THE HISTORY OF PANCAKE MACHINES
By John W. Kirk
Kiwanis Member since 1967 (45 years)

From the Old Way to the New Way
In about 1968, in my second year as a Kiwanian, I was appointed chair of Pancake Days. In those days we rented five machines. (In the 1950s the pancakes were poured and flipped individually by Kiwanis members, one at a time. In the 1960s large machines consisting of large round griddles with several stations of batter extruded from the center were used to make the pancakes faster for large groups of people.) I think the cost was around $30 each. So it cost us $150 in rentals each Pancake day. That seemed like a lot to me, so I had the idea that maybe we could make our own machines. I asked Irving Tick to come look at the machines to see if he could build one. We turned the machine over and kind of dismantled it to see how it worked. A fellow Kiwanian, Earl Ewald, looked over my shoulder. Later he informed me that he could build five machines with a better design for about $7,500. Earl was a leading engineer for the Eureka Company. He had patents on devices that powered our space machines. So, I figured he could do it.

Financing the New Machines
The problem was… where to get the money? The only way I could see was to invade the principle of the Stagg Fund (this fund later formed the basis for the Kiwanis club foundation). The fund of $30,000 was a bequest of former Kiwanian Milton Stagg for the support of our many projects. The Board had established an iron-clad rule that only the interest could be used. The principle was inviolate!
Although I was told on all sides that I wouldn’t succeed, I prepared a presentation for the board asking for $7,500 from the Stagg Fund Principle to design and build the machines—A lot of money in those days. I pointed out that just the annual savings from our Pancake Days cost would pay it off in five years. And we could make additional income by renting out the machines to other clubs, as the Rockford club did.
I realized that two key Kiwanians, who attended every Board meeting, Bill Meara and Harold Walters would have to go for the project. No one would touch the Stagg Fund without their approval. They were the grand old men of the club in those years.
After I finished my presentation there was an awkward silence for several seconds. And then Bill Meara boomed out THAT’S THE BEST DAMN PROPOSAL I’VE EVER SEEN! After that it was smooth sailing and the project went forward. Over the ensuing forty years it has saved thousands of dollars in Pancake expense ($60,000 at least) and was a successful fund raising venture over the several years we operated a rental service.
I doubt it was the best proposal Bill had ever seen, but he saw the long term benefit to the club and knew that his enthusiastic approval would get it done.


-John Kirk
February 2012