When summer rolls around and the days get unbearably hot, there were precious few things that would keep me cool as a kid in the ‘80s. We could get an adult to pop open a fire hydrant, which is a time-honored tradition in Brooklyn, though highly illegal. Maybe instead we’d head to the local park and jump through the floor-mounted sprinklers. Loitering in the air-conditioned video rental store or playing arcades at the corner store was a surefire way to stay cool too. But arguably, the best—and tastiest—way to loosen the sun’s fiery grip was buying a treat from the ice cream man. In this series, I’ll pick one item from the ice cream truck to discuss in every article. What’ll it be today?
“The ice cream man is almost here! Hurry!” My younger brother was the lookout on those sticky days. You know the ones. When even the thought of picking up a basketball or walking to the park caused streams of sweat to pour out from under your baseball cap, turning you into a human sprinkler. In Brooklyn, those hot summer days were particularly bad. The sun beat down and baked the blacktop and cement, sending waves of heat back up at our faces like some nefarious lava-fueled device created by Skeletor.
There were other modes of cooling down, but none as tasty as ice cream. So when I didn’t appear quickly enough, my brother ran to the apartment building’s front door and yelled up, “Tony! We’re gonna miss it!”
I’d heard him the first time but doubled my speed to get the sneakers on and run down the stairs and back into the heat of a summer day. The tinkling warble of the truck’s music reached my ears before I even got outside, setting off the Pavlovian response in my kid brain to salivate in anticipation of pure frozen bliss. And I knew just what I’d get. Another old favorite, like the Push-Up pop: The Fat Frog!
This was before the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pops were released (what I would invariably switch to, leaving the poor Fat Frog to wallow alone in self-pity), but there were plenty of other character pops sitting alongside the Fat Frog. Super Mario pops were there at some point, but I have to imagine the more popular characters came a little later, otherwise why would I ever choose a frog?
But I did, and boy oh boy did I love that little green guy. The flavor was some kind of fruit mix, though I couldn’t say exactly what. My memory is of something citrus flavored, though not even the Good Humor official page gets any more specific: “Known affectionately as Fat Frog, this frozen delight was a fruit flavored ice pop in the shape of a friendly green frog with two bright red bubblegum eyes.”
Speaking of the bubblegum eyes, I’m always morbidly curious as to how other people dealt with eating the gum. I never could quite wrap my head around trying to chew bubblegum while simultaneously eating ice cream, so I’d eat around the gum for as long as possible and then pluck them out to save on a napkin until I finished. I remember other kid chowing down on the gum and ice cream in a single bite like absolute monsters. I still have nightmares about it. And then there were the kids who would eat the bit with the gum and then spit the ball out unchewed. I guess I can see why, it’s not like the hard gum balls were particularly good. But still, I was nothing if not frugal, and if I spent my hard earned (i.e. fished from the couch cushions) quarters, I was sure as heck gonna chew the gum.
While researching for this article, I discovered something very exciting. Apparently, the Good Humor website has a page of vintage ice cream novelties for which you can submit a “request.” I’m not sure how many people have to request the item, but apparently if enough do, they’ll consider re-releasing the product! All you have to do is go to the Vintage Ice Cream page, click the product you’re interested in, and then click “Request this item.”
I am most certainly requesting Fat Frog, but I also plan to request Vampire’s Secret. I never did eat this ice cream as a kid (I actually don’t even remember ever seeing it), but it’s right up my alley and something I need to experience.
What ice cream will you request?