Pictured above: Family friend and long time resident of Zehnder’s; Carl Knieling.
By Al Zehnder, CEO of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth
During the 1930’s, Frankenmuth was a common stop for transients; single men looking for work. My grandmother, Emilie Bickel Zehnder, was never one to turn away an empty stomach and often enough these men were willing to work in exchange for a hot meal and a dry bed.
The third floor (attic) of Zehnder’s , while partially used for storage of dry goods; was set up dormitory style with a row of cots along the wall where the men slept. The residents of the third floor were generally transients and stayed for short periods of time and received room and board as a partial compensation for their work. As a kid, I remember my dad recounting stories of Little Boy Roy, Freddie Becton and Fritz Faerber.
Meals for the men were had at a table in the kitchen meant for them called the “Boarders Table”. That name stuck for years as a place for all of our employees to eat and take breaks.
The second floor of Zehnder’s not only housed the private living quarters of the family but provided small private rooms for long-term, trusted employees. These men were like family and worked in janitorial, general maintenance or in the kitchen. I have vivid memories of some of these men, particularly, George Loll and Carl Knieling.
I spent hours in Carl Knieling’s room. Carl had a short wave radio and I was just amazed as an 8 or 9 year old when he would tune in radio broadcasts from around the world. Additionally, he had a wooden leg as a result of a war injury that was just plain cool to me at the time. The school bus would drop us off in front of the restaurant. My dad’s office was next to Carl’s room, I would say hi to my dad and then see if Carl was there. One day I was bounding up the steps as usual. My dad was in his office and said, “I have some bad news, Carl passed away today.” I remember that like it was yesterday.
George Loll was a tall, very thin, soft spoken man that did a variety of janitorial jobs around the restaurant. The second floor provided a single bathroom with a shower that each of the residents shared. It wasn’t unusual to see the tall, thin, pale George walking down the hall with only a towel wrapped around him to take his turn in the shower.
By the late 1960’s, the demand for office space took priority over any additional guests. Today the second and third floor of our flagship restaurant contains meeting space and offices for our accounting, personnel, IT, front of the house team and various managers.
Over the years, we’ve been blessed with really great members of our team that have given us and our guests great memories. These are really special ones.
Al Zehnder, CEO of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth