When I was a girl-child my father used to bring home bags of
sprinkles, icing sugar and donut mix for me to practice domesticity
with in my Easy Bake Oven. At parties heíd bring home huge machines
and lard and would make fresh donuts for our guests, which always
convinced other children that I had the best family ever. Imagine,
donuts every day if you wanted them. My brother and I could go
to one of the donut shops, and if we didnít want donuts we could
have a sandwich or fries with vinegar, because the Hol'N One donut
shops were also cafťs and you didnít even have to eat donuts if
you didnít want to. But if you did, they were cake style, deep-fried,
with holes in the middle. (Donut holes were made separately, for
people who didnít want to commit to a whole donut, and were served
in little egg cartons.)
A machine plopped dough around a row of metal circles, submerged
them into hot oil, flipped them over, and then flipped them out
of the oil onto a tray that the donut maker would move to the
toppings table to finish. We made three kinds: cinnamon sugar
(55 cents), plain (55 cents), and fancy (60 cents). The fancy
donuts had thick icing in maple, chocolate, vanilla, orange and
strawberry flavours, or mixes of any of those. When I made donuts
for my first paid employment, I would try to mix the colours up,
or make stripes. I also put toppings on the icing: sprinkles in
different colours, or nuts: peanuts, almonds and coconut.
My grandfatherís favourite kind of donut was cinnamon sugar.
My mom didnít really eat donuts, but would sometimes give in and
have a plain one. She worried about eating too many fried foods.
My grandmother loved the look of the window full of freshly-made
donuts at the front of the donut shop, but I sometimes wondered
if the Crayola-style colours looked too unnatural and inedible.
Rainbow sprinkles, with bright blues and greens, were the biggest
sellers for kids, but older people preferred maple with almonds,
vanilla with coconut, or chocolate with peanuts. Safe combinations.
Still the worst work injury Iíve ever experienced was at the donut
shop, burned by hot oil when a flip of a row of donuts went wrong.
I wasnít a great donut-maker, and moved on to other jobs, but
I never really rid myself of the title of donut heiress. As I
got older, donut shops in the HolíníOne franchise closed one by
one: soon not the ferries, the prisons, or even bus depots made
their own donuts anymore. The only remaining locations were in
a couple of Lower Mainland malls, but even those eventually had
to go, as high mall rents favoured chainstores selling clothes
made by children in far-away sweatshops, not oddly-coloured donuts
made by local teenagers. My family sold the donut plant, where
we made the mix and fixed machines, and eventually even sold the
donut van: a long white cargo Ford that I first learned to parallel
Once I heard my grandmother talking about the fall of the donut
empire, and she linked it to people discovering cholesterol; eating
bagels and muffins instead. Bagels and muffins will never be donuts,
we think with slight longing, convinced of this theory even if
it doesnít explain Tim Hortonís. Neither my dad nor my uncle,
who gave most of their adult working lives to donuts, have been
able to find work since the company went bankrupt. They were too
mature and set in their ways to learn any other business, and
their extensive experience in donuts was no longer a valuable
skill in the employment marketplace of the Ď90s. They survive
thanks to some lucky investments made by my grandparents when
donuts were at their height of popularity, and spend their days
following the stock market.
This past June, my grandfather passed away, and the family put
a dozen donuts on the altar for his funeral, held in the same
church where my parents, now divorced, got married. The donuts
were in a clear plastic container, bought by my uncle at Safeway.
They sat beside flowers, an accordion, and an old sign depicting
the Hol'n'One logo: a patch of green, a golf hole, and a brown
and yellow flag saying "Hol'n'One Donuts." After the
funeral, the minister helped us pack the car with pieces from
grandfather's "highlights of his life" table. He offered
us a donut, but no one accepted. I considered it for a minute,
then realised I would never taste a real Hol'n'One Donut again,
ever, and started to cry.
Shyla Seller lives just
above a busy street. Beside one too.