I’m so glad I grew up with the freedom of living in a small town. During the ’50’s and ’60’s I didn’t have the run of the town, but close to it. My town was safe. I was safe. I lost some of those freedoms after Larry died. Mom was a little over-protective. But there were still many things I could do. I guess we were free-range kids back then. There was no cell phone app to keep track of our every move 24/7. We played outside as long as it was light out and weather permitted. Folks were pretty lenient too about the weather part, considering it was northwest Iowa. We headed home when the whistle blew.
|Me strolling Cindy Schmidt, 1957…|
Along with being able to play outside unattended, I had the advantage of practically living in downtown Rock Valley. About a block and a half away was our big metropolis shopping district. Which was about 4 blocks long. Main Street was extremely wide, with stores on both sides. Plus stores down the side streets. Smack dab in the middle of these thriving stores was our one stoplight. (The inspiration for the name of my blog). Keeping heavy traffic moving. (Heavy as in tractors) It was an awesome town of about 2,500. It’s now at least doubled in population. Since we were pretty far from any big city, (Sioux City was about 60 miles south, Sioux Falls about 45 miles west) our various stores met most of our needs.
|The stop light in the middle of our very busy town…|
Included in the mix of grocery, hardware, bank, restaurants, bakery, even a movie theater were the businesses of 2 very important men in my young life. Each had an office at the tail end of our shopping mecca. I’ll start off with our town dentist, Dr. Jim Schroeder. When I was in elementary school, every fall, each class would line up at school, walk the 3 plus blocks to Dr. Schroeder’s office. Our whole class. Every year. I don’t know if he had some kind of contract with the district or not. I always assumed he volunteered his services. Great way to increase his business, but it was a lot of work too. One class at a time. His waiting room was small with a few steps once you got inside the door. There was hardly room for 20 plus kids to sit, so we all just stood quietly in line (‘cept Neese) waiting our turn. It didn’t take Doc very long. I don’t remember him having any help in writing down all the information when doing this large scale of kid teeth checking. Either I brought home a card or Doc mailed postcards stating what kind of condition my teeth were in.
|My favorite dentist, Doc Schroeder, late 1950’s…|
Unfortunately I never had good teeth. Which would mean Mom needed to follow up on his report. Fortunately I loved Doc Schroeder. And my parents had enough money to have my teeth worked on constantly. He was a wonderful man. From the time I was 8 or so, I went to the dentist to have Doc work on my teeth all by myself. I loved watching him work from that beautiful dark wood (maybe walnut) dental cabinet. It had a marble top and was almost shoulder high for Doc. All those little drawers with the cute knobs. And he knew exactly which drawer held just the right tool for Neese’s tooth problems. I’d give my eye teeth (sorry Doc, bad choice of words, plus I can’t afford to lose any more teeth. You’re probably surprised I’ve still got this many) to have his dental cabinet sitting in my house.
When I was about 11 I got a terrible tooth ache. Mom called Doc and made an appointment. I stayed home from school cause my mouth was very swollen. Doc had some bad news. I had an abscessed tooth. One of my permanent front teeth had to be pulled. Either this was before root canals or Doc didn’t have the training to do this procedure yet, which I find hard to believe. Mom was called in to talk it over. Doc recommended having a false tooth which would be bridged to the next tooth. Holding this bridge in place was gold. Holy moly. The cost was $60. A lot of money. Mom asked if she could make 5 dollar payments. Doc said that would be fine. I was quite a celebrity for about 3 minutes when I showed up at school with a tooth surrounded by gold. Pretty flashy. I never ever had any fear when I had to go see Doc Schroeder. To this day, I’d still rather see the dentist than the doctor.
|About the time of my abscessed tooth. Neese and nephew (ha-ha) Brian, 1962…|
Since I’ve lost so much of my hearing, my wacko brain didn’t know how to cope with my ever growing silent world. So my (strange) brain started making up its own noise to make up for all the sounds I don’t hear. One of my most consistent and constant sounds for the last several years is the high pitched noise of a dentist’s drill. Doc’s drill. Although the noise is enough to drive me insane at times, I have to smile when I think of my favorite dentist, Doc Schroeder.
Even more important was one of our home town doctors. Dr. Lester Hegg. I was devastated to learn that he did not deliver me. All my Mom’s fault. The year was 1950. Rock Valley did not have its own hospital yet. I think Rock Rapids, Le Mars and maybe Sioux Center did. Dr. Hegg wanted to deliver babies in the hospital. Mom had my older sister and brother at home and did not want to go to a hospital to have me. About 6 months pregnant, she switched to an older guy named Dr. Lock, assuring another home delivery. Wasn’t very long though after my birth that our family physician was again Dr. Hegg. Some of those years Doc Hegg was the only physician in town. Back then if you needed a surgeon, OB-GYN, urologist, orthopedic specialist or an ER with the highest qualifications in the world, Doc Hegg was your man. He preformed surgery in his office. One of my friends got hit with a shovel accidentally when she was a toddler. Almost cut off her nose. Her family rushed her to Doc Hegg’s office just as he was leaving for the day. Opened the office back up, put Betty to sleep with ether, and carefully stitched back her nose. Perfect. He was so proud he would call her house when he had other doctors visiting in town. Ask Betty to come to his house to show off her perfect little nose. Always giving her a quarter when she showed up.
Since his office was a few buildings north of Doc Schroeder’s office, I went to see Doc Hegg by myself too. Doc took out Mona’s and Larry’s tonsils in his office, but I was just a baby, so I missed out on that little ether party. I was sick quite a bit when I was a kid. I would stay home from school with another throat infection. Mom was at work just a few blocks away. She’d call during the day, and come home for lunch, but I usually stayed by myself when I was sick after I was about 8. Before that I would stay with my neighbor Bessie Jacobs. She loved me and I adored her.
|Dr. Hegg’s office, Rock Valley, Iowa. 1950’s…|
Anyway I knew darn well when I went to Doc Hegg’s office I would be getting a penicillin shot. Which I really didn’t want. But I was feeling so lousy by then, it was almost a relief to get the shot cause I’d start feeling better right away. Didn’t have to call for an appointment either. Doc Hegg had a one story brick building. When you walked in the door you were in the waiting room. U-shaped upholstered seating along 3 walls. No sign in sheet. You sat nearest the door you just walked in, and slowly slid your way to another door. Doc would crack open the door and say, “who’s next?” As that lucky soul went in, you slid a little closer to the doc-who-could-fix-it-all-door. Once in awhile an emergency would warrant someone cutting in line. John’s dad had a hunk of steel fall on his hand, cutting off most of his pinkie. Someone from Van Zee’s wrapped up his hand and dropped him off at Hegg’s office. Jim slid in last place to wait his turn. Soon it was apparent by the dripping blood on the floor that Jim should go next when Doc opened the door.
|Dr. Hegg and wife Palma, 1955…|
Doc didn’t always have the best bedside manner. He was rather gruff, and didn’t talk much. Constant cigarette hanging from his mouth or adorning the edge of one of his cabinets. (This was the late ’50’s and early ’60’s. Smoking was still being endorsed in advertising by doctors on TV) If Mom was along for the office visit, he didn’t always look at her when he talked. His eyes would peer at the ceiling as he was making his diagnosis. He knew everybody’s name in town, but in the office he’d often just say, “well Mrs., Denise has tonsillitis. I’ll give her a shot of penicillin. She’ll feel better in a day or so. Think about getting those tonsils taken out.” Then Mom would ask how much she owed and Doc would say 3 bucks.
Since Rock Valley did not yet have a hospital, I believe most of his patients that needed hospitalization went to Le Mars, about 35 miles away. It was a beautiful fall Saturday and Doc was just coming back from checking on his hospital patients. There was an unusual traffic jam about a mile from Rock Valley on Hi-way 18. Doc stopped, hopped out of the car, running ahead, and stumbled on the accident when my 12 year old brother Larry had just been hit by a car. Not much for Doc Hegg, the miracle worker to do that day though. Larry had been killed instantly.
|One of Larry’s last school pictures…|
Dr. Hegg was instrumental in getting Rock Valley our first swimming pool. He felt it was detrimental to a child’s well-being to swim in our dirty sand pit with a herd of cattle nearly. He was a faithful, beloved servant to our town and surrounding area for decades. Rarely took any time off. Always ready for an emergency.
|Beloved Doc Hegg near the end of his career….|
Doc Hegg was the first recipient of the Man of the Year award in Rock Valley. He was held in the highest esteem and loved by the residents he served for so many years. I don’t think he lived to see Rock Valley’s hospital completed. I sure hope before he passed away he knew the hospital would be named in his honor. Hegg Memorial Hospital. I’m lucky and proud that I was one of his (frequent) patients when I was a kid. Thanks Doc…