It all started with the legendary Freddie’s Doughnuts on Main Street near Michigan. Its glazed doughnuts were to die for, and if you ate enough of them you probably would. My cousin Ken worked there. Once he got robbed at gunpoint and the crook demanded, “All the money in the register and a dozen doughnuts.” Only a fool would rob a doughnut shop. You might as well try to rob a police station.
Next came Mister Donut. It was open all night. I went to grad school when budget cuts reduced the hours of operation at University at Buffalo libraries. You could still burn the midnight oil; you just couldn’t do it there. All-night doughnut shops were a Godsend for would-be scholars. Like the character in the Hemingway story of the same name, we were just looking for “a clean, well-lighted place.” Most nights only a few students, and some cops on their breaks, would be there. We now know “pulling all-nighters” is counterproductive, particularly when studying for exams. You need sleep to do your best work. Now they tell me.
One night I was at Mister Donut studying with the future historian, George Torok. At about 3 a.m. our noses were deep in our books when a police car with siren blaring suddenly sped down Sheridan Drive. “I wonder what that’s all about,” George mumbled. “They probably ran out of doughnuts,” I absentmindedly replied.
Just then, three rather large policemen at the counter began s-l-o-w-l-y spinning around in unison on their little stools to face us. We were trapped in our booth.
George muttered, “Great, Schwartz. We’ll be lucky to get out of here with busted taillights.”
Fortunately, I still had a few functioning brain cells. “Waitress, another round of fry cakes for our good friends in the constabulary.”
The officers laughed, and once again, ladies and gentlemen, doughnuts might have saved a life.
Cops had a bad rap in those days. Doughnut shops were just about the only joints open at that hour, and doughnuts were just about the only bill of fare. No wonder a few of ’em put on a little weight.
When I moved to Green Bay, Wis., there was a Mister Donut there. I was told it was the last of the “chain.” Now it, too, is gone, leaving that town with just supermarket doughnuts. Still, it has great “Persians” or “Pershings” – iced cinnamon buns topped with chopped peanuts or almonds.
Then there was Jet Doughnuts. It made one helluva jelly, and it became the favorite of my law school buddies. Let’s just say some of the waitresses would have looked a little better in leaner times. Once I recalled a Far Side cartoon and whispered to a classmate as he was ordering, “The owner can’t understand why he’s not making any profit.” He laughed so hard he had to leave the shop, and I ended up paying for the joke and his order.
My ex-wife and at least one old girlfriend found their way to my heart through my stomach by buying me doughnuts. I can’t say I didn’t learn anything from those experiences. Here’s a tip: When your wife or girlfriend asks, “How about a little kiss?” never respond with, “OK, but first a little doughnut.”
I’d been off doughnuts for a while. I thought I’d kicked the habit. I even almost lost my doughnut belly. Then this past summer, my son discovered Paula’s Donuts. I’m hooked again. I’m trying to cut down to once a week, but so far, no cigar, just more doughnuts.