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Full Circle

June 2024
1min read


Some things were just meant to happen. As Charles G. Oates, of Madisonville, Kentucky, explains, “In 1942 I was an Army Air Corps corporal stationed at an English air base outside Great Grimsby. On July 3 a buddy and I traveled 140 miles to London on a three-day pass and stayed at a downtown hotel where a Red Cross club was located. The next morning all the GIs staying there were told that Maj. General Eisenhower, who was about to pin on his third star, was on his way, and we should come to the ballroom to greet him. A major, probably a P.R. officer, came up to me carrying a stick of Red Cross doughnuts. ‘Corporal,’ he said, ‘how about taking these over to the general and offering him one?’ Considering it a direct order, I did as he asked. The general graciously accepted a doughnut, and a Stars and Stripes photographer asked him to repeat the gesture for the Army newspaper. Then a photographer from a London newspaper wanted a shot, which ran that night on the front page. It was picked up by the Associated Press and must have appeared all over the United States.

“But that’s not the end of the story. After being discharged in 1945,1 returned to my hometown of Madisonville. Needing to get into some kind of business, I responded to an ad for a doughnut franchise. In a few days a representative of the company—Downy-flakes Doughnuts—came to town to give me details. At some point in his sales pitch he handed me a photo that I suppose the company regularly used to illustrate the appeal of the ail-American doughnut.

“What a shock! ‘Do you know who that corporal is in that picture?’ I asked the salesman. He took a look and did a double take. Well, of course I signed the contract for the franchise, and in 1946 I opened Oates Grill and Doughnut Shop on South Main Street. In a prominent place on the wall hung a blowup of General Eisenhower reaching for the first doughnut I ever served.” Mr. Oates adds that he recently retired from the real estate business.

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