For many Long Islanders, it just doesn’t seem like summer until they hear the familiar jingle of the Mr. Softee ice cream trucks. It’s a sound locals have listened to for over half a century, a Pavlovian indicator that some superb soft serve is roaming the nearby neighborhood.
Two Philadelphia brothers, James and William Conway, started Mr. Softee way back in 1956. Both were working for a freezer company at the time, and had the bright idea one day to take a soft serve ice cream machine, strap it to the back of a truck, and drive around Philly during the St Patrick’s Day Parade, handing out free, green ice cream cones.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that they had a viable business idea.
As they began advertising their company, they realized they also could use something special to draw people to their ice cream trucks. They turned to a local ad agency and a jingle writer named Les Waas and he blessed upon the world, for better or worse, the unforgettable Mr. Softee song. In all of its glory:
To some, the music brings them right back to their childhood. To others, it is annoying enough that they eventually got legislation passed in New York stating that all ice cream trucks may only play music when they are in motion. It was an apt compromise, considering the alternative would have been the disappearance of this music from the summer landscape.
Of course, the story isn’t just the jingle but the amazing soft serve ice cream available from a Mr. Softee truck. While most ice cream trucks limit you to prepackaged treats, Mr. Softee offers a variety of delicacies, including shakes, sundaes, banana splits and other soda fountain favorites, all made to order.
This distinction has made the company one of the largest ice cream franchisers in history. Today, there are over 600 trucks driving around 15 States and delivering their soul-soothing, sweet antidotes to the blistering summer months.
If Mr. Softee played a part in your 70s Long Island childhood, surely you have a few recollections you’d like to share with all of us? Tell us where you used to get your Mr. Softee fix and what you liked to order, along with any other fond memories, in our comments section below.