Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Burning Issues
The NY Times tells us about "Standing Up to Mr. Softee (Don't Laugh)"
HARTFORD — Wilbur Troutman, a civic watchdog, might never have been known outside his neighborhood in southwest Hartford except that he took on Mister Softee. And Mister Softee, he says, was wielding a bat.
Mr. Troutman was videotaping a Mister Softee truck 10 days ago to document its incessant jingle as a violation of noise laws, when, he said, the driver jumped out of the truck and hit him with a baseball bat.

The driver, who denies hitting Mr. Troutman, has been charged with assault. Mr. Troutman, his left arm still scabbed, has become fodder for radio talk shows in Baltimore, San Antonio, Indianapolis and even Australia. His telephone rings with calls from longsuffering "Pop Goes the Weasel" critics.


Besides, he hates the jingle. "Hell, we're not talking about Beethoven's `Pastoral,' " he said. "We're talking about nine notes in some kind of arrangement."


Mr. Troutman, who has a wife and a 12-year-old daughter, knows he might sound like an old fogy. He served in the Marines and studied at the University of California at Berkeley and at San Francisco State during the 1960's, where he joined his share of free speech, anti-authority protests.

Now he's coming down hard on Mister Softee. "I have become the enemy I protested against in the 60's," he said.

In short, he's a homeowner.

He's surprised — even a little amused — that this is the role that has brought him attention. "I'm well known, almost notorious, for being the anti-Softee man," he said. "Hey, we all have our 15 minutes. I was hoping it would be for something nobler."
The Mr. Softee web site has the jingle online for aficionados, even the sheet music.