"What We Did On Our Summer Vacation" is the fourthnote
special of The Adventures of Pete & Pete
commissioned it as a full series. It was written by Will McRobb (though he was uncredited) and originally aired in May 1992.
Summer would be just as sticky as it gets thanks to the heat. But it means at least three things for the kids in Wellsville: no school, having some fun in the water at the pool or the beach, and ice cream provided by the mysterious ice cream vendor Mr. Tastee, who appears every summer, like clockwork, on the first day of the season.
But, what brings such a beloved ice cream man as Mr. Tastee to the neighborhood? Ellen, who takes a summer job at a local photo booth, discovers through some photos left for development that the 'smiling' ice cream vendor is all alone in the world. It's hard to believe that a man who brings happiness to the local children would be so lonely, so she and the Petes try to offer him their friendship, only to be rejected by the embarrassed Mr. Tastee... who disappears the next day.
The kids spend the rest of the summer trying to both track down Mr. Tastee and learn why he disappeared, and they get a lead when Artie, engaged in a staring contest with a bee while climbing a water tower, spotted his truck somewhere in Kentucky. Ellen monitors other photo booth client pictures for clues to Mr. Tastee's whereabouts, Little Pete takes a guard spot on the high dive at the Splankton Municipal Pool (to the dismay of the lifeguard, whom Little Pete has a history of antagonising), and Big Pete tries to get information from other people who may have known him.
All the while, the summer heat gets more and more intense, and with no ice cream to beat the heat, the local kids begin hallucinating that Mr. Tastee has returned.
On a trip to the beach, Big Pete is told by sleazy ice cream vendor Captain Scrummy that he and his friends should have let Mr. Tastee be; he explains that many ice cream vendors are fleeing tragic pasts, and that the kids' friendship would just awaken bad memories. Meanwhile, the Petes' dad, Don Wrigley, finds a working 1978 Oldsmobile buried in the sand with his metal detector and drives the family home in it.
The summer days get shorter, and still no sign of Mr. Tastee. One night in September, with the Petes and Ellen deciding to put an end to their quest, the mysterious ice cream vendor appears at the local photo booth, having found their trail... and having not picked up his photos from earlier in the summer. The kids accept that he is just the ice cream vendor who appears in Wellsville every summer rather than a friend, but Mr. Tastee agrees that maybe
he could be a little bit friendlier with the kids without causing his job performance to suffer. He invites them to help him wax his truck and his ice cream mask.
As night falls, Tastee asks the kids to take a Polaroid picture with him to keep the memories of their afternoon together alive, and then he drives away from Wellsville, to return the following summer. Perhaps, after all, it is for the best that the ice cream vendor remains a man of mystery.
"This is 'What We Did On Our Summer Vacation'. And these are its tropes.":
- 555: The number that is displayed in the missing posters. This is, however, edited in the reruns and DVD to avoid prank callers since the number could have existed.
- Acting for Two: In some scenes, Toby Huss, aka Artie, is the man in the Mr. Tastee mask (recognisable by his mannerisms). But in other scenes, Mr. Tastee is played by a nameless extra; more than twenty years on, neither Will McRobb nor Chris Viscardi remember who was the man who also used the head. This leads to some Wild Mass Guessing about Tastee being Artie's secret identity...
- Aunt Pennybags: The mysterious blind millionaire, Mrs. Van Devere, who became a little eccentric after her husband or lover, Leonard, left her. Leonard is implied to be the man under the Mr. Tastee mask..
- Bad Humor Truck: As the Petes and Ellen continue to dig for information on Tastee, they find out that he may have been using the ice cream truck to escape the memories of his sad former life. Captain Scrummy implies that the ice cream vendors should not become friendly with their customers for this very reason, that it might make them remember things they'd rather forget.
- Beachcombing: Don sweeping the beach with his metal detector both led to his meeting his wife (and the Petes' mother), Joyce, and leads to his discovery of a buried 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.
- The Cameo: Michael Stipe as Captain Scrummy, the sleazy beach ice cream vendor, and Kate Pierson as the blind millionaire, Mrs. Van Devere, who may have been Mr. Tastee's wife or lover before he put on the ice cream mask.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: As with the other specials, several sides of the characters show up here but were dropped when The Adventures of Pete and Pete went to series. For example, when was the large ship tattoo in little Pete's back mentioned again ( not counting the Clip Show in "Farewell, My Little Viking" since it was mostly visual)?
- Edited for Syndication: All the specials suffered the same treatment when Nickelodeon commissioned a full season: the title sequence and credits were added to be more in keeping with the rest of season one. However, this episode suffered a little bit more than the others since the music of several musicians (such as REM, Baby Flamehead, Poi Dog Pondering, Ministry, Jody Grind, and Shackwacky) were abruptly changed for licensing purposes. Katherine Dieckmann, the director of this special (and three of the others, and also some other episodes of the show), agrees that it was a bad decision from Nickelodeon to do so.
- Funny Background Event: While Big Pete is narrating, Little Pete starts acting out in the background, making faces in the car's rearview mirror, and even sleeping at the top of the car.
- Heat Wave: The whole special takes place in the summer, but the heatwave intensifies after Mr. Tastee disappears. Kudos to Little Pete, whose mother requires him to wear long-sleeved shirts to hide his tattoo, Petunia.
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Sadly, this is a hard one to find in its original version; most circulating copies are of later re-runs.
- Kids Versus Adults: Little Pete and his occupation of the high dive of the municipal pool as his guard spot on his quest for Tastee, against the local lifeguard, Den Cleary. The lifeguard begs Big Pete to help talk Little Pete down, but he chooses instead to reinforce his brother's determination, driving the lifeguard crazy.
- Shout-Out: Mr. Tastee is inspired by Mr. Softee, a local New York ice cream vendor truck.