When members of the East Kaua‘i Lions Club arrived to begin preparations for their pancake breakfast yesterday, they were greeted by an unexpected sight.
One of the portable classrooms at Elsie Wilcox Elementary School was ablaze and the Lions reacted instantly.
Ron Garlie made his way from the cafeteria to the blaze and with the aid of a garden hose, began watering down neighboring classrooms in an attempt at keeping the fire at bay.
Mike Akama even came with a fire extinguisher, one of the fire investigators said. But the blaze was too big.
Once the firefighters took control of the situation, the Lions did not sit back on their laurels, but instead set out to serve the hundreds of people who were expecting a good Sunday breakfast. Garlie took up his station at one of the pancake griddles in the school cafeteria.
“It’s way bigger than last year,” said Steve Fujii, who was manning the ticket collection table.
Preparation for the meal of pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, fruit and miso soup was spread out in the cafeteria with Harvey Kinoshita manning a tent outside where the miso soup was being brewed.
“This is our seventh, or eighth pot,” Kinoshita said, while inside, Roy Nishida was ladling out the last bit from another pot.
Kaua‘i Schools Superintendant Daniel Hamada stopped by Nishida’s station.
“I’m trying to see if we can feed the firemen,” said Hamada, who was checking on the damage to the portable classroom.
A short time later, one of the fire investigators arrived to pick up several plates for the investigation team who kept an eye on the still-smoldering hulk that remained where once there was a classroom.
The annual breakfast has grown to become an international event as Clyde and Helena Kodani were hosting a Japanese college graduate, Ayako Iwamoto.
“She was here as an exchange student from Moriyama back in 1999,” said Clyde. “She just graduated with her master’s degree in social work from Ritsumei kan University and will start work soon.”
At another table, Jill and Kelsie Lima were hosting a visitor from Canada.
“This is the best breakfast, ever,” Jill Lima said while her visitor, Judy Sheppard, silently nodded in agreement.
At another table, Bernie Sakoda pointed out their guest, Tomoyuki Terukina, a sanshin (shamisen) instructor from Okinawa.
“He’ll be performing at the Hui Alu Shinnen Enkai afterwards,” Sakoda said. “His dad, also a sanshin instructor, is a living treasure in Okinawa.”
Terukina, embarassed by the accolade, bashfully turned away from his meal that he was enjoying along with Melissa Sakauye, a guest instructor from O‘ahu.
The serving line of Lionesses and Leo Club of Kaua‘i High School volunteers was never stilled as diners filed through. Another line served diners who were picking up their orders to enjoy elsewhere.
“We’ve gone through 23 bags of rice, already,” Norman Akita said. “Normally, we go through about 18 bags. This is way more than last year.”
At another table, Sandi and Phil Sterker of the North Shore Lions Club, were enjoying their meal, noting that their club will be hosting its pancake breakfast on April 15 at the Hanalei School cafeteria from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
“We’ll have hula, entertainment and the silent auction as well,” Sandi said. “It’s going to be good fun.”
As the clock ticked towards the 10:30 closing, Garlie was still grinding out batches of pancakes.
Fujii looked up from his tally sheets with a total.
“We served 1,454 meals,” he said. “That’s way up from last year when we went through just about 1,200 plates.”
One of the last pickups was the investigating team on a break from their work at the destroyed classroom.
Paul Steinfort saw this and said with a smile, “We are a service club.”