By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN Rob Painschab, of Howard Lake, and Elroy Boehlke, of Waverly, started working as Munson Lakes Nutrtion truck drivers 35 years ago this month.
“Having guys with this much experience working with us makes my job easier. I don’t have to worry about them, they come in and do their job,” John Zander, Munson Lakes Nutrition general manager, said. “Rob and Elroy are good employees. It is a positive for our company to have experienced guys like them on our staff.”
Boehlke was 24 years old when he started Dec. 10, 1975. Painschab was 19 years old when he started Dec. 15, 1975.
“I thought I’d only be here a short time,” Boehlke said. He had been working construction and planned to go back the following summer, but a neighbor was having health issues and needed help on the farm. He also helped his dad with painting and construction.
After that summer of helping his dad and the neighbor, Boehlke never went back to construction. “The commute to Munson’s is close. When I worked construction, I would have to drive to the other side of the cities,” he said.
Painschab had worked in water and sewer construction in the Twin Cities before starting at Munson Lake Nutrition. He had been laid off for about a month-and-a-half when he found out Munson’s was hiring. He has been working there ever since, and also mentioned the short commute to work as one of the advantages.
Both men agree they have been at Munson’s so long because it is a good place to work, with good people.
“The people are great, the farmers are great to work with I was treated well on both ends glad I stayed,” Boehlke said.
While Boehlke has remained a bachelor, Painschab married the summer before he started working at Munson’s.
Together, he and his wife, Mary Jo, raised five children while he drove truck for Munson’s Barb, Becky, Billy Jo, Rob Jr., and Sammie Jo. Mary Jo currently works as a bulk mailing technician. They also have four grandchildren.
When Painschab first started, he had a Class B license and drove the smaller trucks at Munson’s. He started driving semi-truck in 1984.
Boehlke started driving semi-truck two to three years after starting at Munson’s, hauling grain to the cities, and bringing loads of soy meal back to Howard Lake.
Over the years, Painschab and Boehlke have seen many changes. They have gone from delivering smaller amounts of feed to more than a dozen farms daily, to delivering larger amounts of feed to two or three farms daily.
The distances the men drive have also changed. Painschab was delivering to places as close as Litchfield, Forest Lake, and Cannon Falls when he first started driving semi-truck. Last Monday he drove all the way to Veblin, SD, and back, in a snowstorm.
The company has also grown a lot over the 35 years they have worked there, producing a lot more feed.
It has gone from one semi-truck and five drivers, to four semi-trucks and 10 drivers today.
The trucks used to haul the feed have changed, as well. Painschab remembers when he first started and trucks were smaller. He had to shovel the feed into the augers to unload the trucks. Now, feed is run through the auger automatically.
“The trucks are a lot more comfortable today, with air ride suspension, air ride seats, air ride shocks, and even air ride trailers,” Boehlke added.
Munson’s estimates Boehlke and Painschab have each driven over 2 million miles in the 35 years they have worked for the company, averaging 55 hours per week and 75-80,000 miles per year.
When asked if they had ever become stuck away from home in bad weather, Boehlke said he once had to spend the night at a bed-and-breakfast in Green Isle on his way to Mankato because the highway had been closed due to a storm.
“I’ve never been stuck anywhere I couldn’t get home, but a couple of years ago, I was pushing snow that was over the bumper. If I had stopped, I would have been stuck,” Painschab said.
He did have to ride in a tow-truck hauling his semi-truck from Donnelly to the Mack dealership in St. Cloud a couple years ago. He had a fuel leak that started a fire, which he put out with his fire extinguisher before the fire department arrived.
Someone picked him up in St. Cloud to give him a ride home.
Both men plan to continue working at the company until they retire. Painschab pointed out if they make it to 40 years, they’ll have been there half as long as the company has existed, which celebrated its 75th anniversary this year.