Ice Cream, Sea Chanties, and the Three Bells

Looking out at the North Sea at Scarborough

Looking out at the North Sea at Scarborough

The internet, I’m sure you’ve noticed, taketh away: principally, time which might be better spent ironing socks, or underwear.(1) It also giveth. For example, I have Papa Internet to thank for my knowledge of which Louis of France was “the Fat”, versus which one was “the Mad”(2)

The web can also act as a memory jogger. Especially if you belong to online groups named “Such-and-such Things which are No Longer There”, “Another Town Name Memories”, or “Yet Another Town Name Bygone Years”.

As you’ve probably gathered if you’ve got this far, and aren’t still reading the footnotes (3), I belong to several such lists. One is for where I live now, the S Yorkshire big-small town of Doncaster. Another is for Bay City, Michigan, a town I’ve never lived in, but have visited enough to have fond memories of, plus some dear friends.

The one with “Things that Are No Longer There” is actually my home area. Referred to as “Downriver”, it’s a collection of towns, and cities (6) The name designates that they are “Downriver” of the city, Detroit.

I’ve become involved in some strange and entertaining discussions over the last year or so with my fellow Michiganders over “Downriver Things”. The “things” have ranged from the local “crick” we used to visit, to unions, suicide, and, last but not least, ice cream trucks.

My mother was a woman with strong opinions about many things, including cavities, and eating between meals. She also wasn’t keen on children – particularly hers – begging for things.

Her solution to the constant stream of ice cream trucks which used to visit our suburban neighbourhood of a summertime was simple: we could only purchase our ice cream bars and popsicles from the “Good Humour” man. Why them? I don’t know. Perhaps she liked the ice cream. This is, after all, the person I bought the “Life is uncertain – eat dessert first” fridge magnet.

I don’t remember the tunes or even the names of the other ice cream trucks of my childhood, probably because they didn’t induce the same Pavlovian response as the ring of three bells on the Good Humour one. “The Ring o’ Bells”…aren’t there pubs named that? Do you think it’s just possible that, many years ago, a former Michigan ice cream vendor retired to the English countryside, opened a pub, and … ?

… I didn’t think so, either.

I digress, which is after all what this blog is mostly about: me meandering the landscapes of my past and present lives. But you, gentle reader: perhaps you’re asking yourself “Where do the sea chanties come into it?”

Spooling forward to my present situation as a woman living in sunny Donny, S Yorks, you may ask: Do the ice cream trucks have a ring o’ bells? They do not. Nor do they still use a hand bell.

Do the ice cream truck drivers play random, discordant noises, as I understand is the case these days in Downriver? Thankfully, no.

The ice cream vendors who travel our streets, regardless of weather, play “Anchors Away”, and “Popeye the Sailor Man”. Not, perhaps, chanties, but definitely sea-related.

Which, back when I first mentioned this on the “Downriver Things” list, seemed totally random. What, I asked, is the link between ice cream, and sea songs?

The answer of course is in the photo above: what, besides donkeys, buckets and spades, and fish and chips does the average British child want – no, demand – during a visit to the seaside?

To quote the immortal John Schwam’s sheet music, “I would like an ice cream cone/Right away!”

Enjoy your 99s, Yorkshire. Have a popsicle on me, Downriver.

I have no pictures of ice cream, but plenty of "Michigan Mittens". And Daleks.

I have no pictures of ice cream, but plenty of “Michigan Mittens”. And Daleks.

(1) If you do iron socks and undies, please, fire up your tablet, or laptop, and start looking at pictures of kittens. Now.

(2) Apparently he thought he was made of glass, and thus highly fragile. As best I recall, chaos ensued…as it would, if you thought you were made of the same approximate materials as a tumbler your mum or dad got for free with some petrol, or S & H Greenstamps.

(3) Yep, I love footnotes.(4)

(4) Sometimes, even my footnotes have footnotes.(5)

(5) See?

(6) The British have, or had, a way of designating villages, towns, and cities. So far as I can tell, Americans just decide what they want to call their settlement, and stick to it, regardless of size or the presence or absence of steeples.

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About Sheila North

I am an author and ex-journalist, who has written novels, short stories, and poems. I also help facilitate a writers' group. Check me out on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sheila-North/
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