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.
My dad, Harry William Manke, was born in 1909, the second son of four brothers. He started off as a child by working in the Manke's Greenhouses in North Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the Town of Granville. As a child he had to do his work around the house and greenhouse before walking to grade school. It did not matter what the weather was, the boys had to go to school to get an education. While at home, German was frequently spoken. At school both German and English were part of school life. In church, the service was in German. My dad was baptized at North Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Milwaukee. He was also confirmed there. I was the only child of his who was baptized at his church. The rest of my family was baptized at St. Lucas Evangelical Lutheran Church, where my mother's family belonged since the church's beginning. My dad's father, William Manke had a brother next door named Fred Manke. When my great-grandfather August Manke died, the two brothers split up the land. Fred Manke married the sister of my mother's mother. Both women came from the August Denzin family of ten children. As a result of this, many first cousins of my mother were also first cousins of my dad.
After my dad got married to my my mother, he left the greenhouses to work in a different occupation. When the great depression came, he worked for WPA. After the depression, he got a job a Pabst Brewery, because he spoke fluent German and English. He stayed there until he died in 1962 of a cerebral hemorrhage, at the age of 52. I have many memories of him when I was younger. He and my mother taught all of us six children, five girls and me, how to cook, do dishes, scrub floors, wash our own clothes and iron them. He also taught me how to plant trees, bushes and other plants. Weeding the garden and cutting the grass were also assigned to me and the girls. Back in the 1950's, my parents were divorced, and later on he married my mother's first cousin, who also was the sister of his brother Bill's wife. This shows you how to keep it in the family. Much of his life, he suffered from bleeding stomach ulcers. My dad was always easy to talk to in both German and English. He had many friends. He was the kind of person that you could walk up to and easily make conversation with. I used to be mad at my parents for being so tough with us, but now I know that they did the things that they did to prepare us to be independent and capable of supporting ourselves, if they were no longer with us.
He could lay 500 rolls of sod by himself as a side job. During the holidays, he sold Christmas wreaths to customers. When the grass grew in Spring, he would have us hold off on the first cutting until the grass went into seed. This seed would repair any lawn damage from us children. If plants were slow at growing, he would place coffee grounds near the roots to bring up the worms to irrigate the ground nearby. If a fruit tree was not bearing fruit, he would pound a rusty nail into the tree to give it an iron supply. When we did that to plum trees, we had to use clothes props to hold up the tree branches because of how much fruit was coming after his treatment. He and his dad built a V-shaped sled without metal blades to plow snow in the winter. When we pulled on that sled, that was shaped like the letter "A", we were able to clear a wide path in the yard for walking to the garbage area of the yard. When he wanted to get rid of a huge tree stump in the yard, he drilled holes and poured salt into the holes. In a few weeks we able to take an axe and finish removing the stump.
He and his friends used to always coffee klatch in the basement drinking Pabst beer and discussing recent gossip and talking about old legends. His favorite legend was about the Bridal Wreath plant. If the plant bloomed twice in one year, its owner would die soon after. ( His Bridal Wreath plant bloomed twice shortly before he died.) There was talk of the three knocks on the door with nobody being there. There was the sight of the Pascal Lamb. If a dog was howling, it could be that its owner had died or was going to die. All of them hoped that if they died, that they would go in their sleep without any pain. When he died, he was heavily involved in his church. It is too bad that my wife and children never had a chance to meet or know my dad. I hope that the memories of your parents are sweet and enjoyable.