Ahh, the sounds of summer at the shore—seagulls, waves crashing, people laughing on the boardwalk and of course, the Fudgie Wudgie man.
“I-TALIAN WATER ICE! CREAMSICLE! FUDGIE WUDGIE!”
For generations, many Philadelphians have looked forward to family vacations at the Jersey shore. There were enjoyable days on the beach and fun nights on the boardwalk and even today, the salty air has never lost its appeal. Anyone who has gone to the beach in North Wildwood is very familiar with a man dressed in white, one with an iconic voice and who can attract people to his side whenever he announces his presence.
Yes, it’s the Fudgie Wudgie Man.
Also known as Joseph Duncan, he is a resident of North Wildwood and a retired middle school math teacher who has been an ice cream vendor since 1973.
“North Wildwood first allowed vendors on the beach in 1971,” said Duncan. “I was 13th in line, so I wasn’t able to get a license that year. A few people did [for that summer] and didn’t like it. Finally in 1973, I was able to get a license.” He’s been selling ice cream on the beach ever since.
While the coronavirus pandemic upended a lot of routines, Duncan was still able to sell ice cream during the 2020 summer season. He said that people spread out on the beach, sat in family groups and respected social distancing.
“Everyone wore masks and we exchanged cash,” he said in regards to the summer of 2020.
When he first started selling, he carried an insulated box filled with ice cream and dry ice over his shoulder and he only sold four items. Since 1993, he’s been using a wheeled cart, because the ice cream selection has grown to between 12 to 14 items. The best sellers, according to Duncan, are Chipwich (two chocolate chip cookies with a scoop of ice cream between them and chocolate chips surrounding the edge), frozen lemonade and Italian water ice and, of course, the fudgie wudgie, also known as the fudgsicle.
For the record: Duncan didn’t invent the phrase fudgie wudgie. According to him, it was ice cream vendors after World War II who first used that phrase.
Ilena Di Toro
Yet, as hard as he works at selling frozen treats, it’s not all business for Duncan.
“I met my wife on the beach in August 1977,” he said. “I sold her a fudgie wudgie and she stole my heart. We were engaged two weeks later and married in March 1978.”
The Wildwoods have certainly changed over the years, but the Fudgie Wudgie Man still remains.
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