The Hub City Kiwanis Club has been feeding Pine Belt residents breakfast since March 1961. Well, at least pancakes and sausage and only one day a year.
Now in its 58th year, the annual Kiwanis Club Pancake Breakfast will take place from 7 until 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Sigler Center, 315 Conti Street. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased from a Kiwanis Club member or at the door.
While the club members, the ticket prices, the hours and a few more things may have changed throughout the years, the menu (pancakes, sausage, coffee and milk) has remained the same, as have the beneficiaries of the profits, Pine Belt programs benefitting young people and others.
In publicity for the very first event held Friday, March 9, 1962, the event was billed as “the biggest bargain of the year.” That year it took approximately 300 pounds of sausage, 120 quarts of syrup, 40 pounds of butter and 12 cases of pancake mix to feed the masses. And at $1 for adults and 50 cents for children, the all-you-can-eat event was quite a deal.
That first year the fledgling club, just six months old, having been chartered Aug. 31, 1961, with 47 charter members, also gave a prize for the person who could eat the most pancakes at one sitting. Luke Shissel, a senior Kappa Sig at Southern Miss and student body vice president, took the coveted title in 1963 by eating 14 pancakes. The prize was $10.
“We will serve mountains of pancakes covered with rivers of syrup,” said Tom Pratt, who served as publicity chairman for the event that first year.
Art displays by members of the Thames Junior High Art Department, organ music and background music “for pancake lovers to relax and eat by,” beautiful girls and even a marionette show were billed as added features during many of the breakfasts during the early years. There was even a “Twist” contest, but for teenagers only.
And to make sure things were “just right,” Kiwanis wives chipped in to help with decorating, serving and in the words of an article from the Kiwanis archives, “to help make it a more enjoyable day.” One of the ringleaders was Olga Pridgen, club sponsor.
In 1967, despite bad weather, more than 1,300 took advantage of a good breakfast.
During the club’s 11th annual event, it was noted that the addition of a rotating pancake cooker, which can cook 50 pancakes at a time, will help tremendously in the serving the big crowds. Bob Schneider was club president at the time.
Things have change quite a bit since those early years.
In January 2019, the Pine Belt Kiwanis Club was formed as a result of the two existing Kiwanis Clubs in Hattiesburg merging. The two clubs were The Hattiesburg Kiwanis Club and the Hub City Kiwanis Club, the originators of Pancake Day. The Hattiesburg Kiwanis Club actually was the sponsoring club when Hub City Kiwanis was formed in 1961. Together the clubs represented more than 90 years of Kiwanis history in Hattiesburg. The Pancake Fundraiser began by the Hub City Kiwanis Club in 1962, had been a joint effort of the two clubs for almost 20 years.
According to Hugh Bolton, who helped with publicity this year, “The merger has helped Kiwanians in Hattiesburg maximize their ability to give back to the community, specifically related to children's services. It also provides an environment for the Kiwanis Club to grow in terms of membership and fellowship in the years to come.”
In 2019, the Pine Belt Kiwanis Club contributed to the Dubard School, Woodley Backpack, Boys and Girls Club of Hattiesburg, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, United Christian Ministries, KidsHub, Dixie Youth Baseball (sponsor team), DREAM, OGHS Key Club, Edwards Street Fellowship, First Priority, Pine Burr Area Council BSA, Hope Clinic.
They also put a number of defibrillators in schools through the years.