The town in which I spent my youth had a sidewalk sale every year. I guess I should really call it the Sidewalk Sale (with caps), as it was not just a sale, but quite a special event. All of the downtown stores would pull outside their racks of clothes and shoes, or their jewelry cases, or shelves filled with notions or hardware or inexpensive jewelry with markdown prices. That day, the town would fill up with shoppers, both folks from in town and others from nearby farms throughout Platte County and beyond, all looking for bargains.

In our case, we pulled out enormous cases filled with baked goods, but primarily glazed doughnuts. My dad made delicious glazed yeast doughnuts. One of my cousins recently described my dad’s doughnuts as being so light they practically floated. And on the day of the sidewalk sale, we sold our glazed doughnuts, which normally cost 65 cents a dozen for half price.  So you can imagine just how many dozens and dozens and dozens of doughnuts we sold on the day of the Sidewalk Sale. Those doughnuts were not manufactured by any kind of automated system as they are at Krispie Kreme. My dad would cut each doughnut by hand. I remember that with one movement, my dad would cut the doughnut, and throw it up over his thumb, thereby knocking out the doughnut hole, until he couldn’t fit any more on his thumb. I can still hear the thump, thump, thump as he cut each doughnut, one at a time. Once his thumb was full, he would lay them out on the screen to put into the proof box to rise. He could fill a screen full of doughnuts faster than Krispie Kreme ever imagined.

So on the day of the Sidewalk Sale, he and another baker were in the back cutting, proofing, frying, and glazing doughnuts nonstop. At regular intervals, my mom would come out with a new tray of freshly fried and glazed doughnuts, and place them in the showcase. I remember two specific things about working on Sidewalk Sale Day. First, it was a never-ending battle to keep flies out of the showcase. It was Nebraska in the summertime, people. One of the bakery clerks (often Bec or me) was constantly pounding on the outside of the case while another (often Bec or me) was making sure that the annoying insect flew away. No sooner would one be gone than another would sneak in. It was a never-ending battle, but we were quite successful, if relentless.

And the second thing I remember is that, one-after-another, people would ask, “Are those doughnuts fresh?” Are they fresh? Are they fresh? Seriously? Because we can hardly even pick them up to put in a box because they are so dang hot. To the moon, Alice…..

People love a bargain, don’t they? That’s why places like Goodwill and T.J. Maxx stay in existence. I like a bargain as much as the next guy.

My niece Maggie recently told me about a bargain of which I was unaware. It seems Jimmy John’s sells yesterday’s bread for half a buck a loaf. I’m talking those big loaves of bread that are something like 15 or 16 inches long. Maggie uses them when she makes her delicious Cuban sandwiches. The other day, when she included Bill and me in a dinner of Cuban sandwiches, I offered to pick up the bread from Jimmy John’s.  Sure enough, a pyramid of French bread loaves sat on the JJ’s counter, selling for 45 cent each. I purchased 4 loaves. The young woman waiting on me who, up until that point, had been speaking in a normal voice, suddenly said something to me in what the Romans would call sotto voce. She had a surreptitious look about her and I suddenly felt like I was part of a detective movie. “Pardon me?” I said. “Could you repeat that?”

In a bit louder whisper, yet still barely moving her lips, she said, “Take them from the bottom of the pile; they’re better.”

Ah ha. Nice girl. Bottom of the pile it was.

At any rate, it reminded me of the day-old bread rack at our bakery. Each night, at closing time, one of the jobs of whoever was closing the store was to bag up the leftover doughnuts and rolls, and gather up any loaves of bread that hadn’t sold that day, and place the whole kit-and-kaboodle on the day-old rack. The next day, those goodies would be sold at half price to thrifty shoppers, most of whom were farmers because they are eager for a bargain and are the early birds that get the worms.

That brought the 29 cent loaf of bread down to a whopping 14 cents. Imagine…..