Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Hunky Man's here!

In our family's vernacular the Hunky Man referred to the guy who sold Popsicles and ice cream from the truck that roamed neighborhoods in the summer. Little tinkly bells and music forewarned us kids playing in the yard that if we played our cards right, Mother would find the wherewithal in her change purse to spring for cool treats all 'round.

The truck usually made its appearance right after lunch or in the late afternoon (but well before dinner), and the system worked best if you had several kids in the yard - a couple to flag down the truck and a couple to run inside to get the dimes to pay for the luscious goodies.

Mr. Hunky Man would slow down as we waved our arms and jumped up and down, wildly gesturing that money would be forthcoming from right out that front door there - just wait! The tinkly music continued to pierce the air. Oh, the anticipation that music caused for a bunch of tired, dirty kids!

The inside crew would run into the house yelling, "The Hunky Man's here! The Hunky Man's here!" I don't recall a time that the dimes weren't scrounged up, so out we'd run with the coins in our hot little hands.

Then the real fun began. What to choose? What to choose? A banana Popsicle? A Push-Up? An Eskimo Pie? Fudgesicle? Dreamsicle? Ooh-ooh-ooh! Aaaaaaaahhhhh! Whatever we chose was always just the right thing for the moment. Then the Hunky Man would continue his slow drive through the rest of the neighborhood, where other children were waiting to flag him down.

Once we'd made our choices, we'd gather on the front porch or steps to unwrap the cold-delights and happily slurp ourselves into oblivion for a few minutes. No wonder our mothers didn't mind ponying up the cash. A little peace and quiet for a few minutes was worth the price of a few dimes.

We'd have to hose down afterwards, though - our bodies striped with trickles of chocolate or cherry or grape. And the tell-tale colored moustaches gave away what flavors we'd chosen for the afternoon.

So, where did the term "Hunky Man" come from? Who knows? I think an actual "hunky" was what my mother and her sisters called an Eskimo Pie, so maybe that's why they referred to the guy as the Hunky Man. Or maybe there was an ice cream brand called Hunky. Not sure. Or maybe they found the guy good looking and had us all fooled (thus, the term "hunky")! At any rate, it does seem to be a term peculiar to our family.

But man, oh man - was there anything so fine as that summertime tradition of flagging down the ice cream truck, making the decision about your treat for the day, and settling down with friends and family to indulge in a little sweet, cold goodness?

Or am I just showing my age?

24 comments:

PT said...

Hunky man? It's definitely not a British term either.

The ice-cream man used to come around my old neighbourhood everyday, but I haven't seen (or heard) one since we moved house...

By the way:
Tag! You're it!

Anonymous said...

Funny you should mention the "Hunky man". A few weeks ago we had had a garage sale at the Marietta house. During the mid afternoon lull in business the familiar chimes of the ice cream truck began. It was summer. It was hot. We were ready for a treat. How did he know???? Five very grown up people stood around that truck trying to decide. I didn't recognize anything by name and the pictures of the treats, well let's say those colors do not exist in nature. And price.... the cheapest thing on the truck was $2.25. Egads!!! it should have been a Starbuck's truck. (business idea?)

I remember really early in life at our grandmother's house in Atlanta there was a "Hunky man" who came through peddling a tri-cycle type contraption with a white cooler attached in the front, cooled with dry ice. And price.... $.05
and you think you are old????? HA!
Big Bro

stitches212 said...

YUMMM, banana popsicles!... I had forgotten about those... We also had something we used to call "Sky Blue" popsicles (no idea what flavor they were supposed to be)... But the blue lips and tongue they gave you went really well with the summer grim!!!

Chris said...

A few weeks ago an ice-cream van visited our street a couple of times. But he was driving up the hill at about 50mph and there wasn't a Cornetto's chance in Hell of catching him. Haven't heard him recently. Perhaps he's gone broke.

Em said...

I guess we are about the same age, Mary! I so recall those days. But in our neighborhood, he was the Hinky Dinky man. Where did we get such names?!?!

And there is a truck that still passes through our neighborhood now, but not on any regular basis and I've never seen a kid stop him. I guess it just isn't the same thrill as when we were kids?

Jay Branum said...

Mary--I remember the bell ringing and the race to the wagon. Cherry was always my choice , then grape. I still think of those days when I grab a sugar-free out of my freezer. You have really been taking me down memory lane lately. Thanks for all the great memories..JMB

Elsie said...

The ice cream man sometimes visits our neighborhood but doesn't keep a regular schedule -- not like the Hunky Man or, in my case, Jolly Joe. Joe played no music, but he sure could ring a mean bell. Great post!

MaryB said...

em and Elsie - Jolly Joe, Hinky-Dinky Man, Hunky Man - good to know we weren't the only ones who called the guy with the truck, the bell, and the ice cream weird names!

Bro - yes, you are old. And the stuff sold on the trucks today is strangely -colored and too expensive. And I think you've got a good idea there with the Starbuck's truck . . .

stitches - yes! I loved the blue ones, too. Blue lips were a badge of honor back in da' day!

Chris - "A Cornetto's chance in Hell" - HA! Made my day!

Jay - as always, great to hear from you! BTW, y'all's house looked OK from what I saw of it, as we were barralling down South Moore Road. Ah, the old days in the neighborhood!

Liz said...

We had Mr Whippy. (Suddenly strange connotations came to my mind!) And the music was usually Greensleeves.

We didn't have any of those weird-sounding ices you mention. It was just cones and lollies for us.

MaryB said...

Whippy Man? Geez, these ice cream guys had bizarre names! But I think I see a pattern here: hunky, whippy, jolly, hinky-dinky. They must've all been into some kind of S&M ring.

Anonymous said...

The Hunky Man existed in my neighborhood in Atlanta in the mid-1950's and he was the "Man" that sold us "Hunkys." "Hunk" as a description of a man did not come into popular usage until many years later.

fabubba said...

I am in Alaska now, but was born and raised in Atlanta. An ice cream truck just passed, and the music made me Google "Hunky Man" to see if I could find the origin of the term. Looks like I have stumbled onto a lot of fellow Southerners. Makes me kind of homesick (even though I have been gone for 47 years). Ah, for the old days.....

Jess said...

my mom and her brothers and sisters also called him "the hunky man". I think it IS a very southern thing. :-)

MaryB said...

Obviously, ours wasn't the only family who knew the "Hunky Man," but it certainly is a Southern thang. Now, go out find a popsicle!

Anonymous said...

The "Hunky Man" got his name because he sold "Hunky Bars". A cheape version of an Eskimo Pie. In the '40's & 50's, they were a nickel & EP's were a dime. Before the trucks, the Hunky Man had a push type cart or one with a bicycle type thing attached. No music then, just a bell.

MaryB said...

Thanks for the "hunky" history! Sounds exactly like what Big Bro remembered.

Anonymous said...

Atlanta in the 50s. We ate Hunky Bars all the time.

Anonymous said...

I also grew up in Atlanta in the '50s and '60s and we all still call the vanilla ice cream bar covered in chocolate a hunky bar. My folks grew up there in the '30s and '40s and they knew it as a hunky bar back then also. Who knows where it came from?

Anonymous said...

Well, in the 50's we had a Hunky Man in my home town of Rome, GA too....so his fame spread North pretty quickly..

Anonymous said...

My father-in-law grew up in Atlanta and Decatur, GA during the late 1930's and he often refers to the ice cream man as the "hunky man". It would be interesting if someone were to do a history of the origins of "the hunky man". He certainly seems to have gotten around. Was he just the carrier of cold, delicious summertime treats or was he part of a larger social engineering experiment? Who knows...but long after the hunky's have melted, his memory lingers on, it seems.

MaryB said...

I love all the fond memories of whatever our regional "hunky man" was. While it was wonderful as a child, I must say the ice cream trucks with their incessant tinkly jingle prowling through Spanish Harlem at all hours give me a blinding headache. :-)

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Thunderbreeze said...

Hunky Man with the pushchair, then tricycle contraption, never remember a hunky truck in the 40s in Atlanta, GA. The "Hunky Man's" jingle of bell's brought the Mill Village out and begging Mom or Dad for a Nicole. But to me the real thrill came if you could beg a piece of "Hot Ice". The smoking white stuff that we would dare each other to hold the longest, or put in water and become a mad scientist. Thanks for the innocent memories of a poor but awesome childhood.

Thunderbreeze said...

Hunky Man with the pushchair, then tricycle contraption, never remember a hunky truck in the 40s in Atlanta, GA. The "Hunky Man's" jingle of bell's brought the Mill Village out and begging Mom or Dad for a Nicole. But to me the real thrill came if you could beg a piece of "Hot Ice". The smoking white stuff that we would dare each other to hold the longest, or put in water and become a mad scientist. Thanks for the innocent memories of a poor but awesome childhood.