By John W. Kirk
Kiwanis Member since 1967

Out with the old, in with the new

In 1968, 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.

Making our own griddles

$150 a day for each day of our event seemed like a lot of wasted money to me. And, I had the idea to make our own machines. I asked Irving Tick to look at the machines to see if he could build one. We turned the machine over and dismantled it to see how it worked. A fellow Kiwanian, Earl Ewald, looked over my shoulder. Later, Earl told me he could build five machines with a better design for about $750. (He was a leading engineer for the Eureka Company. He had patents on devices that powered 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 I wouldn’t succeed, I presented to the board asking for $750 from the Stagg Fund Principle to design and build the machines — a lot of money in those days. I pointed out the annual savings from our Pancake Days cost would pay off this expense in five years. And, we could make additional income by renting the machines to other clubs, as the Rockford club did.
To be successful, I realized two key Kiwanians, Bill Meara and Harold Walters, would have to go for the project. They attended every Board meeting, and 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, it was awkward silence for several seconds. Then, Bill Meara boomed, "That's the best damn proposal I've ever seen!" After that it was smooth sailing and the project went forward. Over the next forty years, our Club has saved thousands of dollars in expenses ($60,000 at least). Renting the machines was a successful fund-raising venture for several years.  

I doubt it was the best proposal Bill had ever seen, but he saw the long-term benefit to the club. I knew his enthusiastic approval would get it done.

-John Kirk
February 2012