By Michael Petti
You know those hot and steamy days of summer. All the buildings look as though they are dripping like melting ice cream. Then comes an oasis: the ice cream truck itself.
On those hot days, Tom Gesior of Garwood, N.J., can just look into his garage at his cool 1966 Ford Good Humor ice cream truck and pull out an ice cream bar. Yes, the truck is still stocked with treats, and it delivers them — along with many memories — to enthusiastic crowds, young and old.
Good Humor began in Youngstown, Ohio, during 1920. Harry Burt put a chocolate coating on vanilla ice cream, used a stick for people to hold it and froze the concoction. To sell them, Burt assembled a fleet of 12 street vending trucks with freezers and bells. From there, the business took off.
The name “Good Humor” came from the belief back then that a person’s humor or temperament was related to the humor of the palate or a person’s sense of taste.
In 1976, Good Humor ceased the direct selling of ice cream from trucks and began selling its product only in grocery stores. Some of the retired Good Humor trucks were sold to ice cream distributors and others to individuals. Gesior’s neighbor vended from Good Humor trucks at special events, such as street fairs and carnivals. In high school, Gesior worked for that neighbor.
“On weekends, I would work events until my senior year when I was able to drive,” Gesior said. “I had so much fun driving this truck meeting people.” After high school, Gesior moved onto other jobs. Then, in 2010, the neighbor he once worked for contacted him about buying one of his old Good Humor trucks. “With help from my family, I was able to buy the truck.”
Good Humor trucks resembled formal town cars in some ways. That is, the ice cream man, like the chauffeur, sat on an uncovered front seat; there was no fixed roof for the driver. In contrast, the pampered passengers rode behind the chauffeur in a permanently enclosed area. Likewise, the pampered ice cream treats were enclosed in a refrigerator.
Also like town cars, Good Humor trucks either had a canvas roof or a metal roof that swung on a giant piano hinge to occasionally shelter the driver. Gesior’s Good Humor has the latter style of roof, which swings rearward to rest on the freezer when the driver is uncovered.
The freezer was intentionally shaped to look like an ice cube as a subliminal message to lure a sweltering passerby to become a customer. Good Humor trucks were always painted snow white to convey purity and coldness. Pictures of ice cream bars on a stick, ice cream sandwiches and paper cups were plastered all over the trucks to help customers make a selection.
Gesior’s brother, Mike, is in the auto restoration business and helped him complete the restoration of his 1966 Ford-based Good Humor truck. “It took three years of research and hundreds of hours to restore the classic Good Humor truck,” Gesior said. “This involved a frame-off restoration that included sandblasting, machining and metal fabrication.
“The truck was rewired front to back,” Gesior added. “A new compressor was installed, which keeps the box at minus 20 degrees. The engine was also refurbished to original specs. The original 16-inch split rims were replaced to a safer updated rim and tire. We have received numerous trophies from various car shows around the state.”
Ford’s fourth-generation F-Series began in 1961 and ended in 1966. It was lower and wider than its predecessors. The fourth generation did away with the wraparound windshield along with its “knee-knocker” A pillars. In 1965, an all-new Twin I-Beam front suspension with coil springs was introduced on all two-wheel-drive F-series models. The ’65 and ’66 versions, such as Gesior’s truck, have the “Twin I-Beam” emblem on the front fender.
Three engines were available in 1966: The 240-cid straight-six that generated 150 hp; the 300-cid straight-six that produced 170 hp; and the 352-cid V-8 that pumped out 208 hp. Gesior’s truck has the bigger six with loads of torque.
Using his Good Humor truck, Gesior operates T.G. & Sons Ice Cream, a business that provides classic-style ice cream services to corporate functions, car shows, parties, graduations, etc.
“The best thing about driving this truck is hearing all the stories of when folks were a kid,” Gesior said. “It never gets old. This truck takes people back in time. I hear the same story at every event: ‘I remember my Good Humor man. His name was Bob or John.’ They all remember his name. They also remember the ‘clunk’ sound of the ice cream door. The most memorable sound is those famous bells mounted above the windshield going ‘ring, ring, ring.’”
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