John Manke is an active former Bay View resident who is involved in numerous neighborhood organizations, including the Bay View Historical Society, the Humboldt Park Fourth of July Association and the Shore Shore Farmers Market. He believes Bay View has a fine tradition in its past that we do not want to lose in the future.
When I was child, I got to go inside of the Manke greenhouses in North Milwaukee. This is the land where my father was born and raised. The greenhouses that I visited belonged to His uncle Fred Manke next door to his homestead. The greenhouses had a beautiful smell to them. It was like going to a florist shop, but all of the plants were alive. There were rows and rows of plants. There were hornets flying around the area. Feral cats kept the mice away from the plants. There were outhouses inside of the greenhouses. You could see spiders, flies and hornets in the area. There were steam pipes and radiators to heat the buildings when it got cold. The glass walls and roof kept a lot of sunshine inside. Some of the plants had to be pollinated by hand to create special varieties of flowers and other plants. The greenhouses had the best carnations that I know of, and they received awards for the varieties and quality of these flowers. Hot house tomatoes were grown in winter. During Christmas time, flocked Christmas trees were created here. It took hard work by Fred, Auggie, Fritz, Clem, Rudy and the girls to keep all of this working smoothly. They were kind of old fashioned in a way. Television and radio was not needed in this house. Hard work and good meals became a daily event here. Both English and German were spoken here. August Manke, the founder of the greenhouses came from near Stettin, Pommerania, Germany many years ago. His sons Fred and William divided up the land years ago after August's death. William Manke left the green house business, but his wife took care of his land and debts. Clem Manke was the main florist out here. Rudy and Auggie did most of the bull work attached to the land. There was a tractor inside of the barn and there used to also be farm animals inside. Most of the farm animals were gone when I visited there. In a way, it was like traveling to an older time when things were more simple. Hard work and smiles were seen everywhere. You would almost swear that there was no electricity inside of the house, but at night I was never inside of it. I was always at my dad's homestead at nighttime. I remember seeing my first television set inside of my Grandmother's house. Alvin Manke had brought it there during a Christmas get together of the family. It was inside of a suitcase like case and had a screen that was very small. We only watched for a short time, but it seemed like a miracle seeing people on television. It seemed like we were out in the country, as N. Teutonia Ave. (Cedarburg Road) was only two lanes then, and the house had a "Butternut Bread" advertising sign with the Manke name on it with the address number on it. On the field near the road, we used to play softball as kids during family get togethers. Across from the field was a large garage with pigeons roosting upstairs. Behind the garage, was a large field where the greenhouses used to be situated. The old power house with its tall chimney was there. There was a road there that went almost all of the way to N. 35th St., where the family also owned some land. When they made a four lane highway of N. Teutonia Avenue, the resulting new property taxes for all purpose destroyed the ownership of the greenhouses and adjoining land. Part of the family moved to Sussex, Wisconsin, while other family members moved to other areas of Milwaukee County. These buildings and lands were now a part of history that would be no more. Memories still exist, but the past is over. There is now a shopping center where the greenhouse were situated. The Milwaukee Police Department Academy is also close by that land. Now we have to live in the present time and enjoy what we have now.