Let me ask you a question: What is the first association that comes to mind when you think about the city of Frankenmuth? Right, the fact that it’s "Michigan’s Little Bavaria," or "Michigan’s most German town" of course!
Frankenmuth is a city where German heritage and culture live on, even over 175 years after the first 15 German settlers arrived. The buildings look German with their timber-framed architecture, you can enjoy German cuisine and stores, and German festival traditions like the annual Oktoberfest ensure that there is something fun going on all year round.
But how does all this look to a young modern-day German?
The Attack on Pearl Harbor forced Americans to face a new reality. They were no longer safe from war. Rather than stand defenseless, many enlisted in the U.S. military. Others at home participated in Civil Defense.
Civil Defense measures had existed prior to Pearl Harbor, the bombings made it a priority. At that time the Civil Defense Corps were non-military personnel trained to fight fires, decontaminate areas after chemical weapon attacks, and to provide first aid. The advent of the Cold War, however, made these individuals much more important.
Generous locals taking pride in the city's beauty, businesses adopting German alpine architecture, and even the completion of the dike in the 1950s all helped to make Frankenmuth a tourist destination. But one often overlooked project literally paved the way for Frankenmuth's tourist appeal: The created of I-75.
Beginning in April of 1956, the Federal Aid Highway Act through the halls of Congress. By June the bill was signed into law by President Eisenhower. The initial bill allocated $25 billion in federal funds to construct 41,000 miles of interstate highways over the next decade. Our own trusty I-75 is one of those beautiful interstate highways that originated in this bill.
“Universal” means “of, affecting, or done by all people or things in the world or in a particular group; applicable to all cases.”
If you’ve ever been a part of an organization, a council, board of directors, or a team, you probably know how difficult it is to get everyone on the same page. People have different ideas and strategies of how to approach a problem. There is rarely a “universal” solution.
“The soldier does not fight for hate of the enemy or what is in front of him, but for love of his brothers and what's behind him.”
William Cuthbertson, just 28 years old in the Summer of 1942, had a lot behind him to fight for. He had recently married his fiancé, Dorothy Nuechterlein, in April. Little did he know, but Dorothy would have a child 9 months later. He had friends and family in Michigan, not to mention the brothers serving in close proximity on the submarine, the Grunion.
History is often painted with blurred lines, but it's not always presented that way. Textbooks attempt to correct our vision of the past, but sometimes, their prescription isn’t always correct.
I remember visiting Arlington National Cemetery when I was in middle school. My parents thought that it was important to see the sacrifice that countless men and women have made for our country.
I remember walking out to the hallowed grounds. I looked out over JFK’s gravesite at the countless bright white tombstones, as if in formation, along the hillsides. I was astonished at the sheer number of tombstones I saw. I walked along Arlington’s gravel paths, reading names that marked each site. And I walked. And walked. And walked. And walked. Everywhere I turned, more tombstones, as far as the eye could see. I didn’t see much of the 640 acres at Arlington. What I saw was simply a fraction of those buried under the 640 acres at Arlington. And now I think… Arlington holds less than one-quarter of those lost in combat alone…
This week marks the unofficial founding of the Frankenmuth Historical Association, the organization that preserves Frankenmuth’s history. In the 1960s, Frankenmuth residents were rediscovering their German heritage. The Bavarian festival increased in popularity, businesses adopted German “alpine” accents, Gunzenhausen was established as Frankenmuth’s Sister City, local residents met German cousins they never knew they had, and a small group of locals began meeting in the old high school, in each others houses, and even in basements to discuss the prospects of forming a historical organization. In 1963, the group formally organized the Frankenmuth Historical Association.
With no physical building to their name, the Association created and displayed artifacts in local businesses and at the school. In 1970, the Association created a campaign to raise funds from the local community. Thanks to the generosity of the town, the Association raised enough to purchase its permanent and current home at 613 S. Main Street, the former home of the Kern Hotel (1905-1942) and the Frankenmuth News (1942-1970).
Preparing to install a new exhibit is a lot of work, and prepping for our newest exhibit, The Great Lakes State Goes to War, was particularly draining for me. Not because of the amount of hours that went into the research and exhibit, but because of the words I read about soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“Left behind his mother.”
“Left behind his two sisters.”
“Left behind his fiance.”
“Left behind his wife and daughter.”
We are proud to present History at Home! History at Home is a virtual learning program that includes fun educational content, including a blog and our podcast. Even if you cannot visit us in person, there is still so much to do!