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A Day to Celebrate the Doughnut

Christopher Blank

A warning to readers: this web posting of today’s WKNO radio story on National Doughnut Day can be dangerous to your waistline.

It includes graphic depictions of sugar-coated confections, including a delicious maple sugar-glazed doughnut with bacon sprinkles.

Credit Christopher Blank
Britton DeWeese of Gibson's Donuts first created his bacon-sprinkled doughnuts on a lark for his barbecue team. They were so popular, the store now has them daily.

But before we completely savage your diet, let’s remember how National Doughnut Day started.

During World War I, Salvation Army volunteers went to France to help cook for soldiers in the trenches. Doughnuts were easy to mass produce.

Years later, in 1938, the Salvation Army honored those brave doughnut makers by creating the worst holiday ever for aspiring underwear models, National Doughnut Day.

Today, many doughnut stores – from the major chains to the locally-owned mom and pop stores – are celebrating this delicious holiday by giving out free doughnuts, usually one per customer. (Don’t kid yourself. You’ll end up buying the second one.)

One of the most beloved doughnut shops in Memphis is Gibson’s Donuts on Mt. Moriah. Gibson’s got its name in the early 1970s when Lowell Gibson bought it from the previous owner. Medical problems forced Gibson to sell the store in the 1996. He made sure it went to a patron. It’s a 24/7 family business and the clientele are fiercely loyal.

The store, owned by Don DeWeese, is managed by his 34-year-old son, Britton. These generous proprietors have been known to give free donuts to local charities such as St. Jude Children’s Hospital. It should go without saying that on-duty cops are also taken care of.

Britton’s bacon-sprinkled doughnut started out as a “Doughnut of the Month.” Now it’s a Doughnut for All Seasons.

Credit Christopher Blank
Larico Brown was a daily customer at Gibson's Donuts before he was offered a job making them. He's seen here, at 8:30 a.m., near the end of an 8-hour shift. Yeast donuts take all night to make, and have a limited shelf-life.

Memphis City Councilman, Kemp Conrad, says that the magic ingredient of Gibson’s Donuts might just be the store itself.

“It’s kind of a safe zone for families and kids,” Conrad says. “A happy place where kids come in wearing their pajamas and parents do too, and no one really cares.” It’s just a great place for a lot of people.”

Credit Christopher Blank
This group of friends meets daily at the large center table at Gibson's Donuts. They each have a cup of coffee and, usually, a single doughnut each.

Reporting from the gates of Graceland to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Christopher's favorite haunt is the intersection of history and cultural change. He is WKNO's News Director and Senior Producer at the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting. Join his conversations about the Memphis arts scene on the WKNO Culture Desk Facebook page.