Comfort King Combine Cabs
Mike Johnson built his first combine cab as “a matter of survival” - he suffered from extreme allergies. “Hillside” wheat harvest combines used in his rolling Palouse region offered drivers no protection from sun, dirt and chaff. Some farmers were improvising shelters, but Johnson went a step further. He formed the Comfort King Cab Company in an old Colfax garage in 1968, gradually improving his models to include air conditioning and tinted and tempered windows.
Local workers helped him manufacture and install as many as 100 cabs per year, and the shop expanded to eight production line stations. Mike and Karen Johnson appreciated the area’s family farm work ethic; at one time, their family business employed four sets of local brothers. Karen kept the books and sometimes cared for employees’ children along with her own.
Mike’s inventive spirit also patented a “Hydra Hopper” to distribute fertilizer and developed a “no-till drill” that previewed today’s techniques for seeding new crops right behind the harvesting equipment. But in 1976, John Deere began producing combine models with cabs as standard equipment. Although local farmers preferred the roomier Comfort King cabs, the competition put Johnson’s company out of business within a year.
A Comfort King Combine Cab and company papers now represent regional agricultural business themes in the museum’s permanent collection.
The Inland Northwest History Moment is a collaboration of Spokane Public Radio and the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (MAC), in celebration of 100 Stories, the museum’s centennial exhibition.
Episode originally published June 16, 2014.