Who doesn’t like donuts? Probably no one.
These yummy little fried pastries drenched in a heavy sugar glaze bring smiles to children and happiness to almost any office coffee room. Purchased in bags and boxes, and washed down with milk, coffee or juice, these treats seem to be a national favorite.
Lone Star Donuts, at 1721 N. Beckley, has been operating at its current location since 1964, after moving from its original 1950 spot on the southeast corner of West Davis and Bishop. This retail bakery with wholesale distribution introduced the automated donut production line to Dallas, and quickly became a staple in the Oak Cliff community. Lone Star has long been the destination of many early morning sprints for breakfast goodies and purchasing on-the-run munchies for the drive to work. Over the years, the bakery’s conveyor system, dripping with sugar, has rolled off more than 3 billion of the yummy treats, filling stomachs and satisfying the sweet tooth of many a Cliffite.
From Lon Oakley, Adamson class of ’65, I learned that while growing up in Oak Cliff, many a boy had either a Dallas Morning News or Dallas Times Herald paper route. According to Oakley, “The experience of working hard for small monetary rewards was compensated when Sunday morning deliveries were followed by gatherings at Lone Star for hot donuts and milk, with one of our dads always going along to pick up the tab. There was nothing better than a hot glazed Lone Star donut to make it worthwhile to have crawled out of a warm bed to fold and deliver newspapers.”
Recently, at a Kimball High School Alumni Association board meeting, I had the pleasure of visiting with Danny Smith, class of ’68, whose uncle, Merrill Burdine, owned and operated Lone Star Donuts. When Burdine built the North Beckley store, offering a better location and more customer parking, he naturally performed a trial run of the bakery’s production system before opening to the public.
Eleven-year-old Danny and his cousins were at the new store late on a Saturday afternoon when the conveyor belt jolted into action for this inaugural run. The operations went well, as row after row of glistening, piping-hot donuts navigated their way through all the production stages before being placed in boxes and ready for sale.
The only problem? The shop had no customers to eat all the little delicacies.
The employees and the cousins were able to consume only so many of the sugary treats. Faced with the inevitable decision of dumping a significant number of the leftovers into the store’s garbage cans, Burdine came up with a solution: He told Danny and the boys to give away the goods.
And so they did. Outside, the boys stationed themselves on the street curb, flagging down cars and giving away free donuts.
The Lone Star Donut sign and futuristic architecture have become an Oak Cliff icon over the years. It even acted as the backdrop of an exterior scene from a movie filmed in Oak Cliff during summer 2007. “Closure, the Trouble with Money”, written by Oak Cliff natives Alan C. Elliott and Leon McWhorter and filmed entirely in Oak Cliff, shows the recognizable sign, with the marquee portion reflecting the message: “Angels Love Donuts!” That’s right … and so do Cliffites.
So, the next time you’re cruising down the hill on North Beckley and have a hankerin’ for something sweet, you might drop by Lone Star Donuts. Probably, neither Lon and the other newsboys, nor Danny and his cousins, nor any angels will be passing out free samples from the curb.
But you never know. Anything’s possible in Oak Cliff.