Modern milking parlor sealed the deal at the Manzke farm

Susan Manzke
Bob Manzke outside Mokena, Illinois farmhouse in the 1960s.

Back in the mid-1960s, Bob was about to graduate Joliet Junior college with an agriculture degree. At this time, his father asked him if he wanted to continue on the farm and milk cows.

Bob said he couldn’t milk in the stanchion barn. At that time, his dad was doing the milking of thirty cows in a twenty stanchion barn. Bob’s bad hip wouldn’t allow him to bend for the milking, so Bob fed the cows, fed the young stock, and carried the milk in buckets to the bulk tank in the milk house. He also did the cleanup.

The only way Bob saw fit to join his dad in the dairy operation was to build a milking parlor.

At first, his father was opposed to the parlor. He thought the cows would get wild.

A neighbor happened to ask Bob and his dad to go to Indiana to Dr. Scholl’s dairy farm auction—Dr. Scholl was the podiatrist who started the foot care business. Bob stayed home to take care of the chores, expecting his dad to return by milking time.

At the auction, Bob’s dad watched the cows being milked in the milking parlor. He was mesmerized by how tame the cows were. When he returned he agreed to look into putting up a milking parlor.

About the same time, the field man from the dairy plant told them that he knew where three side-opening stalls were that were within 5 miles of the Manzke farm. These had never been installed in a milking parlor because of a farm breakup.

Manzke dairy barn with cows in stanchions.

Bob and his dad chased the chickens off the stalls where they were roosting, bought the stalls for $100 each, and brought them home. Luckily, the stalls came with a diagram of how to build a milking parlor.

“In the spring, we started building the parlor. We took the D-15 tractor and loader and dug the pit for the building. A Ready-Mix truck came out with concrete. The foundation was poured and then the stalls were cemented in place,” said Bob.

Cement blocks for the building came from a plant around Blue Island. The Manzkes' paid cash for cinder blocks that were determined to be ‘seconds’ but the blocks were perfect.

Bob and his dad put up the walls and the feed storage above the parlor. Bob laughs as he recalled how they scrounged material wherever possible, except for new metal in the feed storage area.

Bob’s dad arranged for a neighbor to put in the electricity. He didn’t trust Bob’s electrical knowledge, even though Bob had college classes in electrical wiring—later Bob used his skills to update other farm electrical needs.

The milking equipment was installed by Surge because of the dairy plant requirements. Bob says they got a deal on that equipment, too. A relative worked in the corporate office at Surge and was able to get a discount on the equipment and installation.

Soon the parlor was ready. Introducing the cows to the new system wasn’t all that they expected.

About 2 weeks before the equipment was running, they brought the cows in for practice runs, giving them good grain in the feeders to make them happy. After the cows were trained, they finished the parlor by painting the walls and then the cows were spooked. They had to retrain them to come into the parlor—not a fun time.

Bob’s dad (Elmer ‘Shorty’ Manzke) milking in their new milking parlor in the 1960s.

This 3-stall milking parlor worked well for Bob and his father. There was no more backbreaking bending. The cows were happy. They weren’t kicking out at Bob and his dad anymore. This parlor was one of the first ones in the Mokena, Illinois area. It was a modern day success.

One day a group of Chicago elementary school children stopped in to see the farm. Bob proudly showed them around the new parlor. When he asked what they liked most about the farm, Bob was surprised they didn’t say the parlor. What they liked best was seeing apples growing on trees in the Manzke orchard. They had never seen such a sight.

Just a note: After many tests, Bob is starting his cancer treatments. He and I want to thank everyone for good wishes and prayers. Together with our family, we are doing our best to fight this cancer demon.

Susan & Bob Manzke, N8646 Miller Road, Seymour, WI 54165;