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

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

EMILY FORTNER: Yeah.

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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.

Jo Corona
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