Monday, July 27, 2015

Baloney Man? Not this guy!

April through October (or thereabouts), there’s an ice cream truck parked at the corner of Arlington and Boylston Street, about 5 minutes walk from my home. It’s soft-serve ice cream, so I’m not exactly running over, but I’ve gotten water and lemonade there a couple of times when I’ve been out for a walk.

Other than Fosty’s, this is, alas, not an ice cream truck kind of ‘hood, so there are no ice cream trucks moseying around the neighborhood playing merry-go-round music. It just sits there quietly selling stuff to (mostly) tourists. (It sits next to the beautiful, peaceful and quiet-ful Public Garden, home of the Swan Boats and Make Way for Ducklings.)

But some places are ice cream truck friendly, and Peabody, Massachusetts, is apparently one of them. Allan Ganz, who plies his trade there, has been going strong for 68 years – since he was 10 years old, working his father’s ice cream truck. His father, Louis, was an ice cream man until he was 86, so Allan still has a few good years left in him. But if Allan retires tomorrow – which he has no intention of doing – he’ll do so as the owner of the Guinness World Record for the “longest career as an ice cream man.’’

Ganz retired from his job with the postal service 13 years ago, devoting his life since then to the ice cream business. His season runs about seven months, starting in April and wrapping up in October. He said he works seven days a week and takes off only one day in that stretch, his birthday in July.

A white and pink flag with ice cream cones on it waves outside his West Peabody home. He keeps his truck out back, as well as three freezers that store the ice cream, which he picks up from a nearby vendor every Thursday at 5 a.m.

He starts his shifts at 11 a.m. and does not stop work until 8:30 or 9 p.m., logging roughly 70 miles a day.

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” he says while driving his route Friday, gripping the wheel of his truck, which has accumulated more than 148,000 miles. (Source: Boston Globe)

Actually, it doesn’t look easy at all at all. Driving slowly around all day. Dealing with all those kids agonizing over whether to order a blueberry slushie or a Sponge Bob whatever. Deciding how often to go into your own pocket because a weepy-eyed kiddo doesn’t have the scratch for either the blueberry slushie or the Sponge Bob whatever.Worrying about all those throngs of little heads when you’re backing up or heading out.

Nope. Doesn’t look easy to me in the least.

My own personal experience working with ice cream was of the stationary variety.

When I was in college, I worked the evening shift in a snack bar, Twenty Chimneys, at the MIT student center. You could either be assigned the grill, the fryolator, ice cream or the dishwasher. Dishwashing was the very worst, mostly because you got wet, but also because you were in the backroom, isolated from the goofy/funny MIT guys, who were the reason we worked there to begin with. My friends and I seldom got stuck on dishwashing, mostly because the MIT students who worked with us – 99% of who were male – didn’t want their fellow students to see them working the front of the house. They were just as glad to hide out behind the scenes.

Ice cream, one would have thought, was the best station. And most nights it was. What’s not to like about scooping ice cream, pouring on the hot fudge sauce, and topping it off with a shot of Redi-Whip? Unfortunately, we went through so much ice cream, there was always at least one flavor – of the four on offer: chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, and something else that varied – that came from the storage freezer so solidly frozen that it took a hammer and chisel to get any ice cream out of it, Don’t tell me about running the scoop under hot water first! When ice cream’s in a five gallon tub, and as hardened as cement, that warmed-up scoop will only get you so far.

As for my experience as a consumer of ice cream, I have plenty. But little of it was from an ice cream truck.

There was one that made regular stops on our street when was a kid. And why not? I think the average number of kids per house was four or five. And, since ice cream from the truck guy was only a nickel or a dime, pretty much everyone could afford it.

But the ice cream truck was something my practical parents weren’t wild about.

After all, we already had ice cream – a staple Chez Rogers – in the house. Oh, it might not have been a red-white-and-blue rocket, or something with a gumball at its center, but if you wanted ice cream, with or without Hershey’s chocolate sauce or a banana, you could have at it. Plus whenever we went out for a ride in the summer, which our family did at least once a week, we always stopped for ice cream somewhere.And if you had a nickel on your own, you could go to Sol’s drugstore and buy a Popsicle, Fudgicle, or Creamsicle. 

(One of the other frozen treats of my childhood was jumping on the back of a milk truck and asking the milk man for a chunk of ice. Because we were privileged children – some of my father’s cousins were milk men – we were always able to scrounge a nice big chunk of coated ice. Nothing like licking ice covered with a scrim of black diesel exhaust! Yum!)

As for the ice cream truck, I think my parents just thought there was something trashy and unwholesome about the tricked-out wares for sale from the ice cream truck. That was on top of their general reluctance to spend good money on something you could get at home for free.

Anyway, one time my brother Rick (pre-allowance; he couldn’t have been more than three or four) asked my father for some money for the ice cream truck. My father told him that the ice cream truck was “a bunch of baloney.”

So Rick headed for the wooded hills next to our house, and hollered down to the ice cream guy, “You’re nothing but a baloney man!”

Not so, Allan Ganz!

Sixty-eight years working the truck. We should all be so lucky!

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