A scoop of pink history from Australia

( dpa )- Ice cream seller Saul Papadopoulos must have listened to Greensleeves a million times since he began driving along Melbourne's streets in 1963.

But the Greek immigrant still doesn't know the lyrics of a catchy tune that some historians say was penned by England's King Henry VIII some 500 years ago.

For the record, here's the chorus of a song that all the world over conjures up ice cream vans: " Greensleeves was all my joy/ Greensleeves was my delight/ Greensleeves was my heart of gold/And who but my lady Greensleeves ."

It's a sound that's vanishing from Australia's streets. Changing consumer tastes, tougher council regulations on hygiene and noise, a fridge in every home, higher petrol prices and a fear among parents of letting their children out into the streets have conspired to blight what's often called the Mr Whippy business.

Theo Papadopoulos is not only intent on carrying on the family firm but ensuring a livelihood for the next generation.

"Our mission is to bring it back, just like the good old days," he said.

This means new lines like pancakes, being there at children's parties and entering sponsorship agreements.

An anomaly in the Mr Whippy industry is that the pink vans that go by that name are infringing trademark protection because the franchising is finished and the brand is now limited to ice cream shops.

What's left are small businesses like the Papadopouloses and their Community Scoops vans.

In Sydney, 27-year-old John Girgenti is carrying on a family business now into its third generation of immigrants from Sicily.

"I'd rather do this and put a smile on people's faces than be a parking cop and make people sad," said Girgenti , who got behind the wheel of his converted Ford Transit 10 years ago.

The original Mr Whippy vans were Commer Karriers and began blaring out Greensleeves in 1962. Transits replaced them in the 1980s and nowadays several marques are represented in the dwindling national fleet.

Despite an increasing taste for ice cream ,- Australians lie third in the international league tables behind New Zealand and the United States, times are still tough for the van men.

Prosperity has brought a big market for top-dollar gelato and at the other end of the market are the fast-food chains that undercut the itinerant Mr Whippys on price.

Greensleeves is muted these days but there are still children to salivate when they hear the tune.

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