The jingle coming from an ice cream truck is commonplace in most cities, but when Jim Cremeens drove his van down a street in Elgin, Ill., recently, people gawked as if they hadn't seen such a thing in decades.
They hadn't, actually. Not for 45 years.
This summer, Elgin, a city of 110,000 that's 35 miles northwest of Chicago, is licensing its first ice cream trucks since they were banned 44 years ago. Part of the trucks' mystique is that no one is sure why they were banned in the first place. There are stories about an accident involving a child — or children — and an ice cream truck, but there's no record of such an incident in either the City Hall or police archives.
Not that anyone cares about that right now. The residents are still too awed by the trucks' presence. Take Izzie Palacios and Devin Formell. The two teenagers were hanging out in Palacios' home the first time they heard the ringing of an ice cream truck's bells. "We heard [the ice cream truck], so we ran out looking for it," Palacios said.
So far, two applicants have received permits to sell in Elgin, with 10 others going through the licensing process.
Cremeens, a recent retiree who began selling ice cream part time last year, was the first to receive a permit. He tried selling ice cream in Elgin last year and was shocked when a police officer pulled him over and told him it was prohibited.
Cremeens broached the issue last year with Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain, an old school friend. Cremeens' petition to revoke the long-standing ban gained momentum, and was ultimately effective after an 11-month campaign.
"I didn't plan on all this celebrity status," he said.
But that's exactly the way he's been treated in some neighborhoods. People start texting friends and relatives members when they see his truck. The enthusiasm from young and old alike is "fantastic" and different from other towns where he peddles his goods. Some children have never seen an ice cream truck, and some adults haven't seen one since they were children.
"The only ice cream trucks I'd seen before were in [Chicago]," Palacios said.
"For $2, a parent can make their child's day," Cremeens said.
Ziyad Al-asuli — the second person to get a permit from the city — said that eventually the trucks will become routine, but for now, pent-up demand is driving his business. "This is what I see when I'm driving here: Everybody likes it, everybody wants it," he said.