Oct 012011

“I probably built the first recumbent bike ever made,”

Bob Boyer has always had trouble sleeping. He wakes up at 4 a.m., he says, and he starts thinking about things. Perhaps it’s that restless mind that has been his greatest asset in a life spent in manufacturing and invention.

The Newton native has had several patents approved throughout the years — during his time at Maytag, and afterward — and now, at a time when he could be comfortably retired, Boyer still employs one person and is busy manufacturing a form of recumbent bicycle. He holds a patent on that as well.

Boyer started working at Maytag in 1955, when he was still in high school. When he graduated a year later, he was working as a janitor and when he put in for a skilled trade, Maytag told him he didn’t have his military duty out of the way yet. So, he joined the Navy, where he was educated in electronics and radar systems at an Air Force base in Biloxi, Miss. From there he went to Hawaii, where he served on Admiral Moor’s staff.

When he got back to Newton, Maytag was laying off employees, so he worked for a short time in Oskaloosa and attended a Sears heating and air conditioning school. When he got back to Maytag, he started in the porcelain department during the evenings, and attended classes at Drake University during the daytime. Perhaps that’s when his insomnia began.

Boyer and his wife built their own home on Gun Club Road, and Boyer Manufacturing sits nearby, where he manufactured a tube mill for constructing metal gates and bale rings. The process could auto-weld the metal to the right size and paint them, with the dried finished product coming out the other end.

During the farm crisis of the 70s, Boyer was selling his gates at a fair in Nebraska when he got interested in cattle waterers. His booth was next to Ritchie Company’s booth, and while he was selling his gates, Ritchie’s waterers were receiving little interest. Ritchie employees approached Boyer to help them sell their waterers, and he felt that he could devise a waterer just as good as theirs. The Ritchie people felt he was wrong, so the challenge was on. Boyer not only developed a new, energy-free waterer, but got a patent on it as well. He ended up selling his waterer to Ritchie for guaranteed royalties.

By this time, Boyer was the head of metal fabrication at Maytag in 1970, and when he retired in 1985, he began his home manufacturing full-time.

“That’s when things really took off,” Boyer said. “I had seven employees making gates and bale rings.”

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