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Ice Cream Saves

Ice Cream Saves

by Shawn Greyling                              Posted: 2014/07/13

Everybody knows the sound of the ice cream truck but how many people know the ice cream man behind the wheel? Shawn gets to know Chief and Godfrey. https://bit.ly/2O4tefU

To the average young adult in suburbia the sound of an ice cream truck on a Sunday morning can amplify a hangover, but when it comes to the streets of loxions around Joburg, it can work miracles. Meet Chief and his apprentice, Godfrey, they sell ice cream for a living - come sun, come snow, that's how these two men provide for their families.



At 06h30, Winter lifts its skirt and peeps a shy 2 degrees Celsius as the two men ready the VW minibus painted in the same fashion as the Star Spangled Banner. The windows are defrosted and the soft serve machine is cleaned and prepared. At 8h00 they stop at an ice cream supplier in Alberton to stock up for the day's run. Chief purchases eight 5L containers of soft serve, costing him a little over R420.



"I doubt that we will sell all of this today," he tells me as we head toward the Natalspruit informal settlement just off of Heidelberg Road.

As we drive further and further into the heart of iKhasi, children start to swarm the vehicle. Their clothes are covered in dirt from playing in the sand, their noses are snotty and their hands are filled with coins to buy cones "with extra syrup." At R6 a pop who could blame them? Godfrey ensures that every child is attended to. This man is the ice cream server, co-driver and guy who runs to the shops whenever we fall short of nourishments. He has the grace of a man born to sell ice cream on cold days, and has been working alongside Chief for a year now, loving every moment of it. 



As for Chief, he can't remember how long he has been doing this for. He says that he has seen his customers grow from little kids to young adults before his eyes. This in itself tells me a lot about him as a person. He sees selling ice cream not only as a way and means of money but as an opportunity to change and uplift the spirits of the communities he serves. He tells me that he comes from the same place that cricket player Dale Steyn comes from, "close to the Kruger Park gate," far away from the flickering lights and smog of Joburg. He now lives in Alexandra and his routes mainly consist of informal settlements. They do swing by suburban areas but it's not quite as busy as the residential area of Chris Hani where we find ourselves today. 



Godfrey is quite good at telling how long they must stay in an area and after about two hours of driving through the first shanty town, he instructs Chief to get back onto the main road and head to Wadeville. This is where we stop for lunch. Godfrey jumps out and heads to McDonald's as we drive on to sell more ice cream. Thirty minutes later Godfrey returns with a burger for each of us and two Black Label cans for me.



Before entering Wadeville we pass a funeral. It is as if the presence of the ice cream truck has removed the sombre vale of grief from the people's faces as they line up and buy ice cream. We spend at least an hour parked outside the funeral. People offer to get us pap and stew from the memorial service but we decline. From here on, Godfrey decides that it would be best to go to Germiston CBD. On the way there we get pulled over by a traffic cop. He leans into the driver's window and studies the interior of the vehicle. As I point my camera at him he grabs at his gun holster and yells at me. This honestly confuses the living shit out of me, and I manage to cover up the angst with a real white girl laugh.



After doing the rounds in Germiston the soft serve machine is running close to empty, as is the SD card of my camera. I ask Chief to drop me off at the intersection across from the lake. We shake hands, and I thank him for showing me how ice cream can change the mood for young and old alike.


















Everybody knows the sound of the ice cream truck but how many people know the ice cream man behind the wheel? Shawn gets to know Chief and Godfrey. https://bit.ly/2O4tefU

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