|2/1/2013 9:56:00 AM|
Cheesemaker celebrates a half century in the business.
|Cheesemaker Everett Henning celebrates 50 years in the business.|
Everett Henning, 80, is celebrating a half century in the cheese making business.
Everett took over the Henning Cheese Factory in 1963 following the death of his father Otto. At that time the factory stood at the intersection of Point Creek and Wilke roads.
Otto was raised on a dairy farm and at the age of 18 in the year 1914 took over the cheese factory. According to Everett, Otto first worked for the original owner named Hingiss who eventually told Otto he wanted to leave the business. He encouraged Otto to take the short course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on becoming a licensed cheese maker, which Otto did.
Everett shared a bit of milk and whey trivia: Otto, who became a licensed cheese maker, had a brother who took over the family dairy farm and two sisters who married cheese makers. Another close relative also became a cheese maker.
Cheddar and Colby fan
In case the reader is wondering, Everett loves cheese, especially two and three year old Cheddar, and Colby (which ages faster) at three or four months or six months when it tastes even better. Colby has one to two percent more moisture than Cheddar, Everett said.
When this writer told Everett that his favorite cheese is a very aged brick, Everett recommended the aged brick on rye found at the Sheboygan County Fair.
Proud of his son Kerry's award winning cheese making abilities, Everett said his son is back to putting the Colby in a cheese cloth hoop, which was the traditional way of curing it. Kerry earned a world champion designation for his Colby a few months ago. And stepping away from that achievement for a moment, Kerry has lots of customers fond of his new flavored cheeses as well.
Before Otto married he lived above the cheese factory and one of his sisters served as his housekeeper. After marrying, Otto and his bride built a two story house next to the cheese factory for which he paid $4,000 and it was in that house that Everett and his four sisters were raised.
Working at the factory
During his grammar and high school years Everett devoted his youthful energies performing routine tasks at the cheese factory before and after school. One of his before high school duties was to remove the cheese from their forms, put them in the cooler room, wash the forms and put fresh cheese cloths back into the forms. He had to get this task done before the school bus came down the road.
The cheese factory stood on a one-acre parcel which enabled the family to have a large garden where among other things oodles of potatoes were raised. Everett's job was to squash the potato bugs, do the hoeing, and eventually dig up the potatoes. His family also raised chickens, ducks and rabbits. Feeding, collecting their eggs and butchering the chickens, roosters and ducks brought back images of his boyhood. He said the eggs were delivered to the Riverside Grocery in Kiel in exchange for groceries. Because they were so cute and cuddly, Everett never had the heart to butcher a rabbit. While city slickers shudder when they witness a chicken running about the yard after its head was chopped off spewing blood everywhere, Everett explained the loss of blood in that instance was important to prevent blood from collecting in the meat. When a restaurant prepares chicken and the thigh or drumstick is black in color you know the blood did not exit as it should have, he said.
Everett said before the year 1970 his father made cheese seven days a week. In those days the milk was brought to the factory in large milk cans, each carrying 86 pounds of milk. The milk had to be processed the same day, otherwise it would spoil. They had no way to cool it, he said.
In all kinds of conditions
Everett remembers well the milk cans being transported by dairy farmers in trucks and when the roads were badly snow-covered by horse and sleigh. He does not remember milk being carried in milk wagons and regrets that not many photographs exist depicting that.
As a young guy Everett recalls that if he would have had his druthers, he would have preferred to be on a dairy farm than at a cheese factory. He remembers well helping neighbors and uncles pick stones, doing haying, picking beans, putting harnesses on the work horses and driving the team of horses. He also recalls milking cows by hand at the farms where milking machines did not yet exist.
In the fall of the year he helpd the butchering crew, joining his dad and uncles who traveled to one another's places to harvest pigs. His job was to catch the pigs and bring them to the slaughter house for their final oink.
As a young boy, Everett attended Fountain Park School which was located one mile east of his home. As he recalls, there were 23 kids making up grades one to eight in the one-room schoolhouse. In the morning he and a younger sister made their own lunch. Peanut butter and jam were their favorites but in the fall of the year they pampered themselves with sausage and head cheese sandwiches. Sometimes they ate lard sandwiches. "I could not bite into one of those today," Henning said. Sandwiches were generally made with homemade bread. A special treat was bread from Roeck's bakery in Kiel.
They usually walked to school carrying a lunch pail (some kids carried their lunch in syrup pails) and books (especially math books) from which they did homework the night before. Having learned well basic mathematics, to this day Henning's pet peeve is young people who can't make change without a calculator.
Could touch phone lines
Despite the fact that his dad owned a car when he was a youngster, it was rare that he and his sister got a ride to school in their father's Chrysler or '36 Chevy. When the winter snows piled up on each side of the road they liked walking on the hard-crusted snow banks and could touch the telephone wires. Poles in those days were not as high as they are today, he explained. On very frigid days, outfitted with golashes and long johns for their walk, they would thaw out from the heat of the stove in the one-room schoolhouse and the bake oven at home.
Before school started a daily task in winter was to fill the one-room school's wood box and get the stove going and that was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. At the end of the school day students were assigned to clean the blackboards and carry out the stove's ashes. Henning said there was no electricity in the town of Schleswig schoolhouse he attended. There were windows on both sides of the schoolhouse letting in plenty of natural light. In contrast to nearby Hillside Grove School, his school lacked modern conveniences. There was, however, an artesian well around which was built a pump house where nice cold water flowed. "We had to walk five or six steps down into the well house, and bend over to drink water flowing from a pipe," he said.
Boy and girl bathrooms were built on each side of the school's entry. But kids did not like using them because the borborygmus sounds came through the thin walls producing giggles from students in the classroom.
Henning was in seventh or eighth grade when World War II ended. But he remembers clearly collecting milkweed pods that were used in making parachutes. Rations on meat, sugar, tires, cheese and butter meant for shop owners filling out endless paperwork on how much and where the items went. Red and green tokens served as change given back to the customer. Everett said his dad's cheese factory made butter for a while but the accompanying paperwork was discouraging so he quit making butter.
After graduating from Kiel High School, Henning had brief stints working at Kohler Co. as a painter and then Hart Carter, New Holstein (later named Tecumseh Products) for 80 cents and later 85 cents an hour. Shortly afterwards he was drafted. He served in the Army's artillery division during the Korean War and was stationed on Okinawa defending the air base there which housed B-29 bombers.
After his discharge from the Army Henning returned home working days at the cheese factory and nights at Tecumseh Products.
Today, like cheese, Everett is aging well and each week spends select hours at the Henning Cheese Factory, doing public relations.