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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Observing My First Turf War.

Most people my age observed their first turf war up close in the movie "The Godfather".
But that was fiction.

The first turf war I witnessed close up took place years before "The Godfather", and in reality.

I was in my early teens, and lived in a garden apartment in Bellerose, Queens.
This was the early sixties.

We were a good mile away from the nearest shopping area.
Too far to walk.
Not too far to take a bicycle, as when my mother made me ride my bike to the Cracker Barrel Supermarket in my notorious trek to purchase her boxes of Kotex tampons.when I was 14 and had no idea what they were.

We were mostly one-car families, and the men took the cars to go to work.
The women stayed home.
And the less-creative-women-than-my-mother rightly considered themselves stranded when it came to food shopping. They usually had to wait until the weekend to take the car and go to the supermarket.

Some enterprising companies took advantage of this situation by providing trucks that would come to these neighborhoods offering up baked goods.

In these instances, there were invariably the quality trucks, offered by a company called Dugans. Great cupcakes.
And it's considerably inferior knockoff, Krugs. Great nothing.

The Krugs drivers usually made it their business to get to our street before the Dugans drivers, knowing that they had an inferior product, but looking to satisfy the uncontrollable baked goods Jones of women who couldn't wait for the Dugans truck.
Krugs barely made a dent in Dugans business, and gradually folded it's tent, leaving the field exclusively to Dugans.
So, no turf war there.

Just the other day, passing in front of my house in Michigan, was an ice cream truck.
An old-fashioned ice cream truck.
Where all the ice cream was pulled out of the freezer by the proprietor and sold to kids.

Just like the old Good Humor Ice Cream Trucks when I was a kid.
I didn't know that any ice cream trucks were still in existence.
I don't know if Good Humor Ice Cream Trucks are still in existence.

But again, for kids who had no other access to ice cream during the week, the daily appearance of Hank, our local Good Humor Man, and a man of extremely good humor, ringing them bells, sent kids begging for dimes from their mothers to go get Hank's variety of treats that he pulled from the freezer.
I tended to think of Good Humor as rather ersatz ice cream, preferring to wait for my mother's weekend sojourns so she could bring home the real deal like Breyer's Premium Ice Cream to sit in the freezer.
My sister, having been previously established as having no taste, was somewhat of a slave to Hank.
She adored Hank.
My sister had been in a minor auto accident where she bumped her head on the windshield, due of course by my mother's incompetence behind the wheel.
Hank knew about this and regularly asked my sister how she was doing with her head.
My sister was touched by Hank's attention.

Hank did have some minor competition from a company called Bungalow Bar, which was a cheesy and even more ersatz version of Good Humor.
And the Bungalow Bar driver, much like the Krug's driver, made sure he got there before Hank, to get those kids who just couldn't wait.
Bungalow Bar was not even the slightest threat to Hank.
So no turf war there.

Then one day, in about 1962, it all changed.

Out of the blue, a truck showed up on our street, ringing a large, loud electric bell.
A much bigger truck.
And the driver, aside from driving it, was also inside of it, providing things that you couldn't just pull out of the freezer.
Soft ice cream cones that you actually saw him make, Sundaes, Shakes, Malts, Floats.....
It was a veritable Dairy Queen on wheels.
It was called Mister Softee.
There was nothing ersatz about Mister Softee.
It was the real deal.
It was great.
I onced asked the Mister Softee proprietor what his name was.
He told me it was Irving.
From that moment on, he was known to me, and called by every other kid, "Irving Softee".
A rather unpleasant man, he did not take well to this.

Irving essentially left Hank in the dust.
Hank's business suffered a severe setback, no matter how much good will he had generated.
As much as my sister loved Hank, she also left him in the dust and made the irreversable crossover to Mister Softee.
She had at least enough taste to realize that Mister Softee was a far superior product.
Sometimes food takes precedence over caring.

It all culminated one afternoon when Hank and Irving showed up simultaneously on our street.
Hank, a burly, large gentile, looked at Irving, a short, shrimpy Jew, thought he had the measure of him, and I guess out of frustration, challenged him to a fistfight.
In front of all of the kids.
This certainly upset the kids.
It was kind of like watching two clowns beating each other up at the circus.

The fight began, and Irving, quickly, and with dispatch, summarily beat the crap, the living daylights, out of Hank.
I would have taken odds that it would have gone the other way, and I would have lost my shirt.

Apparently Hank was losing his shirt trying to compete with Irving, and pretty soon, Hank was just a memory.
Poor Hank.
Even if he would have won the battle, he was going to lose the war.

This, perhaps more than anything else I've experienced, prepared me for adulthood.


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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."