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Ding-Ding! Vintage ice cream truck revives childhood dreams
July 15, 2016 Frank Marquez   

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Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Noah Moreno, 13, of Gering, joins the Magaleno family, his Uncle Victor, Aunt Melinda and cousin Teigan, to help them with selling soft serve ice cream and other cool treats during Oregon Trail Days.

During the early evening of July 7 at the 95th Oregon Trail Days Kickoff Barbecue and Street Dance, which featured music by Dynamics, customers who had been listening and dancing to the vibrant tunes, lined up at a vintage ice cream truck parked in front of the Scotts Bluff County Courthouse. The soft serve cones were the perfect remedy to temperatures which soared from the 90s to the triple digits, and Melinda Magdaleno sat on a nearby bench trying to stay cool as her husband Victor took his turn serving ice cream.

Lyman residents, the family owns and operates an ice cream truck called the Cony-X-Press or the Ding-Ding, a Dandy-Dan Ice Cream Truck Model made by the Ford company for Mister-Softie Ice Cream Company in 1959. She, her husband Victor, who makes most of the preparations, and son Teigan, 15, dish up three flavors: vanilla, chocolate, and Twist (a swirl of chocolate and vanilla). The truck also makes Root Beer Floats, Banana Splits, Sundaes Shakes, and Sno-Cones.

The family has driven the truck from their home in Lyman to Gering during July’s Oregon Trail Days serving ice cream at the downtown concert and Kiddie Parade for the past 25 years. They’ll also make an appearance at Horse Creek Rendezvous Days in Morrill this weekend (July 15-16); then they’ll be at Tabor Day in Minatare later this summer; and throughout the warm months at events as far away as Alliance and Kimball. Instead of driving the truck to these far-away distances, “we tow it, to save it from it wear and tear,” she said.

The Magdaleno family came by the truck when it was sold to them by Melinda’s brother and his wife, Fernando and Sara Moreno of Minatare, after they had it for only a few years. The Moreno family acquired it from Gering Junior High teachers Norbert Parr and Junior Alvarez, when Melinda and her childhood friends made a habit of chasing after it.

“It’s getting old like pulling your grandpa along,” Melinda said. “We enjoy people coming up to us and asking about the ice cream truck. We have spent most of our summers doing this. My son’s friends will say to him, ‘this is my new best friend.’ One time, the Morrill cheerleaders painted his face, and he wanted to give them all ice cream cones.”

In her younger days, Melinda remembers running after the same ice cream truck from her home on 4th Street in south Gering, near McKinley Elementary. “We’d ask our parents for change, but by the time it took for them to give us money, the truck had moved on.
The driver would go across the railroad tracks north, and then we’d have to figure out where he might be, timing it just right. He would have half the kids in the neighborhood following him. Most people remember the ding-ding, which was different because other ice cream trucks played music.”

Though the truck has had a few upgrades, with a machine that produces more than one flavor, vanilla, and getting a set of wheels a few years back, it stands in original condition thanks to the tender loving care provided by the Magdaleno family.

“Now that I caught it, I won’t sell it,” Melinda said, relating how a friend from Colorado who had come for Oregon Trail Days remarked how the Cony-X-Press brought back memories, transporting him back in time. “It’s like a childhood dream. That’s something you don’t sell,” Melinda said. “My dad told me a story. We as kids ordered ice cream. We didn’t know about the concept of making money then. So we didn’t pay. He told the driver to not allow his kids to order ice cream unless he or his wife was present. We still get that. Kids come up to us with a handful of change, and it doesn’t matter how much they bring.”

Melinda said she keeps a bucket of coins from such occasions in the Cony-X-Press. She said, “We want to see them get ice cream. No one walks away without getting something.”
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