'And finally, not everyone’s being doing topical. In fact, here’s the rather lovely 6 Oxgangs Avenue devoted to the history of the development of the area, this week highlighting how the block of flats came into being. Could have been prompted by Who do you think you are? Or just a timely reminder that not everything worth blogging about is in the here and now.'

Kate Higgins, Scottish Roundup 26/08/2012

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Pavlov's Bells

Why do we eat less ice cream and sweets today when they are much more readily available?

Photograph by Daniel Jackson

One of the daily rituals at Oxgangs Avenue was the sight, sound and smell of the regular ice cream vans that used to visit us. There were those that visited on a daily basis and those others that were like swallows-arriving in early summer and departing at the start of autumn.

The favourite ice cream van was probably Tony's who ran his business from a big blue van. Tony wasn't his real name, which I think was actually Mario. I assume it was his business? He scored a ten with his film star looks-dark hair and flashing brown eyes-a bit like Seve Ballesteros; however that dropped to perhaps a six or a seven when he emerged from the van, because I believe he wasn't very tall. I only ever saw him inside the van from which he looked down on us below, so I was never aware of his height until years afterwards. I think it was Les Ramage who told me this.

Mario was a lovely guy-he had that great gift, you always felt that when he served you, that you were his favourite customer. His van always looked quite classy and clean. The ice cream was good. In addition to the ice cream I went through long phases of buying Topics, but also packets of Oddfellows-I wouldn't thank you for the latter today-quite medicinal! For many years Tony's Ice Cream Van appeared at four o'clock on the other side of the road-nicely timed for just after school and then in the evening around seven o'clock, but now on The Stair's side where he parked outside 4 Oxgangs Avenue.

The other regular ice cream van was Jola's-an odd name. There was less of a relationship there-instead it was more of a transaction. The ice cream wasn't particularly nice; however we enjoyed the Payne's Poppets. On one occasion I thought I was seeing double at Morningside Road-two stationary Jola's vans parked together-I guess they were taking on stock; one served Oxgangs whilst the other must have served another community.

The irregulars were Mr Bongo who served up Bongos. These were hard frozen balls of ice cream covered in chocolate on the end of a stick. Paul Forbes told us a suspicious story about one of the men who operated the van, which I couldn't repeat in public!

The other more interesting van was Mr Whippy who was only ever there in the summer months. I distinctly recall the way he kept his van engine running and the smell of diesel mixed in with the smell of ice cream and the summer heat-a powerful mixture. The ice cream was good and it was magical to see the way it emerged from the tap and the expert way the vendor curled it around the ice cream cone.

Tara Cottage Garden, Jamestown, with ruined Free Church in background; early evening, Saturday, 22 September, 2012 (Peter Hoffmann)
Today ice cream vans are a rarity-occasionally on a summer's evening we hear the musical chimes drifting across to Jamestown from Strathpeffer carried on a zephyr breeze. About six years ago when visiting Mrs Anne Hoffmann (Duncan) at Stenhouse I got a lovely surprise to see Mario driving along in a van-this time with his own name on it; although his hair was grey, he looked as handsome as ever. Atticus and d'Artagnan were both there and were thrilled because they'd been brought up hearing about the novelty of ice cream vans.

(d'Artagnan and Atticus on Pentland Hills-next stop Lucas!, circa 2005)

(d'Artagnan and Atticus in Australia-on their way for an ice cream!, January 2006)

So, today with fridges at home and more disposable income to spend on bumper packs of sweets and chocolate, why do we not consume such goods quite as often? Perhaps, it's because we no longer hear the sound of musical chimes first to draw us in!

Ding, ding! Anyone away now for an ice cream or a sweet?


Alan B said...

I remember Tony the Icecream man who came into the carpark at Oxgangs Grove throughout the 70's. Wonder if it was this Mario you mentioned. Living up on the top flat at 19/7 Oxgangs Avenue, you'd hear the dingdong tune as his van came into the car park and beg for some money from mum or dad or if you were already playing outside you'd shout 'MUM!' hoping she'd hear and come to the window and throw down some money but usually we had to run up the stairs then run all the way back down again by this time Tony was driving away! leaving me standing or half heartedly running after him...this happened quite a lot. Best Icecream though was the '99' with the chocolate flake stuck in it.

Anonymous said...

We were just reminiscing about Oxgangs at the Sunday dinner table Toni's real name was Mario Angelucci and I always remember him parking at Firrhill School and matter what you never got any change if it was 10p or less, Toni would always throw down a couple of chews or something to round it off ! Happy Daze!