Public Character #3: Wally Wonka, who sells ice cream in Victorian garb from his multi-colored ice cream trike

The social structure of sidewalk life hangs partly on what can be called self-appointed public characters. A public character is anyone who is in frequent contact with a wide circle of people and who is sufficiently interested to make himself a public character. A public character need have no special talents or wisdom to full his function --although he often does. He just needs to be present, and there need to be enough of his counterparts. his main qualification is that he is public, that he talks to lots of different people.

-Jane Jacobs, "The Uses of Sidewalks: Contact."
[Wally Wonka selling an ice cream sandwich.]
On Tuesday afternoons in the summertime you can usually find Wally Wonka at the top of Ramsey Hill, parked underneath his umbrella attached to his multi-colored ice cream bike. He'll gladly sell you an ice cream bar, give your dog a treat, make a balloon animal, or simply chat about the weather, sartorial arts, or Saint Paul goings on.

Twin City Sidewalks (TCS): Tell me about that bike? What’s your name?

Wally Wonka (WW): I go by "Wally Wonka." There are two of these trikes, they’re called Dreamcycles. [Rings bell.] It’s an old fashioned Good Humor trike made in New Jersey. I just fancied it up with duct tape and paint and whatnot.

TCS: So, they’re designed for this?

WW: Yeah they’ve kind of gone out of fashion. Especially around here. Just me and my son do it here. There’s someone in Minneapolis that does an Italian ice cart, but that’s a little bit different. This is my job, I’ve been doing it one-and-a-half years.

TCS: Yeah I’ve seen you around. You usually dress in this Victorian manner.

WW: Yep. Hymie’s Haberdashery makes all our clothes for us.

TCS: I like that place. That’s where I get my haircut.

WW: It's an incredible place. Actually for my son’s 13th birthday I took him there for his first hot shave. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done. I had guys show up and share anecdotes about manhood on his 13th birthday. 

TCS: That’s cool. 

WW: Honestly the idea came from something on Leave It To Beaver. Wally was feeling like he wasn’t being treated like a man, and Ward took him and gave him a shave in front of all of his buddies, so he could look like a man in front of his buddies. So I did it. Hymie’s is great.But I left my full time job a year and a half ago, this is all I do now.

TCS: What other corners do you like going to?

WW: I’m in Maddux Park on Mondays. 

TCS: Where’s that? 

[Turks rejecting dog bacon.]
WW: It's over by Macalester, on Macalester and Palace. And I usually do special events. That’s what pays the most.

[Two women walk up Summit Avenue, one with a dog.]

Dog bacon?

[Dog rejects the dog bacon.] 

TCS: Nice dog. What’s her name again?

Woman with dog: Turks. She used to have a partner in crime called Caicos. Turks and Caicos.

WW: She’s a doll.

Woman with dog: Yeah. She really is. Thank you.

TCS: See you. Thanks for the ice cream.

WW: Appreciate you stopping. [To a guy getting out of a truck.] Need a little ice cream?
[Wally Wonka and his ice cream trike.]

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