So That’s Where the Cherries on Your Sundae Come From

I used to think that “Turkey in the Straw” was the only tune that the ice cream truck ever played — that is, until I moved to Chicago’s somewhat generically-named Avondale neighborhood.

I live only a few streets from a large public grade school, so this summer the daily musical soundtrack of my life had several different little ditties of varying annoyitude. The worst was the strange hip-hop-influenced jingle that featured horns tooting to a rap beat, with an incredibly loud voice shouting “HELLO!” in between loops of the music sample. I also hear “Dixie” often, which is quite unusual given my lack of proximity to the area south of the Mason-Dixon line, and the large Latino population in my neighborhood. It is pretty catchy, though.

One day I was sitting out on the stoop with a good friend and killer musician, and the ice cream truck came by, playing “Turkey in the Straw” (which is a derivative of an old traditional Irish tune, “The Sailor’s Hornpipe”, apparently). I started on my standard rant about the trucks never playing the “B” part of the tune, and only playing the “A” part ad nauseum. My friend surmised it might be a copyright thing, where they get out of paying royalties by only playing the first part of the tune.

Then not only did the truck play the long-neglected “B” part, but I had a sudden realization that all of Chicago’s children are bombarded with a subliminal message — namely, the childish lyrics that were invented to sing along with the song’s “A” part:

Do your balls hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie ’em in a knot?
Can you tie ’em in a bow?
Can you throw them over your shoulder
Like a continental soldier?
Do your balls hang low?

Now, without getting into the many regional variations of this weighty prose, or the fact that even if possible, very few of us gents would attempt to tie our testicles together, it’s safe to say I’ll never think of the ice cream truck the same way. One has to wonder, is it the timeless appeal of the melody or the timeless appeal of the humor of men’s cajones that the ice cream truck is appealing to?

If the jingles annoy you as much as they annoy me, I recommend a quick visit to the Ice Cream Truck Superstore, where you will be horrified to discover that for only $165 the ice cream truck driver can have THIRTY-TWO jingles at his or her disposal. I also found a message board where people sound off on how obnoxious the ice cream truck jingles are. Here’s a sample:

If a cop can hear my music 50 feet away from the source, I’ll get a ticket and pay a hefty fine. So why is it perfectly legal for the 4 or 5 (yes, there really are that many) ice cream trucks to drive circles around my house for hours on end with that annoying “dum de dum dum de” music blaring through the P.A. system? What I propose is that they find a different way of getting the message out that they are there. Maybe with flames blasting overhead, or a 5 second snippet of the offending music with a lengthened period of silence in between. But the best idea I could think of is this: In the neighborhoods the ice cream trucks frequent the most, set up designated stop points, like bus stops. At predetermined times, the ice cream truck could stop there, play the first part of “La Cucaracha” for 7 seconds, and wait. The kids will come to them, purchase goods, and go about their merry way. I’m happy, they’re happy.

You may also want to consider purchasing an ice cream truck and forcing it into retirement. There’s one for sale on Captain Murph’s Ippy Dippy Ice Cream Truck Page. It sounds like a smart investment:

My name is Ippy Dippy, and I’m a sad ice cream truck. My temperamental 8-track tape player doesn't work very well, and the continuous, tinny musical chimes can get very annoying. For the sake of the children who are subjected to this nightmarish cacophony, please, oh please, help me!

© 2003, Carter O’Brien

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