Bill Knapp’s

Bill Knapp’s was a favorite restaurant of ours for more than forty years. I first went to Bill Knapp’s with my grandparents in the ‘60s.

The Early American design of Bill Knapp’s restaurants elicited a kind of nostalgia that everyone welcomes at least once in a while. The interior décor continued the exterior with white complimented by deep green upholstery.

I don’t know if Bill Knapp’s was motivated by a desire to please elderly people, but they were experts at doing just that. It’s not a negative thing, especially now. I wish we could still go to Bill Knapp’s. It was a comfortable place to go for dinner. The food was always predictably good.

Fried chicken, au gratin potatoes, cheeseburger in a basket, fish basket, and amazing biscuits. I remember my grandpa breaking open a delicious warm biscuit, covering it with honey, and giving it to me.

Knapp’s was a favorite spot for my paternal grandmother and my aunt. If they took us out for dinner, Bill Knapp’s was a common destination. They enjoyed the food so much they never visited without taking plastic storage bags. At the end of dinner, they scraped the plates into the bags in their purses. Waist not, want not, I guess.

My grandmother had a long history of saving food. When I was a kid she put plate scrapings in jars to bring to us for our dogs.

When our own children came along, we continued to enjoy Bill Knapp’s. Sunday after church was a great time for a delightful meal at Knapp’s with all the other church people from miles around. I could tell everyone came from church because all the men wore suits.

It was on a Sunday, having traveled to Bill Knapp’s from church, that one of our two-year-old boys decided to shout for joy at the top of his lungs. Sitting in his high chair, waiting for his grilled cheese to be served, he suddenly threw up his hands and screamed, “Praise the Lord!! Praise the Lord!!”

Everyone knows toddlers make a mess when they eat. Three toddlers make three times the mess. A Bill Knapp’s customer walked by our table, looked at the floor, and said, “This place looks like a disaster.” I pushed my chair back, crawled under the table in my suit, and began picking up bits of food, in full view of the ornery patron.

Another Sunday at Bill Knapp’s ended with car trouble. We had a great dinner any mother would be proud of. We left the restaurant, strapped our little ones in their car seats, got in the car, turned the key, and nothing happened. We had a 1969 green, Ford LTD four door my grandmother gave to us.

I tried the key again with the same results. I grumbled something un-church-ish, got out of the car, retrieved the tire iron from the trunk, and began beating on the starter in my pin-striped three piece navy blue suit, certain that every eye in Bill Knapp’s was on me as people left their food on the table and crowded in front of the windows to watch me. I got back in the car, turned the key, started the engine, and we drove home.

With a daughter and triplet sons whose birthdays are within one week of each other, we always took advantage of Bill Knapp’s generosity. Free chocolate cakes were provided for anyone having a birthday. We could only eat one, so we left the restaurant with three birthday cakes.

Thanks for the memories, Bill Knapp’s. We’ll never forget you.

(Bill Knapp’s photo by Lansing State Journal.)

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