Michael Jarmoluk showing pictures of early "pancake days" from his book, 'Home, at Last,' told to Dijie Ratzlaff. (Submitted)

Celebrating ‘60 years of pancakes’ in Rimbey

After two years of a pandemic pause, the Rimbey Lions Club is looking forward to welcoming the community back to celebrate “60 Years of Pancakes” with them.

The club’s idea of sharing the savoury cakes began in 1962 when Michael Jarmoluk, 98, attended his very first Lions Club Pancake Breakfast, which he refers to as “Pancake Day.”

“We ran from seven to seven,” said the Rimbey resident, recalling the large gathering of about 700 people they served at the first Rimbey Lions Club Pancake Day.

Jarmoluk presented the idea to his fellow branch members after he attended the Lacombe Lions Club Pancake Day with his brother, both of whom settled in central Alberta from Poland after the Second World War.

“I went to see what they had,” said Jarmoluk, who knew right away after tasting them that pancakes were not only a great idea but that the Rimbey club could do even better, they could provide entertainment.

Bill Rueb, also a Rimbey Lions Club member, happened to be the owner at the time of The Grand Hotel Restaurant in Rimbey. He donated the space for the day, and the entertainment commenced.

Jarmoluk said that for years the members would decide on a different entertainment, including the male-only club members dressing up as waitresses, putting on plays and hosting various musicians.

“Then came the idea of Sonny and Cher,” he said with a laugh as he recalled signing autographs for children and even being invited to perform at other venues after their hit single, “I Got You Babe,” which he sang with his friend and club member, Bob Holmes.

“From then on, it’s been very successful.”

He estimates the Rimbey Lions have cooked and served over 50,000 pancakes over the years has and raised thousands of dollars for various community projects.

For Jarmoluk, who never missed breakfast, the war in Ukraine makes this year’s gathering even more momentous.

The violence reminds him of 1939, when the same region was invaded by Germany and the war that ensued, which landed him in a labour camp in Siberia. For him, it signifies the importance of bringing people together to celebrate the taste of freedom “when we can,” because we can.

“We are fortunate that we still live in peace,” he said. “Because I know what war was.”

Upon arriving in Rimbey in 1949, at the age of 26, the young soldier and most of his family were separated around the world because of the war; those in the community became like family. Giving back to the community is important to him, as is exampling to young families the significance of “getting involved” with the goal of “building better communities.”

Jarmoluk will be joining the Rimbey Lions Club on March 20 at the Peter Lougheed Community Centre as they celebrate with the community 60 years of pancakes. When you see him savouring a pancake, if you ask him nicely, he just might sign you an autograph or hum you a tune.

“We are back with a pancake and we hope to see you there.”

Rimbey