Mr. Kunzle and the Alpine Home for Sick Children

On the corner of Broad Street, now Five Ways Shopping Centre, used to stand the factory of Kunzle Cakes Ltd, founded by Christian Kunzle (1879-1954). Mr. Kunzle was also President of the Children’s Hospital during the 1930s. The Swiss born chef and chocolatier sent sick children, particularly those suffering from tuberculosis, to his house in Davos, Switzerland, to recover in the clean mountain air.

BA&H: HC-BCH-6-3-2

The first party of thirty children arrived in 1932. The Davos Courier reported that two of the children had been so ill that they had hardly left the hospital before. When the Second World War broke out in 1939 the children recovering at the Alpine School could not get back to England from neutral Switzerland, finally returning when the war was over. A blue plaque above the Santander bank now marks where the factory once stood.

Patrick Haines

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21 responses to “Mr. Kunzle and the Alpine Home for Sick Children

  1. I was at Chateaux Bruxells, Davos for 6 months, 1946/47.From time to time Christian Kunzle used to yodel us to sleep.
    I never kept in touch with those there with me. Although I bumped into one of the chefs there at the same time in a cafe in Electric Avenue, Witton about twenty years later. The chap recognised me, probably due to my height, I was the tallest at the Chateaux then – 5`10″, and he asked me if I had been to Davos. At the time I met him in the cafe I was about 6`6″.
    I was asked to keep check on the daily temperatures at the Chateaux but for what reason I never knew.
    We also went each sunday to the local church where we formed a choir, My singing was so bad that at the audition I was promptly kept where no one could hear me. I kept silent however,and no one suffered. One of us had a lovely voice, I think his name was David.
    I took 15 shillngs with me and never spent a penny until the last week when I bought presents for my family. I still have the wooden cuckoo whistle I bought for myself.
    I also have a two photographs, one of the local lad ( he would be about my age now ) who delivered the daily bread and one of a group of us in ski wear.
    We also went trout fishing in the Chateaux`s lake. A length of string and a bent hook, with worm.The chap who took us there said that poaching was a big problem to the estate and showed us poachers gear hidden in bushes.
    I was also taught to ski, i was slightly better at this than my singing.
    Every afternoon we slept outside and were taught how to wrap our bunk blankets in a way to keep out the cold winds.
    Perhaps there are archives of my time there that would indentify who was also with me.
    HAPPY DAYS INDEED.
    Robert Collett
    ex. Gregory Avenue, Weoly Castle also Princethorpe Road and Ilmington Road schools.
    Played basketball at the Square Club in early fifties. Ken was our coach.

    • Dear Robert,
      Many thanks for your wonderfully evocative description of Davos!

      There will be a copy of The Davos Courier in the Children’s Lives exhibition but this dates from 1932, I’m afraid. The only other Davos-related material that we appear to have in the Archives are a volume of press cuttings from 1932 and two school logbooks from 1951-56.

      Thank you again for your comments, it’s great to hear from people with direct connections to the archive. Nicola

    • Jonny Greatrex

      Hi Robert,

      I am a reporter from the Sunday Mercury newspaper. In the 1950s we began a scheme called Give A Child Health, based around the Kunzle trip you went on.

      We are launching it again and we wanted to speak to people who’d experienced going to Switzerland. It would be great to speak to you about it.

      Can you email me on jonny.greatrex@sundaymercury.net asap.

      Thanks,

      Jonny

    • Dear Robert I was also at the Kunzle chateau for six months in the summer of 1948. I have been trying to to see if I could get any photo’s of the chateau lost touch with the party off 25 children but I can remember it quite vividly what a great time I had there. If you know off any web sites where I can see any photo’s I would be most obliged although I was only 12 at the time
      I remember it very well. THOMAS ROWE

  2. Hi Nicola, I have a photograph of those with me at the time. Should this be of interest for those who would regognise a family member etc. then let me know and also how to show the photograph.
    Yours.
    Robert

    • Dear Robert,

      Thank you for the kind offer. We’ll bear this in mind should we have any queries.

      Kind regards,
      Nicola

    • I would be interested in seeing the photograph you have. I have no idea which year my dad was in Davos recuperating form an appendix operation but am aware he spent at least 1 Christmas there as I have seen a Christmas Photo/postcard from him to his parents (my grandparents).

  3. Robert Collett

    changed my email address. bob

  4. Pingback: At School No.13: Charity | Children's Lives

  5. My father who at that time lived in Sutton Coldfield went on one of these Davos trips to recuperate from an appendix operation I believe. No idea of the dates, but he was born in 1926. I am sure I may have a photograph or 2 of him taken in Davos at that time. I am in the process of scanning and digitising several old photographs and negatives so they are not lost. I’ll keep an eye out for the Davos ones.

  6. I also went to Davos in 1948 and went back for a second time in 1950, and found Mr Kunzle to be a very caring person he always had time for all of us there. It was a very happy time.
    Arthur Bardell

  7. My dad Eric Evans went out to Davos for about a year,His asthma was very bad.It did him a lot of good when he was there.He had a friend called Gerry.My grandparents were good friends of the Kunzels,

  8. My husband William White went to Mr Kunzles chateaux in 1954. I think he was one of the last children to go there as sadly Mr Kunzle died that year. My husband has nothing but very happy memories of his time there. He has a few photos that have survived the years, but unfortunately never kept in touch with any of the 30 or so children that were there with him. We have the dairy that he wrote every day as part of his schooling there and also some letters which he wrote back to his parents. If anyone would like to get in touch especially anyone who was there from May 1954 please do so. If anyone who would like a copy of a photo of the chateaux please get in touch. Regards Bill and Lesley White

    ,

  9. I was sent to malix nr kerr kanton granoble switzerland in the 50 s , from Liverpool (.I think that’s the address )
    I think it was 1951 I was the youngest of 12 children.
    would love to hear from anyone else who was there at that time.
    Patricia Lawlar now Kelly

  10. Norman Bartlam

    I’m really keen to talk to you about the diary as I’m compiling a feature on Kunzle/Davos for a new local history programme on Birmingham’s new local tv service Big Centre.TV. I’ve just been to Davos and seen the chateau, completely unchanged from the photos I’ve seen of it in the 50s. I hope you can contact me info@tntnews.co.uk

  11. Christopher jones

    My dad Edward (Ted) Jones went to Davos in around 1949 I think. Dad was an adult and suffered from sciatica. He worked at Accles & Pollock Oldbury who organised his rehabilitation through the Kunzle organisation. I have some photos and letters he sent home’

  12. Geoffrey Neil Crofts

    I went to Chateau Bruxelles in June 1952, our ‘teachers’ were Mr Yoxall, Miss Aze and Miss Skivington. I still have many photos of my stay there and recall many names of those with me. I too sang in the choir at the church – Reverend was Mr Turnbull. Mr Kunzle junior came a couple of times. I also fished the lake and caught a trout. We were given a number, 1 to 32, for laundry reasons (no.1 being the tallest etc). I was no 21. Was as brown as a berry when I got home. Great memories.

    • I also went to Chateau Bruxelles in 1948, I was there for six months with a party of 25. I can remember it very well it was a fabulous time. I only wish that I had a camera then as do not have any photo’s of one precious moment in my life. Regards Thomas Rowe

  13. My Dad was in Davos some time in the 1940s. He was a chronic asthmatic and missed out on school due to illness. He credits the time in Switzerland as turning his life around for the better. He loved every minute of his experience there. He grew up in Smethwick. I’m pretty sure I have a picture and newspaper cutting. Victoria Eden (daughter of the late Anthony Eden)

  14. On researching family history(not mine) I obtained original letters from one Edie Davison dated February 1934. She had spent time at the Kunzle Chateaux but unfortunately later that year she died and was buried on 23rd December at St Matthews Church, Duddeston Birmingham. Edie was twenty
    and she had TB.
    I thought I would add this to the list.
    Roger Boulton

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