Nostalgia & el-cheapo donuts

By Steve Cichon

The older I get, the more I understand nostalgia.

1980 ad.

I love honoring those who have come before us and fortifying our future with strong elements of our past— but pure nostalgia has always seemed a bit wasteful to me. I don’t want to live in the past– I want to understand the past to make for a better tomorrow.

Anyway, like I said, I understand nostalgia better with each day that passes. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that I felt like I remembered everything that had ever happened in my life and how it made me feel.

With those days clearly gone, when something jogs something I’d forgotten, I feel a strong urge to get my hooks into it– knowing full well that those memories are the conduits to the more simple, more vibrant, more raw emotions of youth.

All this about a box of donuts, which I saw in a 1980 ad today while I was researching something else. These cheapo donuts, in this exact red, white, and blue box from Tops, were the only ones I ever remember in our house. Plain or powder, not even chocolate ones. Simple. Inexpensive. Not all that tasty by the standards of anyone who knows better. But the best, tastiest, most wonderful Paula’s donut couldn’t come half way in competing with what seeing this box meant as a 5 or 6 year old.

For a moment today, I got a little lost in that. I thought about how not having as much then makes what I have now so much better, and how someone who had a box of Freddie’s every week could never know the excitement of a box of lousy Tops donuts every couple of months.

And there’s no way to prove it, but presented with the same Paula’s donut, right now– there’s no way yours tastes as good as mine, with all the subconscious history attached and what a special treat it has always been.

Pure nostalgia just for the sake of it is still a turn off for me, but when that fleeting high helps me better understand where I am today, I’ll take it.

So long as you’re bringing the good donuts.

Steve and Monica Cichon at the iconic Randy’s Donuts, Inglewood, CA in 2014.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.