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Monday, August 10, 2009

Remember the Merrymobiles

Posted By on Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 1:31 PM

If you don't remember Merrymobiles, you didn't live in Memphis in the 1960s.

The brainchild of a local ice-cream vendor named Robert Heffelfinger, these red, white, and blue merry-go-rounds on three wheels rolled down suburban streets in the summertime. The putt-putt of the little one-cylinder engines and tinkling bells suspended from the aluminum canopy told every kid in the neighborhood, "The Merrymobile's here!" and they'd scramble outside and wait on the curb, their fists clutching nickels and dimes. The driver could reach into freezers on either side of his seat and hand out ice-cold popsicles, Buried Treasures, Drumsticks, Eskimo Pies, and other mouthwatering delights. The prices were a treat, too. Back then, a popsicle cost six cents, an ice-cream sandwich a dime.

At one time, some 80 Merrymobiles operated out of the Merrymobile Ice Cream Company's headquarters on Broad, but by 1973 the fleet had dwindled to a dozen. When the firm went out of business a few years later, most of the little cars ended up in a dump in Tipton County (or so I heard). But a handful survived, and one from the early 1950s, identified by a metal tag as number 43, sat forlornly outside Sid's Auto Frame Alignment Shop in Millington for years.

Several years ago, that one was purchased and fully restored by Joe Patty, a nice fellow who's the owner of the Lickety-Split Ice Cream Company in Memphis. It was quite a job, since it was missing its lights, wheels, and engine (which was replaced with an engine from a golf cart). But once again people took joy at the sight of a Merrymobile trundling along the streets of Memphis. There was just something about these things that made you smile. Joe's little Merrymobile is still in use today, usually for special events since it's kind of pokey on the roads. If you'd like to see photos of the Merrymobile restoration project, go here:

In the meantime, I thought you'd enjoy a glimpse of this fleet of Merrymobiles, taken from a 1969 Hutchison School yearbook. If you want to show the school's "Most Popular" student — in this case, Dabney Coors — what better way than to perch her atop some Merrymobiles?

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