Then: The Sandwichman
During his undergrad days, JD Freedman (C80), completed The Sandwichman, a documentary on Froehlig that aired on WTTW's Image Union television series in 1981. Freedman is now a producer based in Medford, Mass.
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For more than four decades William Froehlig (WCAS50, GSESP65) — better known as “The Sandwichman” — wheeled his 100-pound cart, filled with nearly 20 different kinds of sandwiches, through the Evanston campus, providing late-night meals to hungry students.
Froehlig, who served three years in the U.S. Navy during World War II before enrolling at Northwestern in 1946, started making and selling sandwiches — grilled peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese —to earn extra money. He sold mainly to his neighbors in the Quonset huts on Deering Meadow, where the University had constructed temporary housing to accommodate the postwar enrollment boom.
Soon after arriving at Northwestern, Froehlig got married and had two children. With a family to support, he began to realize that his lucrative side job was a better career option than teaching.
“The sandwich business was bringing in about three times as much money as I was making teaching. The choice was pretty clear,” he said. “I wasn’t going to support the family in the same way as a teacher.”
Froehlig began selling sandwiches, as well as milk and, later, ice cream and yogurt, to students in residence halls and Greek houses. But his successful business model was not without controversy. In 1959 University officials demanded that he stop selling sandwiches. Peddling was not allowed on the campus.
“When they told me I had to quit, I just went to the different fraternity houses and I said, ‘They want to close me down,’ ” Froehlig recalled. After the word got out, students in the men’s housing units protested the University’s ruling, threatening to boycott other food service options on campus. Eventually, more than 700 students signed a petition to keep The Sandwichman in business. Froehlig and the University agreed that he would only deliver to students who had a standing order for his sandwiches.
Until his retirement in 1988, Froehlig and his wife, Donna, would make sandwiches for up to five hours each day. He would then trek six miles every night to make his deliveries, braving the elements, sometimes until 2 in the morning.
Froehlig and his wife now live in Tallahassee, Fla.