By Doug Schroder


WINNEBAGO – When the Swing Into Spring dance took place at Winnebago High School on Saturday, April 16, a special event took place within that event. Many of you may remember the old Prince Castle drive-ins that were in the region. Three of them were located nearby in Rockford. The buildings were built to look like a castle and they served ice cream from square scoops. One of those buildings still stands on Broadway Street in Rockford. Walter Fredenhagen was one of the founders of the chain.

Walter’s son, Ted Fredenhagen, founded Class Act, the big band that played at the Swing Into Spring dance. Ted is now 90 years old. He’s played music for many years, as he was a member of the U.S. Marine Band during WWII.

After all those years Ted and his daughter, Lonnie Schaefer, performed together for the first time ever at the dance, so it was very special for them.

Lonnie wrote an introduction to the song Rockin’ Robin just for the occasion that went as follows.

“If you were around in the 1940’s you might have noticed the castle-like structures that began popping up all over the region cal Prince Castles. Here you could get the best ice cream in town, burgers, fries and a one-in-a-million malted milk. The men behind those castles were Walter Fredenhagen and Earl Prince. Walter’s son, Ted Fredenhagen, is the founder of Class Act. I am Walter’s granddaughter. In 1954, Walter changed the name of the stores to Cock Robin, and by the 1950’s and 60’s Cock Robin was a household name and destination. You could feed your family a great meal and ice cream treats for not a lot of money. So, in our family, we like to call Walter “The Daddy of the drive-in!” This song is dedicated to my grandfather Walter Fredenhagen.”

So while many attendees danced away the night away, two members of the band enjoyed a very special moment.

Prince Castle 1

Lonnie Schaefer and her father, Ted Fredenhagen.

Prince Castle Ice Cream 1951

An ad for Prince Castle from 1951 shows what the buildings looked like and where the locations were in Rockford.

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