Archive for Thursday, July 10, 2003

He’s the ice cream man

De Soto residents stop him while he’s passing by

July 10, 2003

Mark West remembered the day he realized he was destined to be De Soto's ice cream man.
"My first year as district manager, I went through a lot of people," he said. "One guy called me and said, 'Are you supposed to see a sign to Denver, Colorado?' You have a lot of people who can't read maps. I just decided I'd come out here myself."
West related the story for considerable good humor, but the Independence, Mo., man visits De Soto daily nine months of the year in his Frosty Treats van. West has been an ice cream van driver for 13 years. For 12 of those, he has stopped at De Soto, even after his promotion to district manager.
"De Soto is like a second hometown to me," he said. "I get here at the end of the evening, and I just feel at home."
West said the judgment was arrived at through a fair comparison. He regularly visited 12 communities and had been to nearly every town within a 90-mile radius of Kansas City.
West's van is covered with bright signs advertising the ice cream, popsicles and freezees stored in a large cooler that fills the back of the van. Business is conducted from the passenger side window, where a generation of De Soto children passed money in exchange for treats to the man they know as "Mr. Ice Cream Man," -- the name Liam McDaniel shouted Tuesday as he hailed West in Miller Park.
West patiently explained to youngster McDaniel and other children what they were ordering with the aid of the colorful signs. He warned the customers off frozen treats flavored with hot peppers meant to appeal to Latino patrons.
He wouldn't have lasted in the job long if he didn't like children, West said, and he considered his young customers one of the job's appeals.
West's arrival at Miller Park or in De Soto's neighborhoods is announced with a familiar ding, ding, ding or carnival tune.
"If you have the same tune all the time, they know who's coming down the road," he said.
Ironically, the demand for West's cool treats waned with the July heat.
"The hotter it gets, the worse we do," he said. "People are inside with their doors closed and air conditioner on. They don't hear us. Spring and fall are great. People always hear you."
Summers did confirm to West that De Soto shared his affection.
"I'm fed well on weekends from all the barbecues," he said. "I'll tell you at the fireworks display Friday, I couldn't eat anymore from all the food people were giving me."

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