More Bob Stories – Lake Manzke

Susan Manzke
Manzke Lake is seen behind Bob’s little sister, Ginny.

The Manzke lake on LaPorte Road, Mokena, Illinois was about three acres large. Bob’s Grandpa Hollstein, the owner of the property, decided he wanted to have a lake in the mid to late 40s. A dredge was brought out, a dam created, and the spring-fed lake was born.

Grandpa Hollstein traveled a lot, but when he was home, his trailer was parked by the lake. The trailer was used as a swimming changing house, and storage of all their fishing and camping gear. At a distance was an outhouse—or wasp-house as Bob jokingly calls it.

The lake was stocked with bass and bluegills courtesy of the State of Illinois. It was fifteen feet deep at its deepest. Sand was brought in by dump trucks to create a beach.

 A rowboat was used for fishing on the lake. Sometimes a string of caught fish was set over the side of the boat, only to have the fisherman pull up the string to find only fish heads attached. Snapping turtles had made a meal out of those fish. Unwanted snapping turtles were dispatched by Bob with a BB gun. He’d wait patiently for a turtle to raise its head above the water to breathe and then he’d shoot it. He also remembers seeing painted turtles and snakes, none of those were shot.

In the winter time, the teenage Bob went down to the lake with an ax. His chore was to chop large holes in the ice to give air to the fish. He did this alone. Proudly, Bob said he never fell in.

The lake area was a place Bob remembers going hunting, again alone. He shot ducks and geese that came in for a landing.

No one thought anything of Bob being out alone with his 20-gauge single shot shotgun. It was just something he did. Many times he brought home rabbit, pheasant, or squirrel to eat.

“There was a bounty on crows,” Bob said. “I got a quarter apiece for a crow. They were a hard bird to shoot. A friend would set out a stuffed great-horned owl to attract the crows. They would then shoot the crows that flew in to attack the owl. The bounty was paid at the Joliet courthouse.”

There were too many crows at the time. Flocks followed the creek over to Joliet Park, where they roosted at night. Bob remembers that the park complained about all the damage the murder of crows was doing. Trees used for roosting were turning white and dying. The solution was to dynamite the trees.

The fencing surrounding the trailer at Manzke Lake was originally part of railroad cars used to transport live chickens.

“There were so many crows killed the newspaper had a photo of payloaders picking up the bodies and dumping them into dump trucks,” said Bob.

There were three incidents that stick out in Bob’s memory of the lake. “One Sunday afternoon, during a family picnic, we noticed that my Uncle Willis was laying out in the sun but when we tried to wake him we found he was unconscious. He had passed out because of a health problem and had just gotten out of the lake in time. No one had noticed that he had collapsed. They thought he was just sunning himself.”

“The second was when the overflow on the dam sprung a leak. After the water level dropped, my dad got in the rowboat and tried to patch it by reaching down in the inside large drain. The boat slid back and left Dad hanging with his head down in the big tile. We had to pull the boat back underneath Dad’s feet and then hoist him back out of the tile. Luckily he wasn’t sucked into that drain.”

“The third came one spring when we were seining out the bluegills because they were taking over. We called the neighbors to help. One guy named Bill was deathly afraid of turtles. Bill came wearing a new pair of bib overalls. He tied the legs shut so the turtles wouldn’t come up his pant legs. When he took the seining net into the lake he slipped into deep water and the overhauls filled up with water and darn near drowned him.”

FYI: Bob is currently taking two cancer drugs. Some days are better than others. He wants me to tell everyone that he enjoys getting notes and cards from readers. They lift all our spirits.

Susan & Bob Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;