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Editor’s note: The Abingtones, Penn State Abington’s student a cappella musical group, will be the featured performers for an evening of storytelling and music at the “Dancing in My Underwear” event at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at Sutherland Auditorium on the campus of Penn State Abington. 7LFNHts DUH $5 Dnd EHnHfit the school’s music program. For information go to www. abington.psu.edu.
The heck with lunch, give me three donuts. Now there’s a sentence — written by a friend telling a story about his youth — that brings back some sweet memories.
ft was when f was in the IRuUWK RU fiIWK JUDGe, EDFN in the middle to late 196Ms. f went to a small rural grade school — we didn’t separate the schools then into elementary and middle — called oankin Grade pchool in central fllinois, just south of the bustling metropolis of Pekin, population 3M,MMM or so and most of them with red necks. There were around 12M students in grades one through eight. then f started, the school didn’t offer kindergarten, so f wenW UiJKW inWR fiUVW grade. A few years later, the school did add kindergarten and my mom was the teacher.
That’s because she knew a guy. My dad. And he was The Boss. Not just the guy in charge, but the really big, big, boss, and if he wanted to hire his wife to teach and she wDV TuDOifieG, Ke GiG VR. He ran the whole show without interference from anyone. There was no teachers union and the “elected” school board members were farmers who pretty much rubberstamped whatever Pop needed and were more than happy to continue farming and let him run the school.
That school was a product of its environment and era in a simpler time, and Pop ran a tight ship. bveryone was treated fairly and with respect, but no shenanigans were tolerated. ft wasn’t perfect — but darn near — and sustained itself with a sense of community and pride.
aad got up early because Ke wDV DOwDyV WKe fiUVW Rne WR arrive at school and the last to go home. But one of the reasons he got up early — that f happily discovered as a lad — was that he wanted to drive “into town” for his morning coffee and donuts.
And the place he went every morning was called ppudnuts donut shop on aerby ptreet in Pekin, about three or four miles from our house. ff f could get up early and get ready by the time he was ready to leave, he’d let me ride with him to school, with a detour to the donut shop.
And man, were these donuts good. They had to be for Pop to drive several miles in the opposite direction of where he needed to eventually go for work. fmagine that. aonuts so good he would drive out of his way every morning.
The place was just a little hole in the wall, owned then by Paul and oose Bryant. then you entered the front door, the sweet smell of the donuts smacked you right in the face. fmmediately to the left was a six-foot glass case that displayed all the donuts. bven as a little kid, Py fiUVW WKRuJKW wDV, “GiYe me one of each and f’ll have Pop pull the car around and we’OO fiOO WKe WUunN uS wiWK donuts.”
There was seating at the counter for maybe 1R patrons, on those old soda fountain-like stools that spun around. The far end of the counter had what f considered the catbird seat: ft was away from the front door and that prevented a chill getting up one’s skirt in the wintertime when another customer came in. But it also was no PRUe WKDn fiYe IeeW IURP WKe deep fryer where Mr. Bryant — wearing a white t-shirt, white pants, a white apron with donut smudgings on it and one of those white paper hats — was making the donuts.
f always fascinated by the making of the donuts and wanted to sit in that seat, have a chocolate covered longjohn and a cold glass of milk — this place had the coldest milk — and watch as the donuts were deep-fried and frosted.
My dad, sitting next to me sporting a heavy dose of lld ppice, would get a coffee and a donut — he was a plain glazed donut kind of a guy — and yuck it up with the other patrons while f sat there spinning on the stool, mesmerized on every rotation by the donut-making process. Pop, when he wasn’t being a school superintendent, loved to yuck it up with people. And ppudnuts was kind of like the bar Cheers, where everybody knows your name and slaps your back.
then it was time to depart, Pop oftentimes took me back over to the big case of donuts and had me pick out a dozen donuts that he would put in the teachers’ lounge RnFe Ke JRW WR VFKRRO. He’G pick out a couple of extra for himself and have them put in a separate bag. f wonder now if the teachers ever got tired of chocolate longjohns, because that’s all f would pick. That is, until Pop intervened and mixed up the selections a little bit.
And throughout the school day, the aroma of ppudnuts permeated from my clothes and up into my nostrils. f could oftentimes smell the donuts right up until lunchtime. f never asked him, but f wonder if Pop overcompensated with the lld ppice because he, too, knew that he’d be smelling like ppudnuts for the rest of the school day.
A some point, it occurred to me, as f approached young adulthood, that those morning trips to the donut shop weren’t about donuts at all. They were about spending time with my dad when he was still being aad and before he had to put on his superintendent’s face and be Mr. Morsch. That guy was a stern taskmaster, but aad was a soft-hearted and kind man who liked his donuts and sharing time sitting at the donut shop counter with his eldest child.
lh, to be able to smell that lld ppice mixed with ppudnuts once again. f’ll take a dozen. Chocolate longjohns, of course.
Mike Morsch is executive editor of Montgomery Media and author of the book, “Dancing in My Underwear: The Soundtrack of My Life.” He can be reached by calling 215-542-0200, ext. 415 or by email at msquared35@ yahoo.com. This column can also be found at www.montgomerynews.com.