Buffalo in the ’50s: Mister Softee comes to town

       By Steve Cichon

For more than six decades, kids across Buffalo have gone to their mom for a buck or two as, off in the distance, the sound of the famous Mister Softee jingle creates a palpable sense of soft-serve expectation. Two brothers started Mister Softee in Philadelphia in 1956, and only two years later, the company began carving up Buffalo into independent franchise routes.

“You don’t need experience to operate your own fully-equipped ‘dairy-on-wheels’ with all the profits of a permanent stand without all the limitations and headaches,” said one early marketing piece.

The Courier-Express and The Evening News regularly printed ads encouraging men to become their own bosses and make an investment in “America’s fastest growing industry — soft serve ice cream.”

As the company worked to entrench itself in the hearts of ice-cream-loving kids across the country, they billed themselves as “the largest mobile soft serve ice cream franchise organization on Earth today.”

The fact that that tinny, over-modulated jingle is remains one of the most loved — as well as most hated — sounds of summer in Western New York means that the promises of those franchisee pitches of 50 and 60 years ago have proven true.

Mister Softee remains the country’s largest franchiser of soft ice cream trucks in the United States.

Mister Softee rides through the streets of Buffalo’s West Side on May 18, 2019. (Video courtesy of Steve Cichon)

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.