Winnie Kern


| November/December 1983


Route 3, Box 3722 Grayling, Michigan 49738

And so we go to Michigan. Then, we go to Frankenmuth, in the thumb area of the state. We wander around the community a bit - and if our ears are correct, it is evident that we are in a German oriented community. And, if our eyes are correct, we see definitely an Alpine flavor.

Winnie was born on a farm, just north of town in 1908-went to school in the community and at 16 years of age started with a threshing rig. As he says, he was low man on the crew, so was in charge of the 'machine'. Or shall we say separator, it was not until 2 years later that he left the farm for good and got a job in the Reindel and Schreiner Lumber mill in town. That job lasted for 40 years. The mill was powered by a hundred horsepowered steam engine and it was Winnie's job to keep everything in good operating condition. Along with this, he found time to help a threshing company run their steam engine for ten or eleven years. What better background could a steam man have?

The mill operation closed in 1967 and Winnie became a shop mechanic at Weiss Farm Equipment until 1974, when he retired. This retirement, per se, didn't last very long. However, it did give him time to do some things in his home workshop such as building a grandfather clock and some long-planned for furniture.

One of the many items Frankenmuth is famous for is eating. And, a couple of the largest eating establishments are owned by the Zehnder Family. It seems that Tiny Zehnder has, of late years, become more and more aware of heritage - or history.

And because he is definitely a 'doer' he started putting things together. In about 1975 he purchased from a neighbor farmer a Port Huron steam engine, a Baker separator, a McCormick binder, and an Oil-Pull tractor. Everything wasn't all ready to go. The steamer needed considerable tender loving care. They got Ansel McGurk from Flint to do the boiler work and the rest of the restoration was done by newly-retired Winnie Kern. Really, I don't believe that Winnie ever planned on a rocking-chair retirement. The threshing outfit performs every year at a threshing day or two at the Zehnder Farm where many neighborhood folks come to help, look, and at noon, eat. This plus several appearances at the Saginaw County Fair. Then for several years the engine was used on a sawmill at the Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival. And always the man in charge is Winnie Kern.