People and an Old Doughnut Shop

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Last Monday I wrote about Ray’s and my 70-minute-round-trip jaunt to Ralph’s to pick up doughnuts. I’m afraid that Saturday trip to Ralph’s started something my waistline is regretting. One day last week I got a doughnut hole after play practice, one night Ray and I got a doughnut apiece after a play performance, and Ralph’s doughnuts made for an easy breakfast when our daughter and her daughters came for a quick overnight visit to be here for dress rehearsal.

Sometime during all of this doughnut shopping, I learned that Ralph’s was established in 1962. Doughnuts of the 1960s are an important piece of my own family history. Daddy used to love packing us all into our white two-door Ford Falcon on a Sunday morning for our own 70-minute-round-trip jaunt to get doughnuts. Mother, Daddy, my brother Steve, and I traveled to Krispy Kreme in Nashville, sat on stools at the counter, watched the doughnuts travel through the store’s doughnut-making machine, ate a hot doughnut, and drove back to Ashland City in time for Sunday School.

Ray and me at a Krispy Kreme in Virginia in 2014.

Like many American foods, doughnuts have a multi-cultural history. They are probably descendants of a delicacy called olykoeks (meaning “oily cakes”), which the Dutch brought to Manhattan when they settled there. Doughnuts became popular after World War I, when American soldiers returned home from Europe.

During the war, women volunteers took doughnuts to the front lines to give American soldiers a taste of home.

Artist George M. Richards created this World War I poster.

For example, American Red Cross workers carried equipment in a truck and followed advancing American soldiers. They chose outposts at whatever battle zone location would give them the greatest opportunity to serve soldiers. The Red Cross outpost pictured below served hot chocolate, coffee, doughnuts, biscuits, and jam to an average of 10,000 men a day. It was in the only house in the town which still had a partial roof.

Below is an American Red Cross “Doughnut Foundry.” Here a cook uses a stick to pick up some of the 30,000 doughnuts prepared each day for nearby American soldiers.

“Doughnut Foundry” at Le Mans, France.

O. Coon of Missouri, A.S. Williams of Lakeperem, Indiana, C.P. Dunham of Prescott, Arizona, and H. Fisher of Indiana roll and cut some of those doughnuts.

A hungry soldier enjoys coffee and doughnuts at the Red Cross Canteen Saint Pierre des Corps in Tours, France.

More soldiers enjoy doughnuts in an American Red Cross canteen.

Miss Sylvia Coney of New York serves doughnuts in Italy.

U.S. soldiers enjoy doughnuts and coffee at a Red Cross canteen while they are on leave in London, England. Canteen workers include Helen Peterson and Miss Campbell of Chicago, Illinois, Helen Baldwin of Lakewood, New Jersey, and Anna Lansing, of Albany, New York.

In 1939 the Mayflower Doughnut Corporation hosted a doughnut dunking contest in the House of Representatives restaurant at the U.S. Capitol. Representative Caroline O’Day of New York, pictured below, was the runner up.

In 1941 a little girl in Fairfield, Vermont, reaches for a doughnut.

In 1943, during World War II, Red Cross workers in the vicinity of Constantine, Algeria, carry doughnuts and coffee to bomber crews who have just returned from a long mission.

In 1952 runners-up Diane Scholen and Pat Kizeminski crown Nancy Templeton National Doughnut Queen.

Ten years later, Ralph’s opened in Cookeville, Tennessee, and from coast to coast, Americans were enjoying this popular American treat.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mister Donut in Waterville, Maine.
Dohman’s Donuts in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Sunrise Donuts in Springfield, Illinois.
The Donut Hole in La Puente, California.
King Louve’s Donuts in Monroe, Louisiana.

For the last few months, I have been reminding myself of a three-word goal: People before things.

One day last week, I told Ray about Ralph’s being established in 1962. Then, I thought of a question. I asked Ray why people think a longtime business like Ralph’s is special but often don’t treat older people well.

“Doughnuts don’t talk back or have ideas,” Ray replied.

He’s right. It’s easy to love doughnuts—they’re sweet all the time. People? Well . . . we’re complicated and so different from one another. Complicated and different are actually wonderful traits. God, please help us to remember how You see us, to remember this admonition to the Christians in Philippi, and to teach our children: People before things.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; 
do not merely look out for your own personal interests,
but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4


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