From Belarus with ice cream

By Keith Barnes Times PhotoJournalist

On Tuesday evening, while visiting a home at the Bluffs, a residential section located just off Lake Wilson Road near Wilson Country Club, I heard that distinctive music that could only mean one thing.

The ice cream man was coming!

How could that be? Maybe I was just dreaming.

It's been many summers since the ice cream man made his almost-daily visit through our neighborhood bringing smiles, and ice cream, to all us kids and even some parents.

The ice cream man was extremely important to us, maybe as important as the man who drove the mosquito sprayer that we all followed for blocks on foot and on bicycles.

We had several different ice cream men over the years but the most notable was an older man named Ike Wells, a colorful character who also worked in the snack bar at Clark Warehouse during the tobacco season.

But, it was in his role as the ice cream man that he shone greatest in our eyes.

Ike had only four fingers on one hand but that made no difference to anyone as he handed us either a Popsicle, Creamsicle, Fudgesicle or Black Cow ice cream bar in exchange for a dime.

But, back to the present-day.

This ice cream man is named Yury Halitski and he is from Belarus, an Eastern European country that is formerly part of Russia, which is about as far removed from Ike Wells as anyone could imagine.

He is in the United States as part of "Work and Travel USA," a U.S. government program under which international students can legally enter this country for four months and work here during their summer vacations.

The program is designed to benefit businesses who need seasonal staffing while allowing foreign students to get a perspective on American culture and travel while earning some money.

Halitski, a very polite young man of 21 who speaks much better English than I do Russian, told me that he has been in the United States since the first part of June.

He works for an ice cream company in Greensboro which operates out of Raleigh and he said he visits Wilson several days each week, including the weekends.

"I like this work," said Halitski. "In our country, we don't have ice cream trucks since more of our families in the cities live in large apartment buildings."

We talked for a few minutes but I didn't want to keep him too long as there were several other youngsters waiting by the curb a couple of houses down.

They had been enticed outside their homes by the music, too, and I know exactly how they felt.



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