WE NOTE THE PASSING of Thomas J. Brimer (at 78, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) with a special sadness. We did not know Mr. Brimer, nor is it our purpose here to relate the full story of his life, which was without blemish, we have no doubt.What calls Mr. Brimer to our respectful attention is a single remarkable act. Along with his brothers, Harry W., George and Robert F., he founded the Good Humor Ice Cream Corporation, and in so doing added an endearing sight, sound and taste to the American senses.
The sight, of course, was the Good Humor truck, which itself looked good enough to eat -- vanilla. The sound was the bells. The taste was either Chocolate Fudgecake, Toasted Almond, Whammy Stix, Creamsicle, Popsicle, Bon Joy Swirl or Monkey Bar -- whichever left the most mess. The Brothers Brimer did not invent these things, including the mess. In fact, they did not even invent the Good Humor, which was the work of a genius named Harry Burt, who in Youngstown, Ohio, 59 years ago this very month, dipped a block of vanilla ice cream into molten chocolate and changed the shape of the world. But it was the Brimers who saw what Harry had. And it was the Brimers who brought Good Humor to the nation (no mean feat).
Naturally, their rocky road was not all peaches and cream. In New York, for example, in 1975, the Good Humor Corporation was indicted for marketing ice cream with an illegally high bacteria count (Coconut Supreme was 350, and Orange Push-Up went off the chart). In 1976, 58 Good Humor men were nabbed in Hyattsville as illegal aliens, despite their ingenious cover. And in 1963, the Maryland attorney general's office ruled that the Good Humor bells were a noise nuisance. Withal, the company thrived. And it continues to thrive, despite this past summer's benumbing decision to remove the trucks from the streets.
As for why it has thrived, that's obvious. The name alone brings a smile. Then there are the memories: the neat man in white, arriving in the heat of the afternoon, clicking his change-maker, reaching deep into the cold interior, and producing paradise on a stick. For such may we thank Mr. Brimer and his brothers, for all of whom now the bells have tolled.