SALEM TOWNSHIP - After getting out of the Navy following a tour off the coast of Vietnam in 1970, Bill Heston took a sales job with Summerland Pole in Westville until 1975 when he was hired as a Westfalia/Surge dealer.
Heston and his wife, Judy, bought the farm they still live in on the 5400 block of Yates Road in 1969, and Bill heard from his parents that Emile Stanley, who lived over on Garfield Road, was retiring as the company's area representative.
"I met with the company and after four months of school I became a dealer in August of 1975," Bill Heston said.
Westfalia/Surge is owned by German-based GEA Farm Technologies that today is a leader with groundbreaking technology. It purchased the Westfalia/Surge Co. about 10 years ago.
The GEA website says, "The products of the former corporate brand Westfalia/Surge are still regarded as trendsetters.
"The product line Westfalia/Surge of GEA Farm Technologies are the pivot of modern milk production."
It supplies and services milking and cooling equipment including milking units, cluster positioning, pulsation, vacuum supply, liners and tubing along with the integrated hygiene products and solutions to keep any size milk operation running smoothly.
"At that time, you had a protected area," Heston said, adding that his wife soon took over the bookkeeping. He worked Mahoning, Columbiana and Jefferson counties.
Judy had worked at the First National Bank and at the Deming Co.
Bill said, "I ran the calls, she took over the books. There were more dairy farms back then, today there are fewer and fewer dealers and less protected areas.
"Westfalia/Surge and DeLaval are the two largest, along with Boumatic, the three major brands, like the Big Three automakers, Heston said.
"Surge was the first bucket-milker that hung on a strap and the milk basically surged.
Heston said, "Basically I've spent all my life doing this."
"We've seen the whole dairy industry change. In this area it's not a big deal. There are more and more employees where it used to be father-and-son."
Today, sales revolve around replacing, updating equipment and major renovations where entire milking areas are designed and integrated Westfalia/Surge equipment.
While an integrated, state-of-the-art Westfalia/Surge system is highly computerized and technology driven, Heston likes to keep customer relations on a personal basis.
"Nothing computer-wise with my customers," he said. "In most of the calls they say 'we need soap acid or teat dip,' and we keep quite an inventory. When they call at 6 p.m. or 4 a.m. you have to make it run."
Judy said, "You have to get it working one way or the other."
About that two in the morning call, Bill said, "A lot of times you can tell them to try a few things," and Judy said, "If the phone rings within a half-hour you go."
It's on call 24/7 for 365 days in basically a 25-mile radius.
Bill said a lot of dairy farms milk three times a day, and the bigger farms are once every eight hours which makes for milking at odd hours.
"If the old girl's tanks are full they feel they're making more and it's easier on the cow and they're healthier. It's very labor intensive and wears equipment out more frequently."
For some 20 year, Walt Greenamyer, the former Salem fire chief, worked for Heston.
"He worked part-time for me until he was named chief. We've been friends before we started in school. His dad and my dad were both Goshen Township trustees."
The Hestons work out of their home.
"I'm a dinosaur in the industry with Westfalia/Surge," Bill said. "The only one left, or one of only one or two left" without a storefront-type location.
But, he added, "Very few of you can call and the dealer himself will show up. We just had a 5:30 a.m. call that rang a second time at 6 p.m. Everybody's different, people milk at different time of the day. Some milk real early in the morning so they can go out in the field early - whatever works for some people. So I do everything. A lot of time it's electrical or a control-type of problem ..."
The Hestons have also been involved with Percheron horses for since 1976, and Bill holds a seat on the board of director of the Percheron Horse Association of America.
They still have five head, four males and a gelding.
"We used to show a lot," Judy said, standing by four-year-old "Rock" (short for Rocket) the last horse they registered.
Larry Shields can be reached at email@example.com