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Cool times for ice cream trucks

Posted: August 2, 2011 1:53 a.m.
Updated: August 2, 2011 1:53 a.m.

Ice cream vendor Paramjit Cheema, of Valencia, parks his truck at Valencia Glen Park in Valencia on Saturday. Cheema has driven his truck for more than 11 years.

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He wears a familiar face of summer that kids know by sound instead of sight.

As his ice cream truck rolls onto any block in the Santa Clarita Valley, the repetitive, tinny musical refrain blaring from his truck has the power to alert, and halt, any child engaged in other summer pursuits.

Running in a park, splashing in a pool or manning a gaming console inside an air-conditioned home, children bolt down the street when they hear the pied-piper sound of the ice cream man.

The problem is — according to the ice cream man of 2011 — there are fewer of them bolting and many of them spending less.

Paramjit Cheema has lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for more than 30 years and has been cruising local streets in his ice cream truck for more than 11 of those, selling ice cream cones, Popsicles and, in later and leaner times, bags of chips and tiny toys.

On Saturday, he was parked at Valencia Glen Park near a gathering of birthday party celebrants, but no one was buying his ice cream.

“They have cake maybe at the party, a lot of kids, they bring their own keg of ice cream,” he said, leaning out of the tiny truck window, eyeing the balloons wafting in the triple-digit heat of the park not far from the curb.

“This economy is so tough,” he said, “It’s teaching everyone how to save, how to live in Valencia, still, you know.”

Wouldn’t sales of ice cream and crushed ice be booming on Santa Clarita Valley streets in summer?

“It’s the worst,” Cheema said sadly. “When they’re off from school, it’s dead.

“These three months, it’s totally dead,” he said. “I’m making one-third of what I usually make.”

Over the course of a decade, Cheema has not only seen kids grow up, but also change their lifestyles.

“Kids used to be little, but now I can’t recognize them,” he said.

He drives by foreclosed homes now and knows that some people have trouble buying food to eat.

Money for ice cream is a luxury.

Kids now hear his truck and send a younger brother or sister with a shopping list they send via cellphone texting.

“Things change,” Cheema said “Two or three years ago, kids would be playing in the street. Now, it’s hard to find any kid in the street.

“They’re inside, texting or listening to music. They play on the Internet,” he said. “I see two girls coming to buy ice cream; their brothers and sisters stay inside texting them to buy two or three items.”


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