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.
It is not every auto service center that has a pug dog lounging in his own snug chair, or a Hammond organ behind the counter.
Jim's Auto Center, 4264 S. Packard Avenue, has both. "Solomon", the dog, is usually quiet and the organ is too, unless owner Jim Neldner get a notion to play a few bars.
He plays well; his practiced ear teases unusual chords out of the keyboard, with music like "Deep Purple" and "Moonglow" bringing back memories of the sixties.
Neldner has played since he was 12, and he was good enough as a teenager to join "The Originals", a rhythm and blues band that played forCatholic Youth Organization and other events. When Otis Redding played at the Eagles Ballroom in Downtown Milwaukee, The Originals were Redding's opening band. One year they won the Battle of the Bands at the Milwaukee Arena.
But the draft of the Vietnam War broke up the band. In 1969, Neldner was drafted into the 196th Infantry Brigade of the U.S. Army's Americal Division. and served overseas from July of that year until February, 1971.
Duane Stuermer, a St. Francis friend, offered him contacts so he could get into special services and perform for the Armed Forces, but Neldner turned him down, because the stint would mean a longer saty in the army. He finished in five more months, and on May 5, 1973 married Mylene Krueger of St. Francis. The couple has two boys and two girls.
Betsy Rourke, their daughter, told her father she was donating her Hammond organ to a church, and that was fine with him. She surprised him by shipping it to the auto center for Jim to play.
Music--and auto mechanics--have been the two contrasting passions in Jim's life. They've come together at the service center and Jim says, " I really intend to practice my music"
This story was written by Mary Becker. She retired many years ago as a writer for CNI Newspapers. Her columns have appeared in all of the South Shore publications over time. She is 90 years young and is a great person to know. She has been the key person for southside news over the years.