Ice cream trucking, Kaua‘i style

WAIMEA n “You have to know where all the kids, the games, and the parties are,” Lisa Johnston said between bites.

Heat-beating bites of cold ice cream from satisfied customers, that is.

Johnston, who will be celebrating her second anniversary aboard the converted cargo carrier this July, told one hungry customer, “Don’t worry. I’ll be here for another half hour or so.”

Second servings are welcome, and despite the sun threatening to drop behind the Makaha Range, fans from the ongoing Waimea Bluejays/Koloa Bronco baseball game lined up for a late afternoon snack.

Ker-chunk, squeee, ker-chunk. The aging aluminum cargo van does not sport the traditional colorful decor of an ice cream truck. Nor does it feature the horns, bells, and recorded music of the picture-book ice cream truck.

“It’s the muffler that makes the sound,” one parent said while fishing out her wallet. “The kids all know the sound, and you just gotta look where they’re going. It’s our ice cream truck.”

“No need paint. No need nothing. They love it just like it is,” Johnston smiled. “The people have come to know this truck, and they just come.”

Johnston is a teacher at St. Theresa’s School in Kekaha, where she establishes her clientele through the physical education and computer science classes that she teaches there.

“School gets out about 2, I leave around 3, and head straight for the truck,” Johnston said. “But, the business doesn’t pick up until around 4:30 when the kids’ stomachs start getting hungry. I’m usually out on the road until around 6:30, or 7 before going home to do schoolwork. Then, it’s time to sleep, and go all over, again.”

Johnston’s familiar van makes its rounds through the ballpark circuits in Kekaha and Waimea where the Bronco program is in its final weeks of season play. From there, Johnston swings through some of the neighborhoods where children are enjoying the coolness of the arriving evening.

“The last day of school. Can you bring the truck?” one parent queried while paying for a Melonia bar.

“It’s cheaper than buying cake and cookies,” the parent said. “When it was my son’s birthday, Lisa brought the truck to school, and the children just chose what they wanted. I just paid, but it was cheaper than going out to buy cake, cookies, and ice cream. Now, my daughter’s birthday is coming up, so I just want to do something special for her class.”

Johnston’s primary offering is a variety of ice cream, the labels and packages of which are securely fastened to the side of her van which has been modified to provide a serving window from which she dispenses her refreshing treats.

However, she does supplement the offering with an assortment of cold drinks, and on weekends, sometimes adds hot dogs and pizza to her offerings.

“It’s all up to the schedule,” she said. “On weekends, people eat more. During the week, it’s more snacks.”

Johnston repeats her schedule seven days a week, but admits, “Sometimes I play hookey.”

But, with the westside children expecting to see her familiar van roll into the parking lots and down the streets, Johnston said, “I feel guilty about the children, so I go out every day. When I see them after playing hookey, they always ask where I was.”

“As far as I know it’s the only one (ice cream truck) on the island, and the children and parents love it,” Johnston said while serving up yet another ice cream treat for hungry baseball fans.

There is no phone number to call. There is just the familiar “ker-chunk, squeee, ker-chunk,” sound of the truck, and the line of children and parents that announce Johnston’s arrival.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) and dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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