a child. I would get FREE chocolate sprinkles on my chocolate cone if I did my Donald Duck impersonation. He would laugh each and every time. Great memories.

  6. Erika Kind says:

    We don’t know this here in Europe. When we moved to the States and heard that jungle we saw the ice cream truck for the first time. My daughter was 3 and it was just amazing how excited we all got whenever we heard the truck coming around the corner. In the Buffalo area it is called Mr. Cool.

  7. Up until we left Houston last year an ice-cream truck always drove into the neighbourhood in the evenings when children are back from school. I was tempted to tell him to stop driving by my house ‘cos I always ended up having ice-cream 😄😄

  8. I have fond memories of the ice cream van and of eating soft ice cream (with a Cadbury’s chocolate flake stuck into it to make it a 99 if I had been very good) but I have zero fondness for the horrible music I’m afraid, whatever the tune.

    My kids had no regular access to an ice cream van back home in Scotland so here it is a particular treat for them. An ice cream van comes to the school daily at pick up time during the warm months and I treat them and the friends who walk home with us to an ice cream treat each Friday. It’s a fun tradition to be making with them and hopefully some fond memories in the making.

  9. Erica Herd says:

    We had Mr. Softee in Jackson Heights too! I miss that little tune.

  10. LaVagabonde says:

    There’s just something 1950’s B-movie sinister about Mr. Softee. But I’d probably run after the truck, if given the chance.

  11. Bradley says:

    The ice cream truck in our neighborhood always played “Pop Goes the Weasel.” I think it had a different name than Mr, Softee, but the memories are just as delicious.

  12. I used to love the ice cream truck, both as a child and as a mother. Such a treat. But times have changed – no more soft-serve on those trucks, now it’s the same frozen treats you can buy at your grocery store. These days, I wonder how the ice cream truck owners make any profit. The ones that come down my street hardly ever stop because no one is buying. Why pay $2 for a chocolate-covered ice cream bar when you can get a package of 8 at the store for $3?

  13. I’ve been thinking of comfort foods (that I no longer enjoy most because I know better now). Boy, were they good! You just took me back to my old stomping grounds in Queens, NYC. I taught in Phil but didn’t realize Mr. S ran the circuit there, too. I can taste the vanilla cone right now. Ha ha ha.

  14. So many wonderful, warm memories! Thanks for sharing, Van. 😊

  15. I don’t know what the ice cream truck is called around here, but it still makes the rounds. I’m usually the first in line. But what can a five year old do to me, right? Ah, the privileges of being an adult. Oh boy, that means I get the last Bomb Pop! 😀

  16. Just Plain Ol' Vic says:

    Since I was the only house on a dirt road, I never knew what it was like to have the ice cream truck in my neighborhood. My wife gets all giddy when one rolls through ours but I simply have no childhood association with that ditty. My loss I suppose.

  17. amommasview says:

    Still have soft ice cream trucks everywhere here. Kids run up to them when they hear them coming.

  18. Pingback: Sweet!… | a cooking pot and twistedtales

  19. Prior-2001 says:

    so true that this has not changed – enjoyed the song tonight – do you play this in your van by the river?

    and thx for the history

    • Ha ha…I’ll be honest, I fast-forwarded through the video, just to see the images. A minute of that song was enough for me. Back in the day, we heard it for 20-30 minutes as the ice cream was dispensed on a busy street. ❤️ 💛 💙

      • Prior-2001 says:

        wow – that is a long time to heart while in your neighborhood – and I had to stop the song from playing – but it really was a nice touch to have the song in this post – made it an experience.

        and side note – i recall watching a show a while back and the bad guy was actually driving the ice cream truck and he had guns in the cooler – and well, I cannot seem to see an ice cream truck without thinking of that show… lol

  20. What memories you draw from me with this post!

  21. I remember it well. Now, you won’t mind if I turn it off now, will you? 🙂

  22. Soul Gifts says:

    Couldn’t bring myself to listen! PTSD I think 😦 It used to be called Mr Whippy here in Australia. Haven’t seen a van for years now.

  23. joey says:

    We don’t have Mister Softee here. I had never heard of it, or heard the tune. Very plunky music boxish. It looks friendly and less creepy than our ice cream trucks. Ours sound more like a bad jack-in-the box from horror films. Still, people love ice cream. I can’t remember when we last purchased any, but when we did, it was more than $20 for all 4 kids, so we decided the mark-up was a bit crazy, but not quite Baskin-Robbins or Cold Stone crazy…Haha! Anyway, thanks for sharing 🙂

  24. I love this Van! memories!

  25. I remember the Ice Cream van and the jingle it played. Here in the UK, it was called Tony Bell (in my time, anyway). Then came Mr. Whippy (which is still around) and is often seen in coastal seaside towns. We kids listened for that jingle and made an orderly queue. Great memories, Van.

  26. What cool memories! The ice cream man (now an Indian driver) swings by our delta windsurfing campground where us adults gleefully await with our wallets. You would think we were kids again, waiting for the ice cream treats!

  27. George says:

    Oh man …. I loved Mr. Softer. My father owned a small grocery store and we lived behind it and I still ran out to get it when it came around. If I were you following that truck I would have stopped and got one for old times sake. Love that jingle…it’s timeless.

  28. Ah, the days of 10 cent cones! Such a lovely memory. It brings back the guileless satisfaction of being a kid. 🙂

  29. Scout says:

    Haha! I made it 18 seconds listening, Van, but I just had to for old time sake 😀 How I loved the ice-cream truck when I was a kid. The only time I got a Popsicle is when I’d found a nickle (or stole one!) That horrible music used to come through our neighborhood in recent years–always at nap time! Grrrr. Thanks for another great memory!

  30. lisakunk says:

    We never had an ice cream truck in my town. Then I watched movies where they made the ice cream man a bad guy and the music was like an omen of things to come. I’m trying to turn all that thinking around when I hear a truck go through the neighborhood near us. Nah. Still keep those movies in mind. Sorry. I think I could swallow that negative thought and go buy a pushup.

    • Yep. Sadly, when I was looking for photos for this post, a few “Wanted” posters popped into the scene. So, it’s not so hard to see how it showed up in the movies. Creepy and sad.

  31. Hi Van, i learned about your blog during your visit to Jacqueline’s party. It was so nice of you to bring the ice cream truck. Nice meeting you.

  32. ellenbest24 says:

    My mouth watered at the tune, and memories of an Oyster came flooding back. An Oyster shaped shell joined with sticky marshmallow filled with soft whippy ice cream . Back to Jacqueline’s party as there are still leftovers…. yum!

  33. munchkinontheroad says:

    Reblogged this on On the Road Cooking and commented:
    We really did live for that sound on a hot summer’s day😄🍦

  34. Pan says:

    Oh my, my sis and I grew up not far from you, what a small world.. We had Mr, Softee making the rounds too but we also had O’Boyles ice cream trucks, which was my favorite.. And the O’Boyles jingle wasn’t annoying 😋

  35. Pan says:

    The plane’s engine’s were propeller driven, I shouldn’t have referred to it as a jet.. But it sure was huge.. The plane made it to a museum somewhere in Delaware.. I haven’t been through Langhorne in a good long time but it sure must look starkly different now without the plane perpetually in midair anymore..

  36. Pan says:

    Wow, I never owned a vw bus but thought they ran pretty much forever.. You guys got a lemon I guess ?
    And yes, in my mind a proper vw bus is covered in big and small, colorful flower power decals 😄

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