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A sweet goodbye: B.C. ice cream truck driver retires after 25 years

'Basically, my whole purpose was to bring people in neighbourhoods together,' Amber Lidstone reflects as she retires. The new owners of the Wandering Wonders ice cream truck plan to carry on the tradition.
Amber Lidstone has handed the keys of her ice cream truck over to new owners, after serving the Coast since 2011.

For years, Amber Lidstone has been heard before she can be seen. The nostalgic jingle precedes her presence and triggers excitement: the ice cream truck is coming! 

Now, after selling ice cream for more than 25 years (she stopped counting) Lidstone spent her last day in the driver’s seat on July 27. 

Lidstone got her start in the ice cream business working with Canadian ice cream brand Dickie Dee in 1984, just a few years before moving to the Coast. Then in 2011, Lidstone struck out on her own after she bought a H&L Mobile Welding truck and converted it to sell frozen treats. To run an ice cream truck is a lot of work, Lidstone said. She wore many hats as she was the sales manager, accountant, shipper/receiver, purchasing agent, maintenance supervisor, inventory control, and offered tourism information. “I tried to make it look easy.” 

Over the years, the ice cream menu has changed. Lidstone’s personal favourite was the vegan Coconut Bliss until the company was purchased and stopped producing it. Vegan options have always been popular on the Coast, Lidstone adds. 

Her truck could be seen at many community events and throughout neighbourhoods on the Coast. While she has served at the drag races in Sechelt, Lidstone was tempted to race the truck but it would have cut into her selling time. (“The ice cream truck needs to go slow so people can catch up to you,” she explains. “People love to chase the ice cream truck.)

“Basically, my whole purpose was to bring people in neighbourhoods together,” she said. “The real reward was when I bring the truck in with the music on a street and park and wait for people to come out. Neighbours who had moved in over the winter right next door to each other and still hadn’t met are introducing themselves to each other… And as I drive off and look in the side mirror, they’re all making friends and having a nice ice cream together.”

As for a route, Lidstone follows her intuition on hot days. A few years ago, she added a sign to the truck that read “Serving you since 2011,” after people kept asking her how long she’d been driving the truck. Kids started telling her she’d been selling ice cream for longer than they’d been alive. As she watched customers grow from children into adults with kids of their own, Lidstone said she began thinking of retirement. 

When she put a “For Sale” sign on the truck, the first question she got from customers was about the ice cream. 

“People really want their kids to have the same happy memories that a traditional ice cream truck brought for them,” she said. An ice cream truck is nostalgic for many people and Lidstone loves to “rekindle those memories for people.” 

Under new ownership

So what’s next for the truck? 

“I sold it to a good home that’s going to carry on the tradition,” Lidstone said. 

Since handing over the keys in mid-August, Lidstone received many thanks from her customers. “It was so heartwarming, the gratitude that was expressed to me for all the years of service in this community.”

Lidstone plans to stay on the Coast — she knows every nook and cranny, after all. She’s started her retirement by enjoying her summer on the beach instead of “being on the outskirts” in the driver’s seat.

“I have served my purpose in life,” she said.