Dead Ringer for Love- A Tribute to Meat Loaf

Today we lost a rock legend. Meat Loaf (Marvin Lee Aday) died at his home with his wife at his side. He was 74. Meat Loaf had a storied career as a singer and an actor, having released several albums in the 1970s, 80s and early 1990s. This included a three-part album Bat out of Hell. We knew him for one of his best songs, “I’d do Anything for Love,” which was released in 1993 and received many international accolades. Yet Meat Loaf was known for his Casanova and Gothic attire in his appearance and his music was used for several different occasions. One of my favorites is a duet he did with the singer Cher, entitled Dead Ringer for Love, released in 1981. It’s a perfect dance song with a spice of romance in there, and it’s one that ranks up there with the very best. Therefore, the Files is paying tribute to the Ringer and his work with this song as a way of giving thanks for his years of work. Rock on, Ringer!

Genre of the Week: Three and a Half Hours

Probstzella: The memorial using the remains of the border control building. The train station complex is in the background. Photo taken in 2010

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This week’s Genre of the Week is in connection with the 60th Anniversary of the Construction of the Berlin Wall. On August 13th, 1961, the East German government sealed off the border with its western neighbor, West Germany- first by constructing the Berlin Wall, a 155-kilometer long wall that encompassed all of West Berlin. In addition, the border was fenced off and walled from a point east of Lübeck, going south then east before terminating at the border with Czechoslovakia, located east of Hof. It separated the eastern states with the like of Shcleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Hesse and Bavaria. The walls remained for 28 years until the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November, 1989 and the reopening of the border along the state borders days later.  While Germany has remained a unified country for 30 years, the scars of the divided Germany, which started after the capitulation of the Nazis on 7 May, 1945 still remains and serves as a reminder that events like this must never be repeated anywhere.

The next genre I’m presenting is a book that I’m reading at present but one that has been converted into a film, which one can (and should also) see when talking about the Berlin Wall.  Three and a Half Hours (German: Dreieinhalb Stunden) is a historic fictional book that has its roots to those who were in fact forced to decide between East and West, capitalism and socialism, freedom and supervision. The idea came from author Robert Krause, whose grandparents and parents both were caught in that line of fire on 13 August, 1961. Krause (*1970), who originates from Dresden, mentioned that his grandparents had traveled on that day when the border closed, his father was with a friend in West Berlin.  It looks at a situation which can be used in a classroom on history, German or other classes that focuses on governments, foreign languages and culture in a form of “Make a Decision:”

Imagine this situation: You are traveling on an Interzone Train from Munich to Berlin on 13 August, 1961 and you learn that the border between East and West Germany would be closed off to ensure that no one flees the Communist state. If you have three and a half hours time, before crossing the border at Probstzella, and you had a choice between entering East Germany or staying in West Germany, what would you do?

Keep in mind that you have a residence in the East and you wish to return there.

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The book and the film have a set of characters that want to travel to East Germany because they either have homes there, have concerts there, want to escape the laws in Bavaria in two cases or in one case, want to return one’s remains home because that person died in Munich. At the train station in Probstzella, a train conductor, who falls in love with a camera person from DEFA in East Berlin, also is faced with a difficult decision. Each character has his/her past and ideas behind their decision.  The book has a lot of suspense especially when the passengers learn of the construction of the Wall and the closing of the border, which amps up the temperatures of each of the characters for the decision they make would be the one they have to live with for a long time- even for the rest of their lives.  The pages go by as fast as the characters who are face with the decisions, which makes sense to divide up the chapters based on each of the affected characters. One by one, the puzzles fall into place, yet the decision impacts families, friendships and lastly, their futures.

The book was converted into film in 2020 and both have received a mixture of praise and criticism. Krause is considered a great storyteller and placed emphasis on history based on personal experience, while getting the readers involved in the suspense. He himself escaped to the West at the age of 19 to start a new life in Munich, so some of the stories he collected as a child can be related to what happened. It opens the wounds of the past to find out the motives behind people making the most important decision of their lives, and the construction of the Wall served as that testament to deciding between the continuation of their normal lives and starting a new life.

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Photo by Raka Miftah on Pexels.com

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It brings up a game which teachers and students can put together based on this story. It’s called Stay or Go.  You need different colors of pens as well as different colors of index cards, preferably the smallest available. Then you do the following:

  • Divide the index cards up by colors into the different categories that should read the following: The Characters, Their Lifestyle, Their Career, Their Family Status, Their Satisfaction with their Lives, Their Motives for being in West Germany, and Their Motives for being in East Germany.
  • Minus the characters in the story, for each category, make as many points as possible. They don’t have to be stuck solely on the book or film themselves but one can add some points from their own ideas and thoughts. Please make sure a color is assigned to each category.
  • Each participant is assigned a character.
  • The participant must choose from each category one card. The cards in each category can be stacked or mixed in a pile.
  • As soon as the participant chooses each card from all of the categories, he/she must decide whether crossing the border would make sense, keeping in mind the following points:
  1. If you go from West to East, you may not be able to escape back into West again
  2. If you go from East to West, you face the risk of getting arrested or shot
  3. The conditions of both East and West Germany must be mentioned prior to playing the game, both as positive as well as negative aspects
  4. You must provide reasons for your decision. This can be done in a short presentation.

The game can be played in small groups but also in classroom size where the teacher can make a buffet of categories and students can choose one from each category on the buffet.  

This game not only helps a person better understand the history of Germany during that time but also provides a chance to discuss with others regardless of which foreign language you use.

The book and the film, based on the events that happened 60 years ago, serves as a remembrance of the events that must not be forgotten. Many of us have a tendency of forgetting about history before it’s repeated again somewhere else. Yet such stories exist because we want to remember the events and share them with the next generation for them to understand. Three and a Half Hours is one of those books turned films that fulfills that purpose and then some.

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The border station Probstzella at the Thuringian-Bavarian border is in one of the stories and you can read up on my visit there by clicking here. The border station was shut down on December 12th 1961 and remained closed until 1989, thus forcing trains to cross into the West through Gutenfürst near Hof.

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A Tribute to Aschenbrödel (Cinderella)

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Every year at Christmas, families in Europe take a couple hours to watch a classic fairy tale, based loosely on the works of the Grimm Brothers. Three Wishes (or Nuts or Gifts) for Cinderella (Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel) was a film jointly produced by East Germany and Czechoslovakia. Released in 1973, the plot of the film runs similar to the original works of Cinderella that has been produced in many versions, each having a different place of scenery. In this case, the main character finds three hazelnuts and wishes for different attire to attract and capture the love of a prince. Much of the film took place in the winter time and in a village in the forest, with the prince having his home in the castle, with a laid-back queen and a traditionally oriented but also understandable king. To give you an idea what the film looks like:

Much of the filming took place in the forests of Bohemia in Czechoslovakia, yet the Moritzburg Castle near Dresden was used for the festivities of the royalty. The castle has hosted an exhibit dedicated to this film at Christmas time.

The film marked the rise of a Czech star, whom we’re paying tribute to in this post. Libuše Šafránková was 20 years old when she accepted the offer to play the main character. She was a young, beautiful woman with a promising future in show business. She had joined the Prague Theater club in 1972 after having grown up in Brno (Brunn). After actress Jana Preissová had declined the role due to pregnancy, Šafránková accepted the role of the shy but clever character, who endured ridicule of her step-mother and sister, but found a beautiful prince and lured him through riddles and trifles- that is until the shoe fit and the main character won her prize. Šafránková provided the character with one with an open heart despite being underappreciated, opportunities to thwart her step-sister’s attempts to win the prince despite the oppression endured, and some trickeries and laughs despite being looked down upon by her adversaries.  Her character made her a star for Czechoslovakia and East Germany as the film debuted on both sides of the German border. After the film was released in Czechoslovakia in 1973, it debuted in East Germany the following March; in West Germany nine months later, and by 1976, the film became an international hit in Europe, Canada and the USA.

Šafránková became the face of Czechoslovakia, having starred in as many as 24 films in the next 20 years until the Velvet Divorce between the Czechs and the Slovaks in 1993. It included two more films that starred her and the prince from the 1973 film, Pavel Trávníček entitled the Salt Prince and the Third Prince, both released in 1982. The Prince and the Evening Star (1979) and My Sweet Little Village (1985) belonged to her bests.  She won the Czech Lion Award for one film in 1996 and the Star of my Heart Award in 2008 for her work.

Šafránková married fellow actor Josef Abrhám and withdrew from the stage beginning in the 1990s to have a family of her own. Together they had one son. Her last film was in 2013. On June 9, 2021, Šafránková died as a result of lung cancer, the illness she had fought for a decade, resulting in losing 20% of her lungs through operations and treatment. She was 68. Her passing has been a shock to both Czechia and Germany because of her popularity as an actress as well as a person. When people talk about her, the first film that will come to mind is the first one she starred in, the one where she played Aschenbrödel who rose from adversity and used her beauty and wit to win the heart of her big love, the prince. It’s not only the film that made her a celebrity, it’s a film which provides hope during a season that is of perpetual hope, which is Christmas. Three Wishes for Cinderella is one of the films that is a must-see during the holidays, and this holiday season will be even more special because the film will honor that girl who found her way to a boy’s heart.

And this kind of love makes a person a legend.  Rest in Peace, Aschenbrödel. We love you too. ❤

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A Tribute to Eddie Van Halen

Photo taken in 2016 by Aneau-Nyme for WikiCommons

Growing up in rural Minnesota,  we had our own taste for music. Many of us loved listening to bass and rap music, with the car stereo blasting in the backseat making the back windows rattle. Other people prefer organ music in the church where the music would bring Jesus Christ down to Earth with the guitar to smack the player across the head with it. Some love singing and playing to the likes of Bach and Beethoven, with ballet dancers twirling across the stage.  We were a region with multi-cultural talents and tolerated each others‘ taste of music.

Then there is heavy metal. If there is one person that comes to mind at first, it’s Eddie Van Halen. The first song, which should also be a title song for a TV show: Hot for Teacher.

Born in 1955 in the Netherlands, Eddie, together with his older brother Alex, started their music career in California in 1972, but their major breakthrough came with the creation of the rock music group Van Halen in 1974, with David Lee Roth as lead singer and Mark Stone as bass. Their first album was released in 1978 and with Roth at the helm, the band had released seven albums including ist last one in 2012. Roth left the band in 1985 and was replaced with Sammy Hagar. Under Hagar, four more albums were released before he left in 1996. Gary Cherome was with the band for two years and only one album was produced. Despite the changes in lead singers, the band remained in tact.

Unique about Eddie was his signature music style with the electric guitar, known as tapping. Invented by Steve Hackett, Eddie innovated the technique which uses both hands on the neck of the guitar. It includes the use of the flip-out support device which he invented and patented. Eddie was also an inventor on three patents related to guitars: a folding prop to support a guitar in a flat position a tension-adjusting tailpiece, and an ornamental design for a headstock, all of which were useful for his continued innovation of the tapping technique. Here are some samples of his signature techniques:

Together with his brother’s use of the brown sound with the use of the snare drums and other percussion, Eddie’s techniques made for some spectacular pieces which put him into the top 10 of best guitarist and Van Halen into the top 10 of the best American rock music bands of all time. Here are my top ten pieces performed by Eddie:

If one wants a good dose of wake-up and go that has nothing to do with caffine, one should listen to Eddie. He was a great source of inspiration for all guitarists and rock music bands both in the US and internationally. It helped Angus Young from AC-DC create his own signature style of play. It helped bands like Metallica and KISS, as well as singers like  Michael Jackson and LL Cool J enrich their careers and their talents. It was also a focus of several movies where he was featured even in cameo.  If there was one word to describe Eddie, it is that he was the Innovator of Heavy Metal, one who will be in the books, even as the band Van Halen has been inducted into the Hall of Fame since 2007.

Sadly, like the day music died in 1959 with the deaths of Buddy HollyRitchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” J. P. Richardson in a plane crash just outside Clear Lake, Iowa, yesterday, October 6th 2020 was the day that heavy metal music died. Eddie Van Halen succumbed to throat cancer. He was 65 and is survived by his brother Alex, his son bassist Wolfgang (with his first wife, Valerie Bertinelli) as well as his second wife, Janie (Liszewski). Eddie was a legend of his time and a source of inspiration for all musicians, yet his style will never be replaced. I enjoyed listening to Van Halen during my youth and despite some frowns and heckles from the rap and bassist music lovers. I can say that if there is one person who really did innovate the way we create and produce musical pieces, Eddie would be on top of the list. No matter what kind of music genre is played, there would be an innovator like Eddie that could spice it up and make the piece great to listen to. He will forever be remembered for his works and his music shall play on for generations to come.

I highly doubt heavy metal will ever be the same. Rock on Eddie, wherever you are.  

Photo Flick Nr. 27

John Lewis

Honoring civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis, this photo flick says it all. Courtesy of Sean Schwab and located in Atlanta Georgia, it depicts the senator who left his mark for his moving speeches which promoted equal rights for all and not for the significant few. As issues involving discrimination among blacks has reached its boiling point after the death of George Floyd, we need more of John Lewis in order for minorities to have as many rights as whites and equality for all. John Lewis died on July 17th at the age of 80. The mural include one of many quotes by the late Representative. This was posted by Art for Amnesty and can be found on its twitter page.

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Genre of the Week: A Tribute to the Swing

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

This week’s Genre of the Week pays a tribute to some of the greatest soul and R&B (rhythm and blues) singers who have passed recently. One of them happened to be the predecessor to Elvis Presley in terms of fame during the infancy of rock music, Little Richard. Known as the Innovator, the Originator and the Architect of Rock and Roll, Little Richard was known as the person who created rock and roll with its combination of piano, brass and swing, and set the foundation for other artists of his time to follow suit, namely, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Eddie Cochran and especially, Elvis, who later became the King of Rock and Roll. While Little Richard provided the swing, especially with his smash hit, Tutti Frutti (released in 1955), other musicians experimented with instruments which led to rock music splitting into its many forms later on during the 60s, 70s, and 80s, such as heavy metal, R&B, dance (including disco) and pop music. Little Richard continued his career in R&B and soul music, thus leaving 73 years of legacy for many generations to listen to and learn about how rock music was born, raised and fanned out into the forms we listen to today. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. The Swing died on May 9th at the age of 87.

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Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

One of the first things that came to mind upon hearing of his passing was a mixture of swing and rock, where Tutti Frutti was paid a tribute. In 1989, Jive Bunny and the Master Mixers created a mix of techno, pop, jazz, classic rock and swing with the release of Swing the Mood.

Little Richard’s masterpiece was included together with what other pieces of music? Hint: One of them was a song by Elvis, another was first used in a TV sitcom Happy Days. There are two versions. Listen to them and try to figure out who sang what song and in which year. Enjoy this one as we pay tribute to Little Richard.

Short Version:

 

Long (12 Inch Record) Version:

 

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Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers also had two other songs that were released, paying tribute to classic rock and swing, That’s What I Like and Let’s Party. They too were released in 1989 and all three of them reached Nr. 1 in the Bilboards. The group from Yorkshire, England later became known as Mastermix DJ Music Service and to this day, produce music and dance mixes for radio and for online streaming.

 

Fl Fi USA

 

The Gambler: A Tribute to Kenny Rogers

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There are many cultural aspects that are typical of the US. Country music is one of them. It is not like our German Volksmusik because it talks about love Bavarian style. It’s a type of music where you need a guitar, a road, a set of cards and some love stories of women in the past and present, who put a stamp in the heart of a man, dressed up in a cowboy hat and riding a stallion or a horse.

We’ve had many country music singers come and go in the last 50 years or so, like Wynonna Judd, Glen Campbell and Garth Brooks. But one person left over 40 years of country music on the highway as he left to join the Lord.

Kenny Rogers died on 20 March, 2020 at the age of 81 years. He was a talented singer, who started his career in 1976 and retired in 2017, leaving behind 36 albums with 24 songs receiving national and international accolades. His second, not to mention hardly ingnorable second job was an actor, who made his debut in 1973 but last appeared in 2009. He will be remembered as the rustling cowboy, who was a fast shooter and stole the hearts and minds of many women in the Wild, Wild West.  His most famous role that will be remembered by many is the man who cleaned town, Brady Hawkes, in the Gambler series, five films that were released from 1980 until its last one in 1994. He also played Jack MacShayne in the MacShayne film series in 1994.

As mentioned before, Rogers left a legacy that spanned 40 years in the show business. Many of us grew up listening to his songs and watching him clean town in the Wild West. When asked what country music means to them, seven out of ten will mention Kenny Rogers in one form or another because of his style, his tender heart, and lastly, as a lifelong teacher.  When hearing the news of his passing, one song came to mind that best describes his legacy, which is The Gambler.  Watch the video and ask yourselves these two questions:

  1. What was meant by his lessons brought up in the video in the literal sense? Remember, the song has to do with Poker and other card games that were popular in the Wild West, as much as today.
  2. At the same time, what do these lessons mean in the moral and figurative sense? Each lesson does have an underlying meaning that we can take with.

 

To close with a quote: Life is like a game of cards. How lucky we are depends on what hand we have. Some of us will be lucky, some won’t. Some will keep trying, some won’t. Some will find ways to win, some will find ways to hinder it. And lastly, some will find ways to stop the immorals from ruining their lives, others will simply watch and learn, to be used when the next window of opportunity opens.

RIP, Gambler.

 

Fl Fi USA

Like Father like Daughter: The Aspiration to become one of the Greats

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While watching some of the tributes from many players, mentors and coaches who knew Kobe Bryant, one film came to mind which was his devotion to his family. Kobe had four children and one of them, Gianna, wanted to follow in his footsteps and become a basketball great. In fact many children looked up to him as their mentor because of his balance between basketball life and family life. It was no wonder that he has collected especially many younger fans during his stellar career as a basketball profi. While Gianna will not be able to live his dream (she also perished in the crash), there will be many children who will continue the tradition that Kobe and his daughter have left off, which is making basketball a great sport to play and to cheer.

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Photo: gin-roman07 via Instagram

 

Fl Fi USA

A Tribute to Roxette

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1989 was the era of change in many aspects. With the Fall of the Wall, it ushered in a transition from what we knew in the past and what we should know about for the future. It was a bridge connecting the usual environment to the new usual. It was an era of change, where the greats from the 70s and 80s were replaced with those who would eventually lead us into the new millennium and beyond.

One of the changes that was taking shape was the style of music. During the 1980s, we were greeted with a combination of rock, techno, pop and disco music, while some of the greats from that era, influenced us through their lyrics that combined events with the past with lessons for the present. Much of that had to do with the Cold War, which was winding down, thanks to Michail Gorbachev’s policies of openness. The 1990s, however, brought a wider, more modern selection of pop and rock music, but also dance music and rap, and it would carry us through, while focusing on the good, the bad and the interesting sides of society.

Yet the 1990s would not have been possible had it not been for some musicians that were up and coming in the late 1980s- before the Revolution of 1989- the ones that would make the 1990s the unforgettable decade that would set the precedent for the future. One of the musicians that led the procession was the music duo Roxette.

Consisting of Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle, the Swedish pop group was formed in 1986 and its style of music consisted of pop and dance, with some contemporary hits to add to their storied list of songs produced. Yet their breakthrough came in 1988 with the release of the album “Look Sharp!”. With this album, five singles were released, all of which made it to the top 10 in one way or another through 1989 and into 1990. The album was an immediate commercial success in Sweden, selling over 140,000 copies within ten days of release. In the US, the album was certified platinum on 20 January 1990 by the RIAA for shipments in excess of one million units. It peaked at number four in the UK, where it spent over a year on the charts. It was certified platinum by the BPI in December 1990 for sales in excess of 300,000. The album set the foundation for multiple successes for the group over the course of the next two decades, as eight more albums were released, each one with at least three singles, some of them have garnered additional awards.

If there were three songs that defined 1989 and helped usher in the 1990s and a new era of change, they would be (in no certain order):

Dangerous

The Look

 

Dressed for Success

These three songs looked at society and its strive for success both for individuals as well as a whole. It defined the changes that were going to happen and changes which people can simply embrace and take advantage of. Yet during the first half of the 1990s, a lot of Roxette’s songs dealt with love and heartbreak, including:

Listen to Your Heart

Sleeping in My Car

How do You Do?

Spending my Time.

These songs were solely performed by Marie, whose soprano voice was moving to many, as if an angel was talking to the listener and showing him/her where to go. Marie’s career went back to the 1970s, but she’s best remembered for her time with Roxette, where for 30 years until her retirement in 2016, she and Per had a wonderful joyride, impressing her fans and winning the hearts of millions more. Roxette was one of the top 10 music groups of the 1990s and 2000s and there was no household in America or Europe that did not have an album from Roxette.

Sadly, after 17 years of battle, Marie Fredriksson died of cancer on 9 December, 2019. She was only 61. She had undergone years of treatment and operations until it was time to hang it up for her career and enjoy the last moments of her life. As I was compiling a tribute for Roxette, I ran across Marie’s farewell speech when the group was forced to cancel the last leg of a concert in 2016: “Sadly, now my touring days are over and I want to take this opportunity to thank our wonderful fans that (have) followed us on our long and winding journey.” Her partner’s response was a classic: “The joyride on the road is over now – but we sure had fun, didn’t we?”

My response: We did have one heckuva joyride- one that will last forever in our memories. You will be missed for helping usher in an era of opportunity and success, after years of division. Many thanks for that wonderful journey, Marie and God Bless. ❤

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Frankenmuth, Michigan

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All photos taken in July 2018

From the Series On the Road in the States

If there is a stereotype that holds true for most German-named towns in the US, it is this: It has to be German no matter what. This applies for language, culture and tradition and especially architecture. And furthermore, one has to stand out in its identity. The city of Frankenmuth in eastern Michigan is one of these communities that fulfills both stereotypes. The city is located in Saginaw County, approximately 20 miles south of Saginaw and another 25 miles west of Lake Huron. The city is seven miles (14 kilometers) east of Interstate 75 and another five miles away from neighboring Bridgeport, home of the State Street Truss Bridge. The community has over 5,500 inhabitants and if adding Bridgeport and some communities in the township, the conglomerate has over 12,000 inhabitants.

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Oma’s Restaurant on the grounds of Bavarian Inn

When looking at Frankenmuth from an outsider’s perspective, it looks like a typical American community with rows of houses, large yards, a Main Street with business district and a river with some bridges over it. Yet, not all villages with German names are typical American towns that follow the tradition of farming, local festivals and events and American traditions that we are accustomed to. This one is typically German, going from names down to tradition and language. Settlers first came to the region in 1845. Consisting of Lutheran missionaries, the settlers crossed the Ocean on the ship Caroline before taking the Nelson Smith from New York via Detroit to Saginaw, going along canals and through the Great Lakes.  Records revealed that most of the settlers who founded Frankenmuth originated from the region Mittelfranken in central Bavaria and the shield representing the city features a combination of Bavarian and Franconian elements, including a falcon. Despite its creation, it took 59 years until the community was officially incorporated in 1904. The origin of Frankenmuth consists of the first half the region itself and the second half, “muth” representing courage- the courage of the Franconians who wanted to settle down in a new region and convert many nearby into Christians.   Like at the beginning, Frankenmuth today represents the largest of the German enclave in the region, which include Frankenlust, Frankenhilf (Richville) and Frankentrost, plus other communities, like Bridgeport. They all have the following common traits: the Lutheran faith, German language and Franconian tradition.

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Main Street in Downtown Frankenmuth

Frankenmuth would not be called that, let alone become a magnet for tourism and tradition had it not been for the following families that put the city on the map: Bronner, Fischer and Zehnder. All three families were of Franconian blood, All three of them knew the ways of marrying tradition with tourism.  Theodore Fischer and family started a restaurant and hotel in 1888 under the family name. Their son Hermann and his wife Lydia made their mark for their “All you can eat family style chicken dinner.”  In 1928, another family, William and Emilie Zehnder Sr. founded the restaurant bearing their name. Their son Tiny was a farmer and would collect the leftovers to feed the hogs. Faced with financial difficulties and a choice between expansion and sale, Elmer Fischer, who had acquired the family business from his parents, sold his business to Zehnder in 1950. Tiny quit farming to take over the restaurant and hotel business together with his wife Dorothy,  and the rest was history.

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Bavarian Inn’s Schnitzelbank and Biergarten

Despite relapses in earnings due to recession during the 1950s, Tiny untertook a half-century drive to expand and convert the restaurant into one that is a resort complex decorated with a taste of Bavaria.  The restaurant and hotel became known as the Bavarian Inn Restaurant and Resort Complex. The new addition boasted an authentic Bavarian exterior-stucco walls, woodcarving, flower boxes and other German accents were blended with the new German entrees served by “Bavarian” costumed servers. A week long celebration with German entertainment was held in 1959 which today is known as the Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival. In 1967 the stunning 50-foot Glockenspiel was added, topped off with a 35-bell carillon. It became an instant Bavarian Inn landmark with its revolving figures that depict the legend of the Pied Piper of Hameln. During our visit in 2018, the Bavarian Inn, which features two restaurants, a hotel and resort complex and also ferry service along the Cass River, was well-received with hundreds of guests being served by waitresses dressed in their best Oktoberfest outfits, serving the best beer and Bavarian entrées. And yes, the all-you-can-eat Chicken dinner, invented and patented by Theodore Fischer, is still being served there and the taste is unbeatable- crispy with a little spice in there, but really good together with mashed potatoes and homemade sauerkraut! You can also find this at Zehnder’s Restaurant and Complex, located in the city center on the Cass River.

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Frankenmuth’s Covered Bridge

Tiny’s restaurant and hotel expansion did not stop at the Bavarian Inn. He was known as an expansionist with a German traditional flair and because of his successes at the Bavarian Inn, Tiny encouraged other businesses in Frankenmuth to revamp their buildings to include the Bavarian architecture that went all the way down to the lamp posts. Even a covered bridge with a Bavarian style architecture was built in 1979 and is still in use. In addition, many of the historic buildings that had existed since the establishment of the community were preserved as museums. Traditional Bavarian goods eventually replaced the common American ones. Frankenmuth eventually became Michigan’s Little Bavaria. Until his death in 2006, Tiny Zehnder continued to make the community the attraction for German goodies, yet there was one more person who came up with a business idea which resulted in Frankenmuth becoming the world’s capital, and that is Christmas ornaments!

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Inside Bronner’s Christmas Store

The visit to Frankenmuth is definitely not complete without a visit to Bronner’s Christmas Store. The store was founded in 1945 by Wally Bronner, who had just finished high school and was helping his parents with a local business. Wally discovered the talent of creating metal signs which later expanded to include Christmas ornaments. An avid Christian who enjoyed Christmas, Bronner would later expand the store, which would include a Silent Night Chapel and over ten acres of Austrian and Bavarian-style architecture, each building and section representing a country, holiday and even the American nostalgia that had their sets of ornaments. A detailed history on Wally Bronner, his life and the creation and expansion of the store can be found here.

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Inside Bronner’s Christmas StoreInside Bronner’s Christmas Store

Today’s Bronner’s Christmas Store is indeed the world’s largest Christmas store, housing tens of thousands of holiday ornaments from over 70 different countries, including Germany, Austria, parts of Asia and the Middle East and the US. Whatever a person is looking for, Bronner’s has it. If a person is an avid Christmas fan, like Wally, you can expect to spend hours in that store, stocking up on Christmas lights and ornaments. It was the case with our visit in 2018, where even some of the nostalgic Christmas lighting that I grew up with as a child were found there. They included bubble lights and C-7 glass lights, which we picked up- together with dozens of other ornaments to be decorated on the tree back home in Germany.

If one spends time in Frankenmuth, a day is needed at Bronner’s before doing other activities that the small farming community, well-known as Little Bavaria, has to offer.

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Frankenmuth has the taste of Franconian culture and tradition in itself. There are lots of activities to enjoy both in town as well as along the Cass River. Yet one needs a lot of time to spend in the community in order to understand how it was created, how it was marketed and how three families left their marks in the town’s history books. In comparison to the other German-named villages visited so far, including Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, Frankenmuth is considered one of the most German of communities, growing together, while maintaining their Bavarian heritage, and providing a magnet for tourists to stop by to shop and to visit.  Especially around the time of the festivals, like the Bavarian fest and the Christmas market (a separate article with an invertiew is enclosed and can be read here), will a person find Frankenmuth at its best- Little Bavarian in the middle of America’s heartland.

 

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Info:

For more Information on Festivals and other celebrations in Frankenmuth, check out ist City Website by clicking here.

There is a Bridge Guide on the Frankenmuth/Bridgeport Region via sister column, The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Click here and have a look. Three of Frankenmuth’s Bridges can be found there.

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