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The Ice Cream Man Cometh

Childhood memories in black and white

By Cheryl WrayPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 3 min read
Top Story - June 2022
(The author, right, circa 1978.)

My childhood memories are tinged in shades of black and white.

Although various relatives and friends used their Kodak and Polaroid cameras to capture in vivid color many of the moments from the late 1970s and early 1980s, when my father got behind the lens they were recorded in black and white or sepia tones.

My father, a journalism professor who moonlighted as a small town newspaper editor, used my brother and I (and any of our friends or neighbors who happened to be in the area) as the subjects for countless photos of our growing-up years. Some of them made their way into the newspaper; others remain piled in boxes at my parents’ home decades later.

Take this one photo for instance.

Its point of view is of the backs of four children as they wait for an ice cream truck to make it to its destination. The gravel road fades into a blur of a vehicle that today we would affectionately label as “vintage.”

The children are me, my brother Christopher, and two friends whose names now escape me more than forty years later. The arrival of the ice cream man and his wife captured our rapt attention once a week in our small lower-middle class neighborhood. We heard the jingle-jangle of the horn and raced to the curve in the road where the truck stopped, the dimes and quarters burning holes in our pockets.

In the picture my brother wears a cap backwards on his head (a symbol of his signature precociousness), the youngest neighbor dons saddle shoes, and my other friend and I are barefoot. I rarely wore shoes in the Summers of my youth.

The black and white of the photo doesn’t capture the colors we experienced on those hot northwest Arkansas Summer days, but I can still see (and taste) them in my mind (and mouth).

The red, green and purple of the snowballs packed tightly into their paper cones and covered with cheap cellophane. The ice burned our teeth with coldness when we tried to bite into them, so instead we violently sucked the juice out of them. Our lips turned a graffiti of colors.

The creamy, dreamy orange of the push up, my favorite of the ice cream truck’s treats. It was only sherbet (something my mother purchased regularly from the grocery store), but when packaged in its cardboard tube it somehow became magical. I mastered the art of pushing it up to just the right height, then sculpting it perfectly with my tongue; I often took the delicacy with me to the beach towel splayed out under the big tree in our front yard, somehow managing the ability to sculpt it and read a book at the same time.

The small cups of ice cream–chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry–that I remember those neighbor girls purchasing. They’d jump up and down with excitement, amazed by the little wooden spoons stuck to the top of the cup’s colorful packaging. They’d sometimes join me on the beach towel after the ice cream man and his wife departed, but they usually bored quickly and went back to riding their bikes down the road.

Those ice cream days remain a fixture in my memories, idyllic ones that I have felt both grateful and guilty for over the years knowing that not everyone enjoyed such benefits. My parents were engaged caregivers, and my Summers consisted of ice cream and bikes and reading on beach towels under a big tree that housed branches that became both a spaceship and the Batcave in my imagination.

This one particular photo made it into the pages of the newspaper Dad operated–grouped with others of the day into a photo essay titled “The Ice Cream Man Cometh.” I used to enjoy seeing my moments captured in such a permanent way; I wasn’t old enough yet to be embarrassed by the attention.

I remain grateful for those Summers, that ice cream, that brother, those neighbors, those memories.

And a Dad who captured my carefree, colorful days in black and white.


About the Creator

Cheryl Wray

I'm a trained journalist who now dreams of writing fiction.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (10)

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  • Jim Fritzenabout a year ago

    I love the stories of our youth. I am new to the site and I honor you with my first comments. Loved the black and white touch. I invite you to read my initial post here in Humans, "Jimmy".

  • Suzanne V. Tannerabout a year ago

    Such a cozy and happy story, highlighting your engaging storytelling skills. Proof? Every reader will crave ice cream.

  • E Mabout a year ago

    Love this story, it made me feel so nostalgic for a time and place I haven’t experienced! Loved the photograph as well and how deeply you remembered those summer days. Very well written 😊

  • GamblizardCanadaabout a year ago

    There's something magical about black and white photos of childhood memories. They evoke a sense of nostalgia and remind us of simpler times. Perhaps it's the lack of color, or the way that the subjects in the photos always seem to be caught in a moment of innocence. Whatever the reason, black and white photos have a way of taking us back to our own childhoods. For me, looking at black and white photos of my childhood memories is like taking a trip down memory lane. I can remember the moments when the photos were taken, and all the details come rushing back to me. I can hear the laughter, feel the warmth of the sun, and smell the flowers in bloom. It's like reliving those memories all over again. Black and white photos may not be as popular as they once were, but they still hold a special place in my heart. Each time I look at them, I'm transported back to a time when life was just a little bit simpler. And for that, I will always be grateful.

  • Carol Townendabout a year ago

    Beautiful story. It reminds me of my childhood days. My mum has many black and white photo's taken from those days.

  • Teresa Gonzalesabout a year ago

    Very nice imagery.

  • Joan Gershmanabout a year ago

    What a lovely story. I especially liked it because it reminded me of the story I was planning on writing for this challenge. It was about the ice cream man who came to our street every day in the summer - bringing my favorite - raspberry sherbet. You did a far better job (superlative) than I could have done with mine. It deserved its Top Story honor. Congratulations.

  • Muhammad Nadeemabout a year ago

    hey how are you

  • Cheryl Wray (Author)about a year ago

    Thanks, Vocal, for showcasing my story. I loved how the challenge took me back to childhood. Made me think of moments I'd forgotten.

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