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As a part of the quintessential experience in American suburbia, I grew up ecstatically waiting for the ice cream truck with my brother and cousins during the summer. I can instantly recall the sounds of the hypnotic melody from an ice cream truck as it drove down the narrow street and passed the small church down the road from my house. As I would hear the sound, I would almost instantly run to my dad asking for money for the Tweety bird ice cream.
The iconic symbolism of the ice cream truck and its representation of the childhood summer make it strange to believe that the trucks were at the center of a debate about mobile food stands in Raleigh back in the early 1960s.
Before the modern food truck, the ice cream truck fought for the ability to sell in Raleigh. The main points of contention were child safety and littering. City officials and parents argued that ice cream trucks were a hazard to the community and posed a threat to children. Like food trucks, ice cream trucks divided the community.
Tension between ice cream truck operators and the City of Raleigh began as early as 1962 when the city regulated sales of ice cream and ice cream products. However, on January 22, 1962, a court ruled that city ordinances limiting ice cream truck sales were unconstitutional.
The Raleigh City Council promptly scheduled a public hearing on February 2, 1962, about rescinding the original ordinance, No. 18, concerning the regulation of sales by ice cream trucks.
Proponents of ice cream truck regulation argued passionately, claiming ice cream trucks were an attractive nuisance and created a hazard because they drew children into the streets.
Ice cream truck owners and their supporters argued that instances of accidents involving children were few and that vendors operated ice cream trucks in a way that minimized potential danger.
Ultimately, the council passed a measure agreeing with the opponents of ice cream trucks. The council declared it “unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to sell or offer to sell on the streets or alleys of the city of Raleigh any ice cream products from mobile ice cream units.”
Although the North Carolina Superior Court overturned the ordinance on May 21, 1962, the ice cream truck debate foreshadowed today’s discussions on mobile food stands in the city of Raleigh.
City of Raleigh Museum Intern