Historian John T. Edge, in his book Donuts: An American Passion says on the first two pages that Salvation Army lassies served up donuts to the boys in uniform during WWI, thus beginning America’s love affair with the delicious treat!
Apparently, the donut traces it’s roots to Europe, but gained a foothold on this continent after WWI when soldiers returned home longing for the treat they were served by the Salvation Army donut girl; a symbol of motherhood and home.
I’ve often said, that if I could get by with it, I’d eat donuts (and bacon) for every meal. They’re surely one of my favorite things to eat, in moderation, of course. Honestly, I didn’t know – until today – that I have my beloved Salvation Army to thank for bringing the humble donut to America.
I ought to carry a counter in my pocket, something like this. If I had one of those for the last ten years I’ve been working for The Salvation Army, I could have clicked it off every time I hear a variation of this story:
“My family always supports The Salvation Army because my grandpa said that during the war, you guys were offering the soldiers free coffee and doughnuts. Another service organization was there too, but they were charging 5 cents. Grandpa never forgot that and told us to take care of The Salvation because they helped take care of him.”
On average, I hear a version of that story once a month. The first time I heard it I was about to take my first job with The Salvation Army. When I told my neighbor across the street, she got a tear in her eye and told me that we’d paid for her husband to come back to the States to attend his mother’s funeral during WWII.
Just yesterday, I got a message from a new follower on Twitter (follow us at @TSARedKettle) who said that his grandpa always loved The Salvation Army because we gave him soap and other provisions during the war, when another group expected him to pay for it. He never forgot and now two generations later, his family hasn’t forgotten either.
Each time I hear the story, the folks telling me relate it in a way that shows me that they have no idea how many other people have shared a similar story with me already.
I’m sure The Salvation Army had no idea what their simple acts of kindness during wartime would produce over the generations. For those of us privileged to work for them now, we get the benefit of hearing it from kids and grandkids who are grateful that someone was there to offer a small token of caring at a time when our servicemen and women needed it most.
For a little bit of history on The Salvation Army Doughnut Girl, click here.