Friday, October 29, 2021

The Good Humor Man

Back in July, I mentioned a Little Golden Book I remembered from early childhood called The Good Humor Man. Well, I got a hold of a copy (originally $.29, now $10.00 through AbeBooks), and it's pretty much as I remembered it. 

The things that are different are that the colors aren't quite as intense as my child's eye recalls, and there's a story in its 24 pages. As I've learned since, very young children don't remember narratives much, and in this case I didn't at all.

First, there's the pink, pink cover. I don't remember the bell-ring lettered words as they curve away from the truck's roof, but now I love them.

The illustrations, as I wrote before, are by Hungarian immigrant artist Tibor Gergely. The story is by Kathleen N. Daly, who wrote several other Golden Books and appears to have written about 90 books altogether.

The book came out in 1964, and I think we got our copy before I turned 5.

Most of pages are dedicated to showing that when the Good Humor man visits, everyone in the neighborhood drops what they're doing and runs out to get a treat. 

There are lots of details to read and look at on all of the pages.

On this page we meet Johnny Slow-Poke "with his fat puppy." It's interesting (to me now) that the puppy doesn't appear particularly fat, but Johnny Slow-Poke is the only child in the book who is shown to be at all overweight. 

His socks are also falling down and his shoes are untied, indicating his dishevelment. Not to mention the state of his hair.

The text makes no reference to any of these details.

 I'll bet that Good Humor Fun Valley was my favorite scene in the book.

Here's where the story kicks in, after all of that stage-setting: Johnny Slow-Poke has lost his puppy!

This is the one time in the whole book when it seems Gergely's drawing ability fails him. Crying Johnny, rendered in profile, is very badly drawn.

But Johnny is not sad for long. 

The Good Humor Man uses his ice cream-fueled mobility and the fact that he knows everyone to search for the puppy. In a strange bit of compression, the search is over in one page. (Maybe that's part of the reason I didn't remember any of the plot details.)

Ta-da! The puppy was at Dick's grandma's house. So they set out on foot, walking on the wrong side of the road with no sidewalk to take the dog (not on a leash) back to his owner.

The two boys become fast friends, so Dick is no longer lonely, and messy Johnny is happy, though still a slob, but that appears to be okay! It's a pro-social ending. No one is punished in the least, unless you consider the special flavor of the day mentioned on the second-to-last page — butterscotch-apricot-coconut chip — to be a form of retribution the way I do.

Speaking of ice cream, here's the part of the artwork that five-year-old me focused on the most, or at least, the parts that I remembered the best:


Looking at the book now, and knowing a little bit about illustrator Gergely, I kept seeing other bits of artistic goodness, like his animals:

His faces:

And his flights into cartoon modern:


In the end, the Good Humor Man drives off, happy to have done his duty.

As a bit of final punctuation, the book's inside back cover provides a lengthy list of other Little Golden Books, where the original giver of the book inscribed the date, December 25, 1965.


Michael Leddy said...

We had a sitting-in-place Good Humor man on 13th Avenue, Brooklyn (a major shopping street). I think he presided over a freezer on wheels. Aside from Chocolate Eclairs and cola-flavored ice pops, I remember the change-making device he wore on a belt. The guys selling food on the beach at Coney Island had them too. A Mister Softee truck took care of our block. I don’t think we ever saw Good Humor there (turf wars?).

Curious that with all the product placement, this book is without the names of real Good Humor selections — like Chocolate Eclairs, the best.

Daughter Number Three said...

We got this book when I lived on Long Island, and I'm not sure if there was a Good Humor Man or not. But your mention of the change-making device stirs a memory, though I suppose it could have been from whoever did serve our neighborhood.

The whole branded book title aspect of this within the Little Golden Books franchise is a curious aspect. Maybe *not* having the particular treats was part of the deal?