Tuesday, May 25, 2010


As the month of May slips away, soon to be replaced by June, I think back on my Snot-Nose Days. Back then, we’d be in school for the first three weeks of June, our summer vacation beginning roughly around the time of the solstice.

By the time the school year had worn down to those last few days, things were downright steamy. This was back before classrooms were air-conditioned, and hundred-degree days were not unknown. You could get a sunstroke running around on the playground during recess.

In the neighborhood, the arrival of summer was marked by the arrival of the ice-cream trucks. Good Humor was the odds-on favorite, but we would occasionally see a Mister Softee or Bungalow Bar vendor, the last marked by his unique gable-roofed vehicle. My parents looked down their noses at the Bungalow Bar with disdain, a disdain I grew to share for no apparent reason; I never tasted one.

The real harbinger of summer was not the ice-cream men in their various flavors, though. It was the Mosquito Truck.

Yes! The Mosquito Truck, a forgotten institution in these post-DDT days. It was a Jeep fitted out with a device that generated prodigious volumes of Mosquito Fog, an opaque white cloud packed with dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane. Mosquitoes saw that cloud coming and simply committed suicide rather than face a horrible neurotoxic death.

How often would we kids get caught in that Fogbank o’ Doom, inhaling the chlorinated hydrocarbon perfume? Plenty often. Gawd only knows what insidious damage our little bodies sustained... but at least we were not at risk for yellow fever or malaria. And, many years later, I was happy to father children that did not have two heads, or flippers, or Froggy Eyes.

You don’t see Mosquito Trucks too often anymore... at least, not here in the States, where 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-di(4-chlorophenyl)ethane is (metaphorically) as radioactive as plutonium and more tightly controlled than cannabis. The ban on DDT may have saved the American Bald Eagle, for which we should be grateful... but it was nice, once upon a time, to life in a (mostly) mosquito-free environment.

Does anyone else remember the Mosquito Truck?

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