Pops and His Good Humor Ice Cream Trucks

by | Jan 2024

IN THE heart of Lynchburg, a retired real estate broker, affectionately known as “Pops,” orchestrates a sweet revolution, one ice cream bar at a time. Armed with two iconic Good Humor ice cream trucks, each boasting a proud history of 55 to 57 years, Bob Jacobs is turning back the clock to fulfill a childhood dream while slinging ice cream out of relics.

Growing up in Baltimore, Pops was no stranger to the allure of ice cream trucks. The melodic jingles and the promise of sweet, icy treats rolling down the neighborhood streets left an indelible mark on his childhood.

“I grew up seeing these ice cream trucks in Baltimore. They would always come down the street, and I always liked them. And when I retired, I always wanted one,” he said. Retirement allowed him to turn this dream into a reality, and he seized it wholeheartedly.

Pops doesn’t represent Good Humor’s history for the fun of it. He represents its history because he resonates with it.

Good Humor began in 1920 when confectioner Harry Burt created a chocolate coating for ice cream. At first, Burt’s daughter found the treat too messy. His son suggested freezing sticks used for Jolly Boy Suckers into the ice cream, giving birth to a convenient handle for the dessert.

Shortly after creating the Good Humor Bar, Burt equipped 12 street vending trucks with freezers and bells, creating a summer tradition he knew would outlive him.

“I think, just to me, it’s a kind of success story,” Pops said. He explained that he was just a guy in the 1920s who created some ice cream flavors and put together some trucks to start a business that is now a million-dollar company, Lever Brothers.

The bells used in the Good Humor trucks often had their own unique stories, with the first set originating from Burt’s son’s bobsled. Good Humor Bars have been sold out of an array of vehicles, from tricycles to pushcarts to the iconic ice cream trucks that grace Lynchburg’s streets today — all by friendly men in black and white captain’s hats.

Pops is the kind of guy who can stand behind a story of innovation, family values, and hard work — especially one that ends in ice cream.

“I dress up as the Good Humor man. I have a white hat, red and white shirt, black bow tie, and white pants. So when I go out, I’m actually going out as the Good Humor man,” he said.

The intention is clear — to serve ice cream and transport his customers back in time to when the Good Humor man was more than an ice cream vendor — when he was a cherished part of the neighborhood.

“Back in the day, with the Good Humor company, you had to actually go through a class to learn how to greet people, how to tip your hat to the ladies, how to salute the gentleman when they came, and how to get the kids across the street — that kind of stuff,” Pops said.”

The trucks aren’t easy to come by. In 1976, when Good Humor sold its fleet, there were around 2,000 trucks in the country, according to Pops. Now, there’s about a hundred left.

After looking for quite some time, Pops bought the trucks in 2021, fulfilling a childhood dream after retiring as a real estate broker at 66. For the past year, he has dedicated his days to his passion: delighting children and serving sweet nostalgia to older residents who fondly remember the Good Humor trucks from their childhoods.

“Last year, I did pretty much four or five days a week,” he said. ” But this year, I’ve had a lot of trouble with the trucks. I’ve had to put motors and transmissions in ’em, new brakes. You name it, I had to do to it.” Nevertheless, Pops persisted.

Lynchburg’s response to Pops’ sweet endeavor has been nothing short of heartwarming. Children light up when they see the Good Humor trucks, and parents and grandparents fondly recall their own childhood experiences.

“I’ve had one lady [who] got an ice cream and started crying because it brought back such good memories,” he said. “People say, ‘I love what you’re doing. Thank you for doing that — for bringing something like that back. That’s something we need.’ ”

As summer ended, he said he donated his remaining stock of Good Humor ice cream (about a thousand pieces) to the community. But not because he’s done being a Good Humor man. He only gives away his remaining stock so that he can start with the freshest, highest-quality products next summer.

For Pops, this endeavor is not about making money but keeping the old and creating new memories. “I don’t do it to make money. I don’t mind making money, but it’s something that I enjoy doing,” he said. “The response I get from the kids and the older people [is] something I really enjoy.” GN

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