Sepia Saturday – Environmental Impact?

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 lived the first two years of my life at a truck stop. I might also include the time I was growing in my mother’s womb. My grandparents, Charles and Abbie Smith, owned the truck stop; I think we lived upstairs. My dad had a motorcycle business on the same property.

After my parents’ divorce, I spent every other Saturday at my grandparents’ truck stop. Saturdays were supposed to be time with my dad, but it was more fun and more appropriate for a little girl to be supervised most of the day by her grandmother. Grandma Abbie managed the inside of the truck stop – serving coffee, cooking diner fare, waiting on customers, washing dishes, selling groceries and cigarettes and whatever else truck drivers and travelers and local farmers might need or want.

I looked forward to being old enough to help my grandfather outside – pumping gas or asking customers what kind of gas they wanted. Regular or ethyl? I thought it would be funny to ask, “Lucy or Ethel?”

My mother and I lived with her parents and I spent my days following my grandmother Hoskins around and helping her. We lived in Iowa and winters were cold. During the winter, the house was primarily heated by a large coal burning heater that stood in the living room. On cold winter mornings, my grandmother would lay my clothes for the day on the coal stove to warm them, then carry them upstairs to me to ease my transition out of my warm bed into the chilly room. That’s the coal heater on the far left, although it is not the one I remember. Perhaps it was replaced for a newer model. There was an oil burning heater in the kitchen, but I don’t remember it being used as much.

This was the general pattern of my life until my mother remarried when I was seven and we moved away.

After we moved away, I spent a month every summer and every other Christmas with my father. By then, my dad had a small house on the property next to the motorcycle business. I would spend most of my days at the business – where my dad was, often hanging out in the repair shop where engines and mufflers were worked on and engines were revved to listen to the inner workings.

Sometimes I played at office work…

or played pinball (free for me!) in the show room and, when I was older, I helped assemble Hondas out of the shipping crates. We went almost everywhere by motorcycle and attended many motorcycle races and hill climbs. Sometimes my dad was a participant.

There were go-cart races on Saturday nights on the property behind the business. And I would ride a Honda 90 around and around the track on long summer days. The property itself was surrounded by cornfields.

Less than a year before my mother remarried, my grandfather Charles died of cancer. I remember him as a smoker, yet I have no memory of seeing him smoke or of any photographs that indicate that he was a smoker. Perhaps this is a false memory that a six-year-old child created after hearing that her grandfather had “three kinds of cancer,” having a vague memory of her last visit to him in his bed at home with what seemed to be a large wound in his chest, and knowing that smoking causes lung cancer and that the wound was approximately where his lungs were. I suppose I should verify my memories with someone.

I don’t have a lot of clear memories of time with my grandfather, but photographs show, and my feelings confirm, that I felt love and affection and ease with him.

I didn’t think I’d participate in Sepia Saturday this week. I was supposed to be in the hospital undergoing a complex surgery today and have had other things on my mind. But I caught a cold, had a fever two nights ago, and my surgery has been postponed. So here I am.

I didn’t know what to do with the prompt photo, but the last couple of days I’ve been pondering why I seem to be a cancer maker (three times now) when there is so little cancer in my family. One grandfather, who I would assume developed cancer due to environmental toxins. Grandpa Charles was a farmer for many years, then he purchased the truck stop and pumped gas every day. So whether or not he was a smoker (prompt photo connection), there were certainly cancer causing agents in his life. One first cousin had a lymphoma. And my mother’s sister died of cancer. That’s it. Not any of my sisters or parents or other cousins or other aunts and uncles. Just these three.

My first cancer was nothing. It was cured before it was diagnosed. I had a large nodule on my thyroid and the doctor said it had to come out whether or not there was any cancer. The biopsy confirmed cancer, but the doctor said it was so small that it could easily have been missed in the biopsy.

About five years later, I was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

The other day, something popped up on my Facebook feed about blood cancers and I decided to read it. It linked several blood cancers, including Non-Hodgkins lymphoma with exposure to benzene. Where does one find benzenes?

From The American Cancer Society:
“The highest exposures have typically been in the workplace, although these have decreased greatly over the last several decades due to federal and state regulations. Some other exposures have also gone down over time, such as the amount of benzene allowed in gasoline…
… Other people who may be exposed to benzene at work include steel workers, printers, lab technicians, gas station employees, and firefighters. Federal regulations limit exposure to benzene in the workplace …
… Areas of heavy traffic, gas stations, and areas near industrial sources may also have higher air levels …
…Cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke are important sources of exposure to benzene. Cigarette smoke accounts for about half of the exposure to benzene in the United States. Benzene levels in rooms containing tobacco smoke can be many times higher than normal.

Benzene is known to cause cancer, based on evidence from studies in both people and lab animals. The link between benzene and cancer has largely focused on leukemia and other cancers of blood cells.”

A document created by the EPA contains the following:
“Benzene is found in emissions from burning coal and oil, motor vehicle exhaust, and evaporation from gasoline service stations and in industrial solvents. These sources contribute to elevated levels of benzene in the ambient air, which may subsequently be breathed by the public.”

Other sources I read included exposure to weed killers.

I didn’t mention that I also worked for ten years with a boss who smoked like a chimney. I shared office space with her and later spent many hours in her private smoke-filled office. Once I became pregnant, I refused to go into her office.

And now, about five years after my lymphoma diagnosis, here I am with ampullary cancer – hopefully caught early enough for the primary treatment – a major abdominal surgery commonly known as a Whipple procedure. Whether I will need further treatment depends on what the surgeon finds when he gets in there.

I have no evidence that my exposures to benzene at such a young age has anything to do with my cancers, but it is something I’ve been thinking about. Perhaps there is some genetic predisposition. My family doctor suggested to me today that I should surely qualify for genetic testing with my history. (I am the only child of this union. All of my siblings are half sisters.) Perhaps there is a toxic mix – a genetic pre-disposition paired with a trigger. Who knows? Some questions have no clear answer.

In any case, I hope we can get back to protecting our environment and ourselves from the many, many toxins that impact our health.

If I’m MIA from my blog and from Sepia Saturday for a while, you know why. Once I have surgery, I’ll be in the hospital about a week and then have a another 6-8 weeks of recovery at home. Hopefully, I’ll have a brain that functions reasonably well and a level of comfort that will allow me to keep up here.

I apologize for the rather morbid content of my post, but it is what I am thinking about today.

A prompt photo that features cigarette advertisements and a building in disrepair.

Please visit other participants who have surely posted fun photos and interesting takes on the prompt by clicking this link: Sepia Saturday.

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.

Sepia Saturday – Charles’ and Abbie’s Place

Sepia Saturday provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.

When I saw this prompt, there was no doubt about what I would be sharing today. My grandparents, Charles and Abbie Webber Smith, owned a truckstop/grocery store/cafe in southeastern Iowa during the 1950s and 60s.




I categorize some of my posts as “Life at The Hedrick Y” because my grandparents’ business and home and my Dad(Jerry)’s business and sometimes his home were all located at what the locals called the Hedrick Y. This old map shows the intersection of highways 63 and 149.

The Hedrick Y

You can see a portion of the “Y” created by the intersection in this photograph.

The Y created a nice little triangular park. My grandfather built the picnic tables you can see in the lower right. That little square patch near the picnic tables was a grill where we occasionally grilled hot dogs or hamburgers.

The house on the left was my Dad(Jerry)’s. The buildings in the middle were his motorcycle  shop – storefront, mechanic’s garage, and warehouse. On the right is the truckstop/cafe/grocery store with my grandparent’s home attached on the far right. There was another little house hidden by the trees behind the truckstop. My great aunt and uncle, Norman and Irene Webber, lived there for several years. The oval track in the back is where my dad, a professional motorcycle competitor, practiced. Their property was surrounded on two sides by cornfields – not sure what’s growing on the other side.

The aerial photo above was taken after major rebuilding, so let’s look at a few older pictures….

I lived the first two years of my life at the Hedrick Y. That’s a trophy sitting on the counter in front of my mom. It must have been a good day for my dad.

I tried to zoom in on the signs by the door into the kitchen, but I never could read the small print on the one that says KEEP OUT OF THE KITCHEN. The one on the upper right of the door says: We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. And the sign above the cigarettes: LUCKIES TASTE BETTER!

Mom and me at the lunch counter 1953

When I was a month old, my mom, grandmother, grandfather, and great-grandmother all took a picture with me sitting in the same spot in front of a brick post. I won’t bore you with all 4 pictures – nor the one with Kay, the dog.

Grandpa Charles and Me

It looks like there was a grocery delivery that day – lots of boxes in the background. Abbie did a lot of handwork, including crochet. The large doily hanging on the post was probably one she made.

And here I am in my baby buggy right by the Conoco oil display…

What is that?

Those must be Grandpa’s Conoco overalls hanging by the door. Grandma’s sewing machine is in the background… guess she did some sewing when there were no customers.

And I’m trying to figure out what the contraption is on the wall by the door…

Unfortunately, I cut away part of the picture below when I was a kid. I wanted the picture to fit in my wallet. I wish I hadn’t done that. The rest of the sign might have been in the picture.

Me and Mom in hats

I’m guessing this was Easter 1954. Even after the original building was torn down, the water pump on the far left remained. I enjoyed pumping water. Of course, I was a kid, and we didn’t really need to pump water any more. A game to me that I am sure had been a chore to my elders.


There were advantages to spending my days at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s. I believe I must be oohing and ahhing over some sweet treats.

Hugs from Grandpa… who might have a little grease on him sometimes. I’m including this unfortunately blurry picture because of the Joe Lewis poster which has replaced Grandma’s doily on the brick post.

Oh my – now that I’ve started I don’t know where to stop! I think I have at least another 3 posts worth of pictures and stories to go. I’ll just finish up briefly and try to do the rest on another day or three.

I don’t really have any memories of the place at this young age. And, although I only lived here for two years, the Hedrick Y remained a big part of my life for much longer. I spent every other Saturday at the Y as a little girl, and when Mom remarried and we moved away, I came back for a month every summer and alternate Christmases. I do have a lot of memories of those days.

So I’ll close with just a couple more pictures…

Out with the old


In with the new

And many more years of memories…

Saturday morning cartoons


Helping Grandma cook

I shared a few memories of my Grandmother Abbie and the Hedrick Y in one of my first posts.

More later.

Please visit other Sepia Saturday participants. They are always interesting and entertaining.