Earle Cutler may be the closest thing Nelson has to an expert pancake maker.
Cutler has been flipping the morning staple at the Lions Club Canada Day pancake breakfast since it started in 1952.
“It was held in front of the Diamond Grill at that time, which is about the middle of the block on Baker Street,” he said. “We’ve always had it on Baker Street and in 1952 when we had the first set up. It was very primitive. We had cement blocks on the bottom with steel plates set up for grills.”
Cutler became a Lion in 1945 and proudly sports a “Life Member” badge on his blue club vest.
“The man I bought my business from when we lived in Tabor (Alberta) was the president of the Lions and one of the stipulations was that I had to join the Lions Club, and I did. I’ve been a Lion ever since,” he said.
The 92-year-old notes that he has actually been a Lion longer than the Nelson club has existed.
“The experience has been nothing but the best,” he said.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s very gratifying. We do a lot of good things and it’s hard work at times.”
When the Lions began their tradition of the pancake breakfast, they would go around to the local businesses that would donate pancake mix, sausages and other supplies for the breakfast.
“That developed into such a big thing that we were embarrased to go around and ask for that much,” said Cutler.
The event grew as Nelson hosted the mid-summer bonspiel seeing as many as 200 curlers coming into town.
“Finally we went to the curling club and they put up $350 to buy the goods and from then on we’ve been buying it,” he said. “The curling club pulled out some years back because they didn’t feel we needed it, so of course we took it on our own and it’s been very good.”
The highlight for Cutler is seeing all the familiar faces who have come back to Nelson year after year from whereever they’ve ended up.
“There are people that come back to Nelson for that breakfast from all over,” he said. “Mind you they’re getting fewer and fewer too, but some of the first ones are still coming back to that breakfast. But in the last few years we’ve lost a few.”
Curlers will often return to the pancake breakfast and share memories and stories from their time in Nelson.
“It’s really a gala day you might say,” said Cutler. “You get to know a lot of people just from year to year that you don’t see and you see that day.”
Diners would come up and line up for blocks just to get some of the Lions famous pancakes.
“At one time we would start at 7 a.m. so the curlers would be fed before they got on the ice. With less curlers, it became a regular breakfast that started at 8 p.m,” he said.
Cutler moved to Nelson in 1951 after he bought the S.S. Nasookin.
“It was down there by the Prestige and I was out here on holiday and I saw it was up for bid, so I bid on it,” he said. “They accepted my bid and that was in July of ‘50. We made arrangements to have it looked after until we moved back here in July of ‘51.”
He was no stranger to the area having been born in Vernon, and spent his school years in Trail from 1929 to 1941.
Before becoming the owner of the steam paddleboat, Cutler was the owner of a jewelry store in Tabor where he did watch repairs.
He landed in Tabor after serving in the military.
“Serving my community is important,” he said. “That’s why I joined the military and that’s why my work with the Lions is important, different, but important. I think that’s what makes Canada unique, we have a strong sense of community and we want to work to make the places we live great.”
Cutler will be flipping pancakes again this year on Baker Street with the Lions from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and should it rain he said they’ll do what they’ve done in the past on the odd time it’s rained.
“We move back to the canopies on Baker Street and set up the tables,” he said. “We always manage to get through it.”