By Nancy Karrick
Hip, hip hooray. June 1 is National Doughnut Day! Wonder just how many of you knew this little known holiday was celebrated the first Friday in June each year? The first Doughnut Day was organized by the Salvation Army in 1938, to raise awareness about World War I, to honor their members who served doughnuts to the soldiers, and to raise funds for the Salvation Army’s activities on the battlegrounds.
The story of how the ladies of the Salvation Army arrived in Europe in 1917 goes back a long way. Needing a morale booster for the troops, it was decided to send volunteers “over there” to give the troops some home-cooked food. The ladies often cooked their doughnuts in hot oil inside the metal helmets of the American soldiers. The tantalizing smell would have the soldiers lined up, patiently waiting their turn for the hot goodness. The going was slow though. Helen Purviance and Margaret Sheldon were two of the first women to make the doughnuts in France. They shaped the dough by hand and then figured out to use a wine bottle as a rolling pin. Knives were used to cut the dough into strips and then twist them into crullers shapes. Wood was continuously fed into a pot bellied stove, and only seven doughnuts could be fried in the small skillets at a time. No holes in these early fried concoctions.
It was a very slow process, with only 150 being made the first day. When methods and equipment improved, the total leaped to 9,000 a day. Then came the question from a soldier as to why the doughnuts didn’t have holes. The answer was really quite simple – there were no doughnut cutters as we know them available. A local blacksmith solved that problem with a condensed milk can and the top of a coffee pot to make the hole. Necessity was certainly the mother of that invention. The Salvation Army women became known as “doughnut girls” and would do everything from cooking to mending the men’s uniforms.
It took Russian immigrant Adolph Levitt to invent the first automatic doughnut making machine for his Mayflower Donuts chain of shops. It just so happened that Mr. Levitt bought a cheap picture frame and liked the saying it contained. He used it on all of his doughnut boxes. “As you ramble through life, Brother, Whatever your goal. Keep your eye upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole.” This saying, which became known as The Optimist’s Creed, became quite popular and was even used by Franklin Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover during their 1932 campaigns.
June 1 will definitely find this doughnut lover knocking on the door of a Krispy Kreme Doughnut store, waiting for her hot doughnut. I go way back with those delicious morsels, from the Government Street and Loop stores in Mobile and the Circle and airport locations in Pensacola. We used to even stop at the airport store on our way to Europe and buy a box to take on the plane with us. They rarely made it past Atlanta!
Celebrate with a doughnut from your favorite store June 1 and take a moment to thank the Salvation Army for supplying a taste of home to our World War I soldiers in Europe.