- Associated Press - Sunday, June 26, 2016

BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) - The sound is unmistakable. It’s faint at first and then louder and louder as it gets closer to your neighborhood.

You begin scrambling to find a couple of dollars or run to ask mom for the money to buy a snow cone, Popsicle or Nutty Buddy.

The ice cream truck has become as much a part of summer as fireflies, watermelon and flip flops and the tradition is alive and well in the Mountain Empire.

Jolly Wally Ice Cream, owned by Danny and Charlene Harman of Bristol, Tennessee, serves Bristol and Kingsport with more than a dozen varieties of ice cream, including the Choco Taco, Nutty Royale, and Strawberry Shortcake. The prices have gone up over the years, but these days the treats are priced between $1 and $3.

Every item that Danny Harman sells is prepackaged and kept frozen in a trunk freezer inside the truck. Each item is handwritten on the top of the freezer for convenience.

“I’ve got a system to how the truck is organized and it works,” Harman said.

Playing those familiar jingles from a speaker mounted on the dash, Harman visits local neighborhoods for about six hours per day, seven days a week in the summer.

No two routes are ever the same as Harman carefully and slowly makes his way from street to street.

He has regular customers who look for him, while others throw out their hands and flag him down. He says he gets the most joy from the children who want a sweet treat.

“I do this for the kids,” Harman says. “At the end of the day, if we can put a smile on their faces and serve them some delicious ice cream, then I’ve done my job.”

But it’s not just the kids getting in on the fun. Just ask Bristol, Tennessee, resident Jocelyn Moore about the Jolly Wally ice cream truck.

“Danny really does make me smile,” Moore said. “Even if we haven’t seen him in a while, he’ll ask about the kids and how they’re doing. He loves to talk and reminds me so much of my grandfather.”

After parking in front of Moore’s house, Harman slides open the door and business begins.

“SpongeBob is our biggest seller with the children,” Harman said of his offerings. “Adults like to go for the classics that remind them of their childhood, like the old-fashioned Dilly style bars.”

While the job can be challenging, Harman said that after retiring from the Postal Service, he wanted something to keep him busy.

“I bought the trucks in 1998 from a dear friend here in Bristol, Glenn Cumbow,” Harman said. “I wanted to stay busy and here we are 18 years later, still selling ice cream.”

Harman says he’s learned a lot and looks forward to many more years.

“I enjoy making people smile and being helpful,” Harman said. “If I can brighten somebody’s day then it makes the man hours totally worth it.”

Even though there are not a lot of ice cream trucks left, Harman says there’s still something special about catching the truck and selecting a favorite treat from the oversized photos on the side of the vehicle.

“Anybody can walk into a fast-food restaurant or national chain ice cream shop and ask for an ice cream cone,” Harman said. “We really are giving that true customer experience. From the time I flip the switch and the music comes on, until I hand off the ice cream treat, folks are getting a show. I’m proud of what I do each and every day for our customers here in Bristol.”

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Information from: Bristol Herald Courier, https://www.bristolnews.com

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