Jingles and Chimes—Mister Softee at the Boyertown Museum!
Les Waas died in 2016 at age 94. Who is Les Waas, you may ask? You may not have heard his name, but you’ve more than likely heard his work. He wrote the Mister Softee jingle.
Waas wrote the song in 1960, just a few years after brothers William and James Conway founded Mister Softee in Philadelphia. They served their first ice cream on St. Patrick’s Day in 1956 and, of course, it was green. Les Waas himself was a native Philadelphian, and he stayed in the area for life. In fact, his obituary notes that he died at Abington Memorial Hospital.
One obituary contained this quote: “Both loved and loathed, the jingle remains a lasting part of the collective American childhood.” And it certainly was loathed by some. In 2002, Hartford, Connecticut had a law that Mister Softee trucks could play the song only six times in a row on any given block.
Perhaps most famously, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in an attempt to rid the city of noise, tried to ban the song outright in 2004—a sacrilege to the jingle’s adherents. In 2005, the city struck a compromise, applying to all ice cream vendors, in which trucks may play music only while in motion.
The Mister Softee song is officially titled “Jingle and Chimes,” and it’s heard literally all over the country. Mister Softee is not as big a company as it once was, but it still operates in fifteen states. There are still 600 trucks operating in the United States. There are even franchises in China!
Waas was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia in 2005 and according to the Pioneers, he came up with the ‘number system’ for reporting school closings on the air.
The Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles has a Mister Softee truck from 1958 on display. The body on it was built right in the Museum’s gallery when it was the Boyertown Auto Body Works. The Body Works built quite a few ice cream trucks for many different companies, but Mister Softee was its most prolific customer in the ice cream vending world. The Body Works made bodies for Mister Softee up until at least 1977—and one from this later era will be in attendance at the 4th Annual The Truck Stops Here food truck fair at the Boyertown Museum on June 30.
The Truck Stops Here will feature a variety of food trucks—Captain Chucky’s Curbside Seafood, Gourmand Café, Tre Locally Sourced, Mom-Mom’s Polish Food Cart, Phyllodelphia, OMG Smoothies, WOW Wagon, Sly Fox Beer, and, of course, that 1976 Boyertown-bodied Mister Softee truck. Our 4th Annual The Truck Stops Here food truck fair is just $5 admission to both the fair AND Museum. Children ages 6 & under are FREE. This event will be held on Saturday, June 30 from 12pm-4pm rain or shine. Kids’ activities included in fair admission. Visit www.boyertownmuseum.org for more information or ‘like’ us on Facebook! See you then!