The first "hut" at the corner of Kellogg and Bluff

The first “hut” at the corner of Kellogg and Bluff


Dan and Frank in 1958

Dan and Frank in 1958

I grew up in the southeast corner of Kansas where a rugged swath of the Ozarks createsd a countryside of rolling hills and woods of stunning beauty. The area was also rocky farmland and hard scrabble little towns where generations of Italians worked in the strip mines and built family-meal  restaurants that still thrive today. There were numerous stories of hard-working parents who refused to give up and went on to build better lives for themselves and their children.

When my grandson went with me to visit my mother two months ago, he also introduced me to another Kansas success story. On our drive home, I asked Gannon where he wanted to eat, and he chose Pizza Hut.  The nearest one was in the little town of Burlington, and from the outside it looked like a typical Pizza Hut.  But inside it displayed many pictures and details of Pizza Hut’s humble beginnings.

In 1958, two college-aged brothers, Dan and Frank Carney, borrowed $600 from their mother to purchase second-hand equipment and rent a small building on a busy street in Wichita, KS.  They worked long hours and didn’t give up  (and yes, they also repaid their mother’s loan), and this first Pizza Hut became the foundation of the world’s largest and most successful chain of pizza restaurants.  (For my friends across the ocean, I add this detail:  in 1973 Pizza Hut began in the UK.)

In the Burlington Pizza Hut, important messages were printed on posters and chalk boards:  “From Humble Beginnings Come Great Things”;   “Work hard, Stay humble”;   and “Do Your Best.”   As Gannon and I went to the buffet, we were greeted with smiles from the helpful employees.   The Carney brothers did not grow up in this town, but their philosophy thrives.

A teenage girl ahead of us at the buffet wore a tennis T-shirt.   On the front was a picture of Arthur Ashe, and this was the message:  “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”   This profound reminder is from a superb tennis player and a wonderful man who died in 1993 after contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion he received during heart bypass surgery.

I almost protested Gannon’s choice of Pizza Hut for lunch that day, but it turned out to be an excellent choice. You just never know in advance what lessons and reminders you’ll learn while waiting for pizza.

Pizza Hut box


"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, Kansas, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special days in April, special quotations, spending time with kids


  1. “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” I’ve always love this quote, Marylin.
    I think Gannon made a perfect choice.

  2. Your story vibrates with good country values – straight from the heartland to the hearts of your readers.

    Gannon is helping you telling the story of your family’s values too. Today I’ll have a chance to see what I can learn from two of my grand-boys, Curtis and Ian. We are blessed with these gentlemen-in-the-making. Great post!

    • I think our grand-boys are definitely “keepers,” as my dad would have said, Marian. And there is something wonderful about being part of their lives and watching them grow. Straight from the heartland! 🙂 ❤

  3. Your grandson made a good choice. I love success stories like this. These are the folks who have built America and Canada. Living in Europe, I have come to realize how respected North Americans are. I will share the little things quote. It is perfect! XO

    • Thank you, Darlene, I loved learning about the humble beginnings of Pizza Hut. It reinforced the stories I’d grown up hearing about the friends and neighbors who worked hard and accomplished much for their families.
      The quote is one of my favorites, too. This “little thing”–letting Gannon choose Pizza Hut for our lunch–turned into a Big Lesson and a special memory.

  4. Your post is a good reminder that lessons can be learned in all types of places. Although I’m not a Pizza Hut fan, I’m glad you had a good outing with your grandson–and that you were able to enjoy “the little things” with him.

    • It had been years since I’d eaten at Pizza Hut, Merril, and it normally wouldn’t have been my choice for lunch. But I was glad I let Gannon choose…and learned so many wonderful things about the founders, and, of course, the Arthur Ashe message on the t-shirt. It was truly one of those special “little” things that made a big difference.

  5. My mom and I are big fans of Pizza Hut. Their crust is about the only one my mom can chew easily these days. 🙂
    I never knew their beginnings and I thank you for sharing this. It is good to see honest, hard work rewarded in such a way.
    Happy Weekend Marylin- Joanne

  6. Love your description of our Kansas corner and of the Pizza Hut story. I knew it from long ago and was amazed when they grew to be so big. My first Pizza Hut pizza was in Pittsburg during college. Loved it then and still do. Think it is best pizza around and it takes like “home”.

    • I’ve eaten at the Pizza Hut in Pittsburg, too, Claudia! But my favorite place to eat when I’m in that part of Kansas is Chicken Annie’s. We began going there when the chicken was fried in their little house and the carfuls of hungry customers parked on the side of the road waiting to be called to the tables. Of course both it and Chicken Mary’s are MUCH bigger now, but the food is still down-home.

  7. I was a cook and waitress at Pizza Hut when we lived in Madison, Wisconsin. We still enjoy their good food and nice service.

    • Ellen, I’ve enjoyed your posts for a long time now, but I never knew you were a cook and waitress at a Pizza Hut! I hope you’ll write and share a poem about it sometime! 🙂

  8. i am not a Pizza Hut fan but with a grandson like yours I would go and enjoy every bite. When we adopted our son over 34 years ago his choice was Mc Donald’s and we all had lunch there.

    • You and I are on the same page, Gerlinde. When our little boys have a favorite place to go for lunch, we go there! 🙂
      When Gannon chose Pizza Hut, it would have been fun to go any where with him, but the surprise was all I learned! ❤

  9. Keeta

    Thanks for sharing such truths for food for thought.

  10. Tammy Heimsoth

    Hello, I truly hope your trip home was a good and safe one. My dear, I want to Thank you so much for thinking of me and our lunch together. I so appreciate you and love you. I hope to see you on the next visit. I will let you know what doc says on 19th, as to work and all. Thanks again for lunch. Sending you hugs and smiles 😀 😀 😀 love Tammy

    • The pleasure was mine, Tammy. Aunt Toadie’s curly fries, burgers and cream pies reminded me of the lunches my parents used to love, too. If only Mom could have been up to coming with me; she has always loved you, and I know she misses you. Let me know what the doctor says about your broken rib and the two cracked ribs. I’m guessing you might have to do some physical therapy, but whatever he orders, do. We want you well healed before you return to work. Love and hugs to you, Marylin

  11. “You just never know in advance what lessons and reminders you’ll learn while waiting…” This seems to be my theme today! I just posted about waiting over at Shirley Showalter’s blog (and saw you were right next to me, so I had to pop over to say hi, how are you?)

    I hope you’re having a good weekend with your mom. Blessings, peace and grace.

    • I’m having a wonderful weekend, Tracy, and it’s so good to hear from you. I’ve been back with my mom on another trip; she had pneumonia but responded well to the antibiotics and breathing treatments, so all is well again. ❤

  12. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Wishing you many wonderful little things, Marylin!

  13. Road trip+grandson+Mom with a pizza ending sounds like just the ticket!

    • It was, Jane. The trip to Ft. Scott from Abilene is 200 miles each way, and the Pizza Hut decision was mid-way, just what we needed. Plus the wall dedicated to pictures and details of the brothers’ journey to build Pizza Hut made for great conversation. Gannon was a delight!

  14. juliabarrett

    Love this post! Ain’t it the truth. I’m so glad you stopped at Pizza Hut.

    • It was one of those unexpected, unplanned, out-of-nowhere amazing encounters, Julia. And a great conclusion to an amazing visit with my mom when Gannon read aloud her favorite poems and patted her hand. He has a great voice for an 11-year-old, and soon she was humming to his voice and smiling at him.
      It was a wonderful trip.

  15. Great story and it just goes to show you what you can learn when you don’t expect to 🙂

  16. Jim

    Wow! The Arthur Ashe quotation is perfect advice for all of us when circumstances in competition or life in general seem so difficult and overwhelming that one begins to lose hope and the drive to keep fighting.

    Arthur never gave up either in a tennis match or in his life, no matter how unfair his fate. He was an artist on the court, moving with ease and grace. He was an inspiration for a generation of young tennis players. He and Billy Jean King are responsible for bringing tennis out of the country clubs and to youngsters in public parks everywhere during the tennis boom of the 1960’s and ’70’s. One should also remember how Arthur was ever a gentleman, a black man who softly but insistently pushed aside the racial barrier in world tennis, including South Africa.

    • So much of what I know about Arthur Ashe came from you, honey, a fellow tennis player who had much respect for all Ashe accomplished. And then, after all these years, to see a teenager in a Kansas Pizza Hut wearing the T-shirt with Ashe’s inspiring words was amazing and inspiring. ❤ I wish you could have seen it.

  17. I love this post, Marylin! When I was in high school, Pizza Hut was the place to go! We had drive 30 minutes to get there! I love the quotes that you provide. Have you heard the song “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw? It is one of my favorites – I think it is a remake – and I use that phrase with my children all the time….always a good reminder. Have a fabulous week! XO

    • “Humble and Kind” is perfect to go with Arthur Ashe’s life and how he handled the tainted blood he received during his surgery, Robyn. He was a remarkable man and an inspiration.
      And to see the T-shirt- clad teenager wearing the words of Ashe in a Kansas Pizza Hut was amazing! Wishing you a fabulous week, too! ❤

  18. Ah, this is lovely. I especially like your embroidered sampler.
    The only thing nagging in my mind is that probably Mark Zuckerberg started off with humble beginnings, never envisaging the behemoth that is the dreaded Facebook!

    • Especially when you realize the “get even” with a former girlfriend things he did that eventually started Facebook, Jenny! I still think of the cute baby booties you had on your post and hope they’ll take off and be popular items that sell internationally! 🙂

  19. The only thing better than pizza is pizza with such an interesting history! Love that Arthur Ashe quote – I think I feel a “Motivational Monday” post coming on! Thanks for the smile, Marylin. Good thing lunch is around the corner so I can satisfy the sudden yen for a little pepperoni cheese pie!

    • I’m glad to see the Arthur Ashe quote lives on, Shel. It’s one of my favorites, especially under the sad circumstances of his early death.
      Unfortunately, in my opinion pepperoni and cheese pizza is a healthy fix-all for everything, and a go-to excuse on busy days! 😉

  20. Hello I am Gannon. I know more football facts that even my dad and my grandpa so that’s why I use footballfactssite as my name. I am the one who started this post because I got to choose where we ate lunch.

    • It was after the day that I read poems to my great grandma and patted her hand and she hummed along. Then on the long drive home after that, I chose Pizza Hut. Thank You for your nice comments .


      • Thanks for answering the comments and introducing yourself, Gannon. Lots of readers have seen blog pictures of you as a little guy drawing in chalk on the fence and wearing a miniature hard hat to plant seeds after the tornado, and last week’s post showed you and your sister Grace in the tire swing when you were much younger. Now they get to hear from the guy who chose Pizza Hut as the place to eat, and from that decision came this blog! Thanks, sweetie. You’re the best-ever grandson! ❤

  21. Hi Marylin, I’m so glad Gannon chose Pizza Hut to dine at as you were able to write a very inspirational post. Personally, I love the pizza at Pizza Hut too. Love the story behind Pizza Hut and especially your sampler. Super post as always. 🙂

    • Thank you, Tracy. Gannon’s contribution to this post wasn’t as colorful as the post that included his Picasso-type portrait of me, but the pizza tasted really good, and talking to Gannon is always fun. 🙂

  22. What a great story, Marylin. I think we take for granted the little things. But I can’t help thinking of the acorn and how huge of a tree grows from it.
    Now I want a pizza from Pizza Hut.

    • I’m glad you liked the post, L. Marie. Since you’re a writer for the age groups that really like hanging out and having pizza, maybe there’s a good story idea in there. 🙂

  23. Tammy Heimsoth

    Hi Marylin, we’ll dr has released me to go back to work on may 1. Of couse light duties for a month. Or more if need it….so that will be my next challenge, but I will be fine. Just wanted to send you you a hug and smile. Love Tammy

    • Tammy, that is wonderful news. Mom will be so happy to hear your voice and see your smiling face. But take it easy, okay? If you tell her your story about falling off the horse, she’ll understand. 😉 This was definitely a hug and a smile. Thanks!

  24. The ‘quilted’ quote at the end is the perfect reminder of how we should look at life…I need this reminder when I allow the ‘stuff’ of life to crowd out this precious perspective, making me impatient and resentful. Who knew Pizza Hut would bring you such a blessing – along with some tasty pizza, although we don’t go there often even though there is one in our town! The town where I grew up from the age of 10 – Ipswich, in Suffolk England – didn’t have any chain fast food places during the 70s that I can remember, so it might have taken a while before Pizza Hut made it there from London! Arthur Ashe is one of my heroes, not only for his tennis (huge fan of Wimbledon, I remember watching him play…) but for all he stood for as a truly wonderful man. Thank you for this excellent post Marylin, for bringing joy to my day as you always do. Have a wonderful weekend my friend 🙂 ❤

  25. Thank you for this touching comment, Sherri. Seeing Arthur Ashe play at Wimbledon must have amazing for you, and then later realizing he was also a truly wonderful man who handled adversity with true grace.
    The “stuff” of life really does get in the way of what is most important sometimes, and we have to remind each other. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, too, my friend! ❤

  26. I love stories of how great companies grew from humble beginnings. The Hallmark Museum is not too far away.
    I really enjoyed that one and would have enjoyed it more with grandchildren.

    I wonder what the conversation was like between you and Gannon. Does the story make his eyes bright? Or just the pizza?

    I like his name.

  27. Marylin, what a lovely post and reminder that hard work teamed with inspiration pays off royally.

  28. Well, I never knew that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s