Suzanne Lipshaw holds up a copy of her children’s book, “I Campaigned for Ice Cream: A Boy’s Quest for Ice Cream Trucks,” at her Waterford home. The book chronicles the story of her son petitioning West Bloomfield Township officials back in 2001 to allow ice cream trucks.

Suzanne Lipshaw holds up a copy of her children’s book, “I Campaigned for Ice Cream: A Boy’s Quest for Ice Cream Trucks,” at her Waterford home. The book chronicles the story of her son petitioning West Bloomfield Township officials back in 2001 to allow ice cream trucks.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Woman authors book on how ice cream trucks came to West Bloomfield

By: Andy Kozlowski | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published May 22, 2019

 The book, illustrated by Wendy Leach, aims to teach kids about what it takes to get an ordinance changed or repealed, and how they can make a difference in their community.

The book, illustrated by Wendy Leach, aims to teach kids about what it takes to get an ordinance changed or repealed, and how they can make a difference in their community.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — The nostalgic jingle, synonymous with summer; the truck rounding the bend with a display of mouth-watering treats on its side; and the rush of adrenaline, racing home to beg Mom and Dad for money to buy a popsicle before it drives away.

For those who grew up with them, ice cream trucks are more than just a clever way to separate kids from their allowances — they’re cherished childhood memories.

But there was a time when ice cream trucks weren’t allowed in West Bloomfield Township.

Prior to November 2001, ice cream trucks were banned in the community by way of a 1954 peddlers and solicitors ordinance that prohibited goods from being sold on streets and highways.

It took Josh Lipshaw — then a 9-year-old boy — petitioning the Board of Trustees to change the law, which the board did in November 2001. It’s a tale recounted in a new children’s book by his mother, Suzanne Lipshaw, released at the end of April through Warren Publishing Inc.

The book, titled “I Campaigned for Ice Cream: A Boy’s Quest for Ice Cream Trucks,” is a nonfiction picture book written by Lipshaw under the pen name Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw and illustrated by Wendy Leach. The book aims to spark interest in local politics among a demographic that rarely thinks of it: kids in grades two through five. The book even includes a glossary explaining the civic terminology used throughout.

In essence, the book is an accessible breakdown of what it takes to get an ordinance changed or repealed — even if the person driving that change is only in fourth grade.

Josh was a student at Pleasant Lake Elementary School at the time, located in West Bloomfield Township and part of Walled Lake Consolidated Schools.

Suzanne recalled how it all started.

“At his younger brother Jeremy’s T-ball game in Farmington Hills, an ice cream truck came by. Josh asked me why they never came to our neighborhood. I told him ice cream trucks aren’t allowed in West Bloomfield. When he asked why, I said I didn’t know and suggested he call the township to find out,” Suzanne said.

Josh spoke to Margie Fiszman-Kirsch, the deputy supervisor at the time, who explained to him the procedure for changing the law. This included writing a letter to the board requesting that the item be placed on the agenda for an upcoming board meeting to discuss his request. She also suggested circulating a petition collecting signatures from neighbors and friends who would support the change.

“I helped guide him through the process, but put the responsibility of taking each step and carrying it out on him,” Suzanne said.

Josh gathered his friends to sign the petition and passed out flyers to neighbors asking for them to attend the board meetings in support of his cause. The media was contacted, and soon there was interest from local news outlets. The Lipshaws even received calls from the BBC, and Jay Leno and “Good Morning America” expressed interest as well.

“I told Josh he could pick and choose what interviews he wanted to do, and when they were no longer fun for him, he could say no,” Suzanne said. “He learned a lot about the media through his experience — a valuable lesson we didn’t expect.”

For the board meetings, Josh prepared a speech stating his reasons for wanting to allow ice cream trucks, and while the trustees politely listened, there were concerns about safety, hours of operation, liability, licensing of drivers and background checks. The community members were generally supportive, but some of them had concerns as well.

The township board drafted a proposed ordinance called “Ordinance to Regulate Frozen Confection Vendors” and sent a copy to Josh. He found a line that said trucks would not be allowed to use their bells, chimes or music. The boy didn’t feel this was right, and so he wrote a second speech asking for the line to be changed, which he read at the second meeting.

At the third meeting, a final vote was held to amend the 1954 ordinance, and it ultimately passed in Josh’s favor, but not before a Boy Scout unknown to them showed up to speak in support of the trucks. Josh’s brother Jeremy also raised his hand to share his thoughts at the microphone.

While it passed, Josh wasn’t completely happy with it, taking issue with the early end times for ice cream truck operations. The following year, in May, Josh returned, petitioning for an extension to 7:30 p.m., which ultimately passed as well.    

Steven Kaplan, the township supervisor, was a trustee at the time. He remembers Josh clearly.

“He was cute and precocious and persuasive,” Kaplan said.

He added that he empathized with the young boy.

“My family grew up in Detroit and Southfield, and ice cream trucks were prevalent. It was an exciting part of the day when you would hear the ice cream truck emerging from the end of the block, and your parents give you 10 cents or 15 cents to buy a Fudgsicle or an eclair bar,” Kaplan said. “They’re staples of the neighborhood, and they really enhanced the community.”

The supervisor explained that as he understands it, the original intent of the ordinance prohibiting ice cream trucks and other street vendors was to control noise levels, which was more of a concern back in the 1950s when West Bloomfield Township was a rural community with a population of less than 10,000.

“Stranger danger” was also a concern at the time of the original ordinance: Law enforcement was sparser back then, so the ordinance was written in part to protect children from being exploited.

“But now we have licensing, which prevents a felon from working for a company selling ice cream in West Bloomfield,” Kaplan said. “Our Police Department engages in extensive background checks, because otherwise you could have an opportunistic pedophile out there.”

Josh himself is now grown and living in Denver, where he is working on the next generation of GPS satellite technology for Lockheed Martin. He reminisced about the ice cream truck saga during a phone interview.

“It was an interesting, exciting process once the stories gained traction,” Josh said. “Not only did I learn how laws are made and changed, but also how the media works, and how sometimes stories are misconstrued or blow up and become big stories.

“I remember I was nervous the first couple times I spoke to the board, but it felt amazing once they finally gave the go-ahead,” he said. “Now it’s fantastic seeing the book. I’m so proud of my mom. This book can teach other kids how to change the laws in their own town.”

While Josh’s family has lived in Waterford for the past four years, his mother said that when they bump into people they know from West Bloomfield, they still tell their kids that Josh is the reason they have ice cream trucks.

“I was extremely proud of Josh throughout the entire process,” Suzanne said. “And from the perspective of a teacher and mom, I was thrilled that Josh and Jeremy had a chance to experience the civic process firsthand and learn that no matter how old you are, you can make a difference in the world.”

“I Campaigned for Ice Cream: A Boy’s Quest for Ice Cream Trucks” can be found on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, WarrenPublish.net, Ingram Wholesale Distribution List and at select bookstores.

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