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Paleteros sell summertime treats on a stick

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Ice cream trucks that blare recorded nursery rhymes are a common summertime sight. But in Chicago and nearby suburbs, there’s another kind of popsicle peddler.

These cool-treat vendors push three-wheeled white carts up and down sidewalks across the area. The paleteros ring bells on cart handles to let everyone know that cool treats are just minutes away.

Alfredo Bello’s a 60-something paletero who’s been selling Pancho’s ice cream in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.

He said he works every day, seven days a week.

“And all summer. My friend helped me to get started. It was 1980 and I was looking for work. He said if you want money, work as an ice cream vendor,” Bello said.

Bello said he’s worked for the same company for decades, walking 6 to 10 miles a day over the same route. He said he likes the freedom his job provides.

“I’m my own owner,” he said. “Because nobody can tell me, ‘Do this, do something.’ No one tells me what to do ... I sell anywhere from $100 to $150 dollars worth of ice cream a day. And we (the company and I) split it 50-50. On the weekends, I sell $200-$250 worth.”

To hear about some unexpected benefits of the job, click on the audio above.

Yolanda Perdomo is a host and producer at WBEZ. Follow her @yolandanews

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