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How an ice cream truck became a core memory for these two sisters


Time now for StoryCorps. Today, we'll hear from two sisters who grew up in rural Ohio in the 1980s. Amy McNally and Emily Fortner were raised by a single mom in an old farmhouse where they didn't cross paths with many neighbors. Here, Amy tells Emily about a specific childhood memory.

AMY MCNALLY: We lived in the middle of some cornfields at the end of our long gravel driveway. It was very neither here nor there.


MCNALLY: In Archie Comics, people would come door to door and sell encyclopedias and things like that, but that never happened to us. And Mom hated everybody, so we didn't have a lot of people ever come over to the house. She was really hard to deal with because she was an abusive alcoholic. I remember she had gray roots and a round face with a little scar by her mouth where she got dragged by horses as a kid. But Mom could be a very generous spirit, and she had access to this childlike joy and wonder that a lot of grown-ups never seemed to understand.

One time we were in the house. And Mom heard it first. There was this tinny music that reminded me kind of like a carnival calliope. And it was an ice-cream truck. I remember Mom ran to her purse and just handed us fistfuls of dollars and change, whatever she could scrounge from the bottom of it. And she said, run - this will never happen again.

FORTNER: (Laughter).

MCNALLY: I remember my feet pounding on the grass in the front yard. And I don't remember what I got, but it was cold and sweet. You know, there is nothing like ice cream to a kid, but there's also nothing like an unexpected treat to a poor kid. And so as an adult, one of the great things about living in a neighborhood now is that I see ice-cream trucks coming down my street sometimes, and I realized I hadn't for a while.

So I called the first one I found, and he said, we're not going out a lot because of the high gas prices, but we do do events. Well, my birthday was 10 days away. I said, great, please show up. And so the ice-cream truck came. My favorite part of my birthday was when the neighbor kids came running 'cause they heard the music. And I got to say, the ice cream is free. I don't know if I've ever felt wealthier.


MARTIN: Amy McNally talking with her sister, Emily Fortner. Their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jo Corona