Jolly Joe, The Ice Cream Man

I am writing this in my blog to see what people think.  This is a story I wrote from my childhood, which stands out in my memory as clear as it happened yesterday, but in fact it was 40 years ago.  I wanted to reflect the images and the way I remember the way the days felt back then.  I’m sure if you grew up in the 60’s, you can relate to this story.  This is one is on it’s way to a publisher as we speak. I can really picture this story as a children’s picture book.  I hope you like it.  Enjoy. 🙂  Cheryl


The nickel mom gave me was clenched tight in my sweaty, left fist.  It wasn’t going anywhere, at least not yet.

I sat patiently on the curb in front of my house, drawing pictures on the roasting pavement with rocks.  It was something to do while I waited-waited for the sweet sound of the ice cream man.

Those summer mornings of long ago always dawned hazy and cool, but by noontime, turned sunny and sizzling.  Cicadas droned their long, lonely songs promising another day of uncomfortable weather; while dogs laid lifeless, panting heavily in the shade.

Since it was too hot to play, the neighborhood children sat quietly in their wading pools, played board games or just read books.  It seemed the whole neighborhood was sleeping.

Suddenly we heard it!

“Clang!”   “Clang!”   “Clang!”

Oh, that  marvelous sound!

“Clang!”   “Clang!”   “Clang!”

The ice cream man was coming and his bell broke through the still, dank air like shattering  glass!  The red and white truck gleamed as it rounded the corner of our street.

“Clang!”   “Clang!”  “Clang!”

His bell beckoned every child and the neighborhood sprang back to life again.  It was like magic!

His name was Jolly Joe and he was always on time, half-past noon. He wasn’t your ordinary ice cream man, and he didn’t drive an ordinary ice cream truck.Unlike the larger, square trucks today, Jolly Joe’s truck was small, and all of it’s corners were rounded.  Vibrant stickers of assorted, frosty ice cream treats were strewn across it’s sides,  seeming so real and tasty, our mouths watered in anticipation.

The back of his truck was made of smooth, shiny aluminum and had small, compartment doors cut into it.  Each door had it’s own lever, but had nothing to reveal the treasure it held deep inside.  I’ll never know just how he did it, but he always knew which door to open for each child’s special selection.

Clutching my nickel tight, I’d run to the back of the truck where a small group of children were quickly gathering. Jolly Joe jumped out and walked toward us.  The sun glistened upon his greased, jet black hair.  He was an older man with a pleasant face and a welcoming smile.  He was short, round,  and yes, very jolly.  He knew us all by name and knew all of our favorite ice cream treats.

There were chocolate nut cones, ice cream sandwiches and assorted ice pops in every flavor.  Strawberry Shortcakes, Chocolate Eclairs and Cherry Bombs to name just a few.

Then there was my favorite ice cream of all -the Buried Treasure!  It was called the Buried Treasure because you had to eat all the raspberry ice cream to discover the “treasure” deep inside.  An imprint on the plastic stick!  It might be a lion, a dog, or even a funny clown.  Whatever it was, it was well worth the wait!

The money belt Jolly Joe wore around his middle made a merry “chink”, chink” sound as he collected coins or just made change.  Small puffs of freezer smoke escaped each compartment door as he opened them one by one.

Then it was finally my turn!  He dug his arm deep inside the frigid compartment up to his shoulder.  He’d pause for a moment, and a puzzled look would cross his face.  Then quick as a flash, he had it!  My Buried Treasure!  I couldn’t wait to taste the cool, sweetness sliding down my parched throat.

I managed a muffled “thank you”, as he tousled my damp hair.

Choices were made.  Money was exchanged.  Then as quickly as it had begun, it was soon over.  It was time for Jolly Joe to go.

He climbed back into his cab and waved us off.  Excited, sticky-faced, children were everywhere, playing and laughing again.

“Bye!” they all called back.  Then the merry bell rang again.

“Clang!”  “Clang!”  Clang!”

Over and over it rang, until it slowly faded in the distance.

How I hated to see him go, because then I knew it would just be another long, hot and boring day again. But I knew the next day he’d be back again.  I’d clutch my nickel tight and run, and it would be magic all over again.


How I remember Jolly Joe




39 comments on “Jolly Joe, The Ice Cream Man

  1. btics says:


    We enjoyed your Jolly Joe, The Ice Cream Man.

    For historical information and pictures of Buried Treasure Ice Cream plastic character sticks and a journey down memory lane, we welcome you to visit our blog.

  2. Joe says:

    I was looking to send you a photo of Jolly Joe and his truck but could find no e-mail address for you.

    • My e-mail is You had a Jolly Joe too??? Mine was in Warwick, RI. Where are you from? Thanks for commenting. Cheryl

      • doug wootton says:

        Hi Cheryl. I just bought jolly joes original ice cream trucks in Warwick Ri. today. I would love to share pictures and swap stories. One of the trucks is the exact truck in your picture with the diamond plate chrome rear bumper. Jolly john was actually a small co. owned by 2 brothers. There were only 2 trucks and I bought both of them today in Warwick Ri. Got some great stories from the guy where I picked them up. Hit me up and we can share some history.
        Thanks Doug

      • Hello! Are you kidding? What made you buy them? I can’t believe how much attention this blog post On Jolly Joe has gotten and reached so many, especially in Warwick, to tell me their stories. It has been fascinating to say the least. I would still love to write this as a picture book some day. I would love to see pictures! Congrats on purchasing such history. Thanks for reaching out! Cheryl

  3. Tom F says:

    Hi Cheryl:

    Loved your story. Brought back a lot of memories. Jolly Joe came by my hosue about 8:00 pm. (We lived in Warwick) And, we waited so we wouldn’t miss out. I wonder what happened to him.

    • Yes, I lived in Warwick, too! Grotto Avenue to be exact! I loved it there, and I am also writing a story about the farm that was right behind our house,too. Confreda Farms. It’s about the seasons and what we as kids would do in the field like skating in the winter, the large sprinklers in the summer…etc. I had the best childhood, and to this day I love farms, it think because of where I grew up.
      As far as Jolly Joe goes, I can’t remember his last name, but I believe it was italian. I would love to find his family members just to let them know what an impact he had on us as kids. I did try to locate him after I wrote this via Warwick Beacon article, but to no avail. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  4. Lee says:

    Cheryl this is wonderful. The drawing on the street, the heat. Most of all the rounded corners of the old fashioned truck and ice cream coroner morgue in back. I remember! Thanks for the journey. Don’t change a thing… The only change should stay in Jolly Joe’s magic belt.

    • Awww, thank you. That means a lot to me that you liked it. I like reading it over and over to see if I should change anything, and to remember all over again. Thanks again for the kind words. 🙂

  5. suzi fielder says:

    I googled Jolly Joe and came across your story… as I first read it a little happy tear came to my eye as I remembered my own happy memories with Jolly Joe however the more I read, the more teary eyed I got! lol He sure did have a large impact on many many kids in Warwick. in fact not only kids but dogs… you see my family had a couple of basset hounds and they would also wait for Jolly Joe! When they heard the bell, they jumped right up and waited at the edge of the road for the truck and when he got in front of our house they lined up, (well, I should say, made their way to the front of the line! lol) got their hoodsies and went back to being lazy on the porch! In fact, if for some reason we were not home when Jolly Joe came by, the dogs still got their ice cream on credit! We could always tell because there would be an empty hoodsie cup on the front lawn!!

    I like most kids loved summer time the best, but the best thing about summer was Jolly Joe, we also, had another ice cream man in the neighborhood who would come around about 1pm, however MOST IF NOT ALL of us would hold out until about 8 ish when it was Jolly Joe time!!!

    I think we all know how Jolly Joe spent our nickles in the winter! Every Spring/Summer when he would come around for the first time he was always so tan! : } I think we must have sent him to Florida! I think..or should I say.. Jolly Joe.. you deserved all those winters to Florida!! : }

    I would love to know what ever happened to Jolly Joe… one summer he just never showed up! Jolly Joe, please know you are a LARGE PART OF MY CHILDHOOD MEMORY AND ALWAYS WILL BE!!!! : }

    Thank you for writing about Jolly Joe, thanks for the memories, and sorry that I went on and on! lol
    Suzi Fielder Lyndon Ave, Warwick Ave

    ps..I loved the buried treasures.. however, my favorite was the cherry bomb!

    • Wow, this is awesome! I always thought I should try to get this published as a picture book for kids. It’s unbelievable how much one person can have an impact on so many. I too would love to find Jolly Joe or what happened to him. I even asked the Warwick Beacon to ask the question in one of it’s papers, to no avail. If you find out any info, please pass along. Thanks so much for this,you made my day.

  6. Donna Fines says:

    . Your story of our wonderfully kind Jolly Joe made my heart smile.The last time I saw him,I was a young mother of small children. It was exciting for all of us when he came.He had such a way with children and he was quite the talker too. Yes he loved animals. My dog was due for her puppies and every night he would always ask. “Did she have them yet?” He was as happy as we were when she finally did.I found great comfort reading your little story.You warmed my heart with memories of days gone by but never forgotten. Thank You.

    • Thanks so much Donna for your very nice comment. You made me smile. I am so glad I am finding out that many other people remember Jolly Joe so fondly. I am going to try my best to publish this into a children’s book, because I think it brings magic to every child. I am sad that he has passed away though…Maybe I can still try and send this story to his family somehow. I would like that very much. Thanks again. 🙂

  7. Donna Fines says:

    Sadly,I just found this on the internet

    MATTERA, SALVATORE J., 85, passed away July 15th at the RI Veterans Home. Born in Providence, he was the son of the late Giovanni J. and Fortuna (Migliaccio) Mattera and the husband of the late Lorna S. (Karn) Mattera. Mr. Mattera was the owner and operator of Jolly Joe’s Ice Cream before retiring. He was also a U.S. Army Veteran of WWII. He was the brother of Anthony J. Mattera, Marie Petrucci and the late John and Jerry Mattera, Filomena Petrucci and Yolanda Pacitto. Visitation and funeral will be

    The whole obituary didn’t come out. I am so sad.He died July 17th in 2008

  8. Rob says:
    HI Cheryl, I sent you an email some time ago regarding this entry and my fond memories of Jolly Joe and saw that your favorite was the Buried Treasure. I was surfing the net and found this site. Hope you get a kick out of it.

    • Thanks so much for this. I think this is the same site that the owners found me! They asked me to comment on their blog because they loved the story so much. I think this is the same site. I love it! Thanks so much again.

  9. Colleen (Suzi) Fielder says:

    Oh my I am so sad today. Ever since I have found your blog, every so often I check it to see if anyone else has written about our beloved Jolly Joe. Even though deep down, I thought he may be gone, I was praying he was not, and today i came across the posting that he passed away in 2008. My heart broke alittle when I read it, as I felt alittle piece of my childhood memories passed away with him…

    Jolly Joe please know you will ALWAYS be remembered by me and so many others!! Iam sure you are passing out cherry bombs, hoodsies, buried treasuries and other ice cream delights to all the angels!!!!


    • I know how you feel, but I am hoping this is not him. But if it is, I plan to try to send this story to his family. I am also hoping to contact the Warwick Beacon and see if they will print this in hopes of finding the family and letting them know how much Jolly Joe meant to a lot of people. I will forward my blog address to them so that they can see the comments for themselves. Thanks so much for commenting. And don’t be sad. 🙂

  10. Tim Coffey says:

    Jolly Joe found me skateboarding at the end of my street and he gave a wave and a smile. I told him that I needed to get my ice cream money at my house. He told me to hang onto his truck and ride up the hill to my house. I did that – about 3 years before Michael J. Fox did it in Back to the Future. I felt like a pioneer. It was long before the days of helmets and overly-protective parents. It was awesome. He used to stop in front of my house and wait before serving the rest of my neighborhood. I loved that. I also loved that he genuinely felt like ice cream sandwiches should be much larger. ha ha! My Sicilian grandmother, visiting from Chicago, used to LOVE this man. I think his old country affect struck her.

  11. Barbara Brennan Napolitano says:

    Cheryl, I lived on Senator St., moved away, then we moved back to the neighborhood on Hoyle Avenue. This is my Jolly Joe story. Of course, he was my ice cream man. If you see the picture and don’t recognize him it’s because the pic is of Sal Mattera (RIP). Sal owned the truck, but he, and his brothers all drove it. That would be Sal, Jerry, Johnny, and Anthony. We usually had his brother Jerry Mattera. As a child I was sooooooo in love with him. When we moved to the other side of the city (Near Norwood) we had Jolly Joe and Scotty. Here’s where the THREE degrees of separation happens. I know they say 6 degrees, but this RI. It’s onlyTHREE. I started dating this guy. I would visit his home on Federal Hill. Met many of his friends. Some of the guys had a market on Atwells Ave – Mattera’s Market. I would go to the market now and then, and one guy always looked familiar to me. So one day I was buying some “cold cuts” there and the back door was open. THERE WAS THE JOLLY JOE TRUCK!!!!!!!!!!! I started to cry. I realized that’s why this guy looked so familiar. It was Jerry Mattera. When I told him “oh my God, you were my ice cream man. and I lived on Senator Street and Heath Avenue and Hoyle Avenue, he even remembered my dogs’ names. He also remembered me running up a tab to buy ice cream for other kids. And here he was a friend of the man who became my husband. He went to my wedding. Was to come to my oldest son’s first birthday party. When the guys from “the hill” came they told me he died the night before in his sleep. That would be December 31, 1974. Now, I used to be a secretary at a liquor store. So one day I was in the warehouse for a delivery. And who was the driver delivering? Scotty!!! Sadly his eyesight is not very good, so he doesn’t drive anymore. But he remembered me too. Ice cream men are the best 😉 PS Are you related to Fred?

    • Wow, thanks for this post! Did you have a picture to send me? I’d love to see it. Very interesting story, and it all makes sense.Unbelievable. Thanks so much. No I am not related to Fred. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Mary E. Fox says:

    We lived at the corner of Surf Ave. and Ridge Rd. and Jolly Joe always stopped right in front of my house and we would talk for a few minutes and all the kids would come from ‘no-where’ to get their ice cream. We had 4 kids and they all would remember Jolly Joe. Later today, I will call my 4 kids to ask them about what they remember of him. My 3rd son called him: Gee-Joe and he was only about 3 or 4 years old and born in Dec. of 1963. I may even have snapshots of the ice cream truck. Meanwhile I will return to ths

    • Thanks so much for this comment and please do share the photos of the truck if you find them. I can’t believe all the nice comments on this man. I wish I only knew this earlier, before he passed away, so I could have relayed this story to him..these comments from all who loved him. Thanks again.

  13. Donna says:

    Cherly, I just shared your blog on Face Book. There is a pae ” If you’re from Warwick” where everyone shares memories. Someone asked about Jolly Joe. I also have read some of your other comments and saw the photo of him! Love it. I never had any of his brothers or anyone other than our one and only Jolly Joe(Sal) drive that truck. Thank you again for this awesome page Cheryl. We will always love and remember him,our on and only Jolly Joe.

  14. Donna says:

    Cheryl. The name of the Facebook page is ” You’re probably from Warwick if… Sorry

  15. Michaela says:

    Hi Cheryl – the other night while enjoying some ice cream and talking to my mom Jolly Joe came up. My mom didn’t remember him so I googled him and came across your story and blog. I also grew up on Grotto Ave and looked forward to him coming by.
    In fact, both of my brothers asked for money belts one year for Christmas.
    I was not surprised to hear that he has since passed – but wished I too could have thanked him for him kindness when I was young.
    Thank you for your story! Did you ever write the children’s book?

  16. says:

    Hi Cheryl,

    I have been working on my family tree. Came across your blog. Awesome! My grandfather was from Naples Italy. His brother was Giovanni Giuseppe Mattera who immigrated to Providence. My father was named after is uncle. Joseph “Giuseppe” Mattera….who’s sons operated Jolly Joe’s Ice Cream !My dad now lives in Canada. My dad was first cousins to all the brothers that operated the truck. My dad met his uncle Joe once in the 50’s when he had visited Italy but did not know his cousins or what became of them. It was great reading all the stories and being able to tell him! It’s also a great story to tell my son who is now 18 and whose name is also Joseph…amazing how a small story can touch so many lives.
    Thank You.

    Philip Mattera

    • Hello Philip, Wow! Thank you so much for commenting on Jolly Joe. I am so glad you found this. I feel like my story has finally found its destination. I was hoping that I would find the original Jolly Joe and let him know how special he really was to a lot of people. Just look at all the comments! Although I was saddened when I found out he died in 2008, this story seems like it has taken on a life of its own. Thank you so much for letting me know the background on this, and this year….I am definitely going to try and get this published. Jolly Joe and his story has truly made a difference in people’s lives. You must be so proud. Thank you again. Sincerely, Cheryl

  17. Paul says:

    Jolly Joe was as popular as Santa Clause in our neighborhood in Warwick.I was a paperboy in Warwick in the 70s and I would stop Joe daily to catch up and have a few strawberry shortcakes and chocolate malt cups.Boy those were the days.I was always loyal to Jolly Joe over Scotties truck because Joe was like family even though I was only 12 years old.Joe was like the uncle who never says no and who enjoyed his job more than anyone I ever met.Joe told me in the winter he worked at the post office in Providence and when the weather changed he would sell ice cream out of his beautiful 1950 truck.After many years 1987 I ran into Joe in down town Providence and he was working at the post office.I asked if he was going to be on the road that summer and he said he has missed 2 summers because the truck needed work and he couldn’t afford to fix it.I think I shocked the good ol man because I told him I would give him the $1000 he needed to get back on the road and put smiles back on everyone’s faces.Jolly Joe said thanks for the offer but he was getting old and times were changing.I would have done anything for that guy because he was a wonderful kind human being.

  18. What a nice story. Thank you. I can’t believe he touched so many peoples lives. I just remember how awesome those times were and when I thought back on Jolly Joe, I wanted to know what became of him. I’ve learned so much about him since writing this story, and I am so glad I am not alone in remembering him. I’m really thinking of trying to get my story published as a children’s book. I have put it on the back burner as I had not heard or seen any new comments for awhile on this story. Suddenly, the interest has stirred up again. Tell me, how did you come about finding my blog and this story? It is always interesting to find what led people to read this. Thank you again for your beautiful comments.

  19. Alan says:

    Cheryl, I read your story a couple of years ago, here, and loved it. Your story brought back so many memories. I relayed the information to my sister, who also remembered Jolly Joe. I grew up in Nausauket, on Abbott Ave., in the 1950’s and Jolly Joe was a fixture in our neighborhood every day throughout the summer. Us kids could hear that bell a mile away and we would all scatter to our respective houses to get a nickel or a dime, sometimes scraping up pennies just to buy some of Jolly Joe’s ice cream. Popsicles, Fudgesicles, Creamsicles and Ice cream cups (called Dilly Dalley’s I think) were 5 cents. Nutty Buddies (cones with melted chocolate and nuts) were I think a dime as were Ice Cream Sandwiches. A nickel or a dime bought so much fun back then. If you had big money, like a quarter, Joe always had change that would chink out of his belt mounted change machine. Joe would stop and serve 6, 8, 10 kids at a time, then hop in the cab of that old truck and drive on a few hundred feet to the next group that gathered to buy his wares. I eventually moved out of the old neighborhood, but would see that old truck drive by decades later, still making memories for kids. I wonder what ever happened to Joe’s old truck. I’d love to see that truck again today. Thanks for the memories, Cheryl.

    • Thanks so much for that Alan. I still want to make this story a children’s book. Every once in a while I think I will do it, and then something come up and I forget about it. But I just may pursue that notion again.If you read all the comments on the first Jolly Joe post I put up ( I reblogged it several times) you can see how many people he actually affected. I think it even mentions how his truck was found. If you can’t find that, I will send it to you somehow.Thanks so much for this though, It’s nice to know he’s still thought of. If he only knew….

  20. hmchelen123 says:

    I enjoyed your story about Jolly Joe. Many,many years ago when I was a child and lived in New Jersey we had the ice cream man come around in his truck. When we moved to MI we moved to small town and they didn’t have a ice cream man. Your story brought back my childhood and I smile.

  21. Louie Meketsy says:

    I remember him well. We were his last stop of the day. Rocky Beach .even after a long day he was always in a good mood. Some nights we didn’t even have any money. He would put it on our tab. This brings back great childhood memories.

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