Sepia Saturday – Stunt Man on a Bike

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

M. D. Webber

Sitting outside Charles’ and Abbie’s place along highway 63 in southeastern Iowa, my dad and his grandfather, Myron D. Webber, were enjoying a quiet chat one evening. The sun had set and they watched the few cars that passed by as they talked. The truck stop was situated between corn fields at a junction of two highways. Grandfather sat cross-legged in one of the metal lawn chairs in front. He had a stately appearance – tall and thin, with a handlebar mustache. A Baptist preacher by calling and profession, he supported his large family doing plastering on the side. 

The quiet was broken by the sound of a motorcycle approaching. This was nothing unusual. My dad owned a business on this same property where he sold and repaired motorcycles and he did his best to encourage his neighbors to enjoy the benefits of motorcycle ownership.

Unlike the other vehicles that had passed by, this one did not have its headlights on. The lights from the truck stop brought the approaching motorcycle into view. A ladder stood upright toward the rear of the bike. The “driver” of the bike was on the ladder. His female assistant let loose a few helium-filled balloons and the man on the ladder pulled a pistol from his holster and shot them.

Grandfather Webber turned to my dad and said, “Gerald, isn’t that against the law?”

One could come to varying conclusions about my Great-grandfather’s comment. Was this event “lost on him” as my dad said when he told me the story? Was this a display of grandfather’s dry sense of humor, as another cousin remembers him having? Or was grandfather trying to subtly discourage my father from imitating the man – as another cousin suggested – because Dad raced motorcycles and liked to do some crazy things… ?

I heard this story for the first time a couple of weeks ago when I called my dad(Jerry) to ask him some questions about my grandparents’ truck stop. (Carrying Bricks) The man shooting balloons from a ladder on a motorcycle in the dark was motorcycle stunt rider Putt Mossman. I had never heard of him before, so I did an internet search and sure enough, the memory my dad shared with me is exactly the kind of trick riding that Putt Mossman performed. Putt had stopped in to dad’s motorcycle shop on a few occasions. When he came down the road that night, Dad knew exactly who it was.

Putt Mossman was born in 1906 and grew up on a farm outside Eldora, Iowa. His first claim to fame was as a horseshoe pitcher. He won the state title in 1924 and, at the age of 18, the world title that same summer. He repeated this achievement in 1925. Putt also designed a uniform for horseshoe throwing and designed and patented a special horseshoe for competition.

Putt Mossman seems like a man who was always on the move and always trying something new. And maybe always looking for a way to earn some cash. Besides his accomplishments in horseshoe pitching, he also earned a world title in high kicking, pitched semi-pro baseball, and was a junior lightweight boxer. My dad described Putt as a short, strong guy who could stand on your living room floor, squat down, and jump up and touch the ceiling with his feet.

As Putt Mossman is said to have told the story, he got his first motorcycle at age 20 and did his first stunt (standing up on the seat) a couple of days after he got it to impress some young ladies who caught his eye.

He did some motorcycle racing, but was known more for his stunt work. He performed in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia and New Zealand. I won’t attempt a biography of his life, but will share a few more photos.

He kept a busy schedule

Ladder and fancy exhaust


He took some spills over the years, broke some bones, received some burns, but rarely missed a show.

A bigger gun than he used while riding past my dad and grandfather.

In darkness on a motorcycle between two walls of fire.

Putt Mossman also did stunt work in Hollywood. He always seems to be wearing a shirt with the horseshoe logo he designed.

Jumping into the Pacific Ocean for Universal Studios

One of Putt Mossman’s last performances was on the Johnny Carson show. You can tell he is quite the talker. I think I read that he was scheduled for just a 10 minute interview, but Johnny kept him on longer. The interview starts at the 19:00 mark. Be sure to watch past the commercial breaks. There is a studio film of him doing stunts in 1931 after the first break and the bit with him throwing horseshoes is after the second break. True Johnny Carson.

I’ll end with a couple of family photos. My dad doing a Hill Climb competition in 1953
Dad in the 1955 Iowa State Championship race.

He did a few stunts too, but not as extreme as Putt Mossman.

And here is Great Grandfather Webber, posing on a motorcycle.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday. Please visit others who participated by clicking here: Sepia Saturday. And join in! We’d love to have you participate.

Sepia Saturday – Carrying Bricks

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

I’ll start here.

Granted, it says blocks, not bricks, but let’s not be picky. I don’t know who Sherrely (?) is, but here she is carrying a cement block.

Next …

My grandfather unloading blocks from the back of a pickup truck.

I believe I have successfully matched the theme. I could stop here, but I’ll try to piece together a stack of photos from this time and place.

The photographs above were developed in September 1956. The “set” spans August 1956 – February 1957. The location is the junction of highways 63 and 149 in southeastern Iowa. The subject is the construction of a new and improved truck stop owned and operated by my grandparents, Charles and Abbie Smith. My grandmother did a fair job of documenting the event in photographs and I appreciate her effort. She left a few notes, but I wish there were more.

I’ve written about my grandparents’ truck stop and home a couple of times before, all responses to Sepia Saturday prompts, of course!
Charles’ and Abbie’s Place
One Moment Please
Signs of the Times

This is what the place looked like in 1950.

There had been some remodeling prior to 1956, but this project involved tearing down the old building and replacing it with a new one. They constructed the new building adjacent to the old one and continued to live and work in the old one as long as they could.

A photo dated August 17 shows what I suppose is the frame for the foundation.

And one dated August 19 shows me playing in sand that now filled the frame.

I spent lots of Saturdays with my dad(Jerry) and grandparents at the Hedrick Y, so I show up in several photos and can only speculate about how valuable my contributions were. There are a few other photos from August that depict life inside the truck stop.

My cousins and me drinking orange juice at the lunch counter.

And me, shining my grandmother’s shoes.

A little peek into the living quarters.

And my cousin nursing her “sick” mother. She did become a nurse, by the way.

Grandma Abbie wrote on the back of some photos, so from here on, I’ll use her words as captions when I can.

Sherely Hammond and
Ward Rhodes truck
load of sand

How did that tractor get in there? Did Great Uncle Norman come up with the plan?

Norman troubling

A makeshift ramp

Lewis Jacobs

Made it!

Another load of sand

I believe cement came next.

Loyd Burgas
hauling cement

This looks like my dad(Jerry) kneeling in front, my grandfather bending over, and possibly Sherely Hammond (identified in other photos) on the right. I don’t know who the man on the left is.

working with cement

One more photo from the “September” batch.

October found me hard at work.

too much work for such a small gal

My grandmother typed up a couple of notes about the progress in October.

Let’s see if I can match any photos to her notes.

Around Oct. 4th. “They finished the walls except above the windows.

Wall with windows and door frame

” Oct. 5th Charles fell from a platform on the north side of the bldg. Norman pulled nails all day.” There is no photograph of my grandfather having fallen from a platform, but there are a couple of pictures that look rather precarious. I don’t know which is the north side.

Someone on the roof. It could be my grandfather.

This doesn’t look very safe.

“Oct. 8th was the last of the blocks that was set.”  No photograph seems to depict the last block being set, but several show continued progress on the new building.

Wait. Maybe I set the last block?

“Lucy and Mary and I carried all the things from upstairs. Kathy Raye came out and asked what was wrong with the upstairs and I took her up to see.” I don’t find a photo of the upstairs or their belongings outside, except for the phone.

“From there on until the 10th they tore down on the old bldg.”

“The 10th they started on the new roof.”

“Norman still tearing on the old house. Kathy R. and Judy picked up nails. Charles, Gerald working on the new bldg.”

I have vague memories of hanging out during all of this. My only relatively clear memory is of picking up nails. I think I used some kind of magnet-on-a-stick tool. The nails went in the box.

“That night Hammonds came and we really moved out the old bldg. into the new.

Abbie’s notes continued on a second card.

I don’t know if this note comes before or after the previous one, but I’ll guess after – even though it seems like there were some windows in, but not the door. Looks like Uncle Norman just inside the doorway. The building on the left is my dad’s motorcycle business. It says “Indian Sales” on the front.

Hopefully they weren’t trying to sleep here with all that lumber to trip over – although I imagine it would deter thieves. And I’d like to acknowledge that it can be pretty chilly at night in Iowa in October.

I’m sure my grandparents needed to be frugal and reuse as much as possible. Some of those nails Norman pulled and I collected were probably reused. And this door, yet to be installed, is from the old building.

My birthday fell in the middle of October when all of this moving out and tearing down was happening, yet there are pictures of us celebrating in the house. Maybe we celebrated early?

These might be pictures of the house being torn down. Although some of them were printed in January, my grandmother wrote October 29 on the back.

It looks like Grandma didn’t take any more film to be developed until January and February. Things were finished by then on the outside

And the inside

Ethel or Lucy? (When I was little I thought it was funny that one type of gas was Ethyl.)

Taking a break.

This photo appeared in the Oskaloosa Daily Herald on 30 Jan 1957.

I called my Dad today to try to fill in some gaps, but he will be 91 in two days and just doesn’t remember the details any more. I did get a little background information from him though.

Charles and Abbie had been farming for years. Prior to moving to the Hedrick Y, they were farming in north central Iowa, near the town of Clarion. Tenant farming might be the best description of their situation. They rented the land and farmed it. When they sold their product, 50% of the value of the crop went to the landowner. My grandfather owned his farm equipment.

In 1946, my grandparents sold their farm equipment and took out a loan from a bank in Richland, Iowa to purchase the land and business at the Hedrick Y in southeastern Iowa. Not long after my Dad graduated from high school that year (he stayed in Clarion to finish out the school year), he rode his motorcycle to California to visit his grandmother. While he was away, he says there was a fire that destroyed the building. He doesn’t know anything else about it since he wasn’t there. Pictures show the 1956 building looked much like the original, but with some modifications. Perhaps the damage was not that extensive and they were able to remodel rather than rebuild after the fire.

Dad recognized the names my grandmother noted on the pictures – neighbors from nearby farms and the town of Fremont. The Hammond sisters, he said, stayed with my grandparents for a month when their parents went to California and they never forgot it. He assumes that is why they were around helping so much.

There are more pictures of the Hedrick Y and I have many fond memories of time spent there, but those are for another day as this has gone on nearly as long as a construction project.

Please visit other Sepia Saturday participants and see what they have built around the theme.

Sepia Saturday – Signs of the Times

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the weekly Linky List, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun. Click here to pay a visit:  Sepia Saturday

This week’s prompt photo features advertisements painted on the side of a building. I have a photo for this!

My grandparents, Charles and Abbie (Webber) Smith owned a truck stop in southeastern Iowa at the junction of highways 63 and 149. This intersection, near the small town of Hedrick, was known locally as the Hedrick Y. A previous post, Charles’ and Abbie’s Place, provides a view of the “Y” and a little more of this family story (including me as a baby).

The photograph below, dated 1950, provides a glimpse of the advertisements painted on the side of the building. My grandmother’s handwriting identifies the date and names.

A closer look reveals the names “Smith & Smith” at the top. The next line is unreadable. And below center is an advertisement for Robin Hood Flour.

My mom and I are in the photo below, most likely taken at Easter 1954. We are standing in front of the same wall, which has been painted over, although the original paint still show through. I guess my grandpa wasn’t concerned with the need for an additional coat of paint. A metal sign has been added to the roof – featuring a Coca-cola bottle and my grandparent’s names, Charles & Abbie. The water pump is visible in both pictures, and it looks like a TV antenna now rises above the chimney. A Conoco sign is visible in the background, indicating that there had been a change from the Sinclair Petroleum franchise.

A Joe Lewis poster had a prominent place on a post inside. Unfortunately the photo is blurry. I searched for a poster like it on the internet, but came up empty.

The picture below was taken during demolition of the building, which had undergone some changes from the previous photo. The roof line is different and the photo shows the opposite side of the building, now minus the attached garage. The second door and a window had also been eliminated.

There is another advertisement for Robin Hood Flour (Milled from ????). Maybe it says “Milled from Washed Wheat,” as shown on the sign at right. Also on the side of the building: “Smith & Smith” and “Gasoline.”

I love that the business was named equally for my grandmother and grandfather. Running the business was certainly a joint effort.

That looks like my grandfather on the roof.

A new building replaced the original and my final photograph of Charles’ and Abbie’s truck stop is of a couple of posters visible inside the new digs. One promotes Marlboro cigarettes for women and I think the other is for Kool cigarettes. A local girl used to come and play with me when I was there and we are enjoying the benefits of life at a truck stop.

The photograph below does not include any signage. There must have been a lot of rain some time during or before August of 1958, as this picture shows some minor flooding on the property. The building is a little house that sat behind the truck stop. My great aunt and uncle lived there for several years.

I included this because water and flooding have been much on our minds. Austin, TX has been under a boil water order for several days now due to flooding to the north and west of us that damaged and destroyed homes and lots of property, overfilled the Highland Lakes in central Texas, and overloaded our water treatment facilities. We have been taxed with doing what we can to conserve water and treat our own water for drinking and cooking.

And this happened.

We had stored some water jugs in the closet years ago, so have been putting them to good use. I got one out and noticed it was leaking. I got out this sun tea jar (advertisement on it, so this actually fits the theme!) and began to transfer the water from the jug to the jar. And then…. Ack!!!

I wondered if drinking scorpion infused tea would give me super powers. I chose not to test it out.

Being under a boil water order and the necessity of conserving water to get out from under it certainly makes a person more mindful. We hope the restrictions will be lifted late tomorrow.