In my day it was about this time of year that the weather was half decent and you’d begin to crave an ice cream.
Course, none of us had freezers and the like. You’d stand your bottles of milk in a bucket of cold water to stop the gold top getting too smelly too quick. So you had no chance with a tub of ice cream, not even if you left it next to a draughty back door.
But luckily we had the ice cream van. Only once a week mind, so it was a proper treat. When I was very young, the van was a one woman business run by a little old lady called Mrs Hales. My old mum would try and stop me begging for a cone by saying “Mrs Hales put snails in her ice cream”. It nearly worked because there were some strange lumps in the stuff but I quickly realised that these were chunks of ice, unless they were snails that melted in the mouth.
Mrs Hales packed in just as the ice cream market blossomed and the vans started making big money. The ice cream was still only vanilla flavoured, that was standard, and you got a solid lump. This was before Margaret Hilda Thatcher invented the Mr Whippy style stuff. If you wanted something different you had to use flavoured syrup, sprinkles or a flake.
The chap making the most money out of the vans was a failed nightclub crooner from Woodford named Anthony ‘Ant’ Adams. He had a fleet of vehicles that roamed all the local villages.
Now then, by the end of a hot summer day these vans were full of cash as they trundled back down the Thrapston Road.
Remember times were hard and one or two unscrupulous types would resort to a bit of robbery. There was one strange fella who preyed on the vans. He went by the name of the Dandy Ice-wayman. He wore a mask, cloak, a three cornered hat and rode a black horse. He’d appear from the hedgerow on the old road to Woodford, and force the unsuspecting van to veer off into the ditch. He’d wave an old magnum around and shout, “Your money or your wife!” Apparently, he was a bit of a ladies man. Fearful of exposing their life partners to amorous advances the drivers would hand over the cash.
Ant Adams was furious; he had to employ guards to ride on his vans. The Ice-wayman was never caught. Ant Adams had a suspicion it might be an aspiring 3-day eventor called Stuart Goddard who had a penchant for the ladies, choc-ices, and owned a small stables. Nothing was ever proved but the robberies ended when Stu moved to York.
Mind you, Ant wasn’t too upset, with the money he made from Ice cream he re-launched his pop music career. You may remember his hit record; Standard Vanilla.