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Super Service Station
Lyon Super Service Station in McDermitt, Nevada, ca. 1925. Photographer unknown.
The couple standing on the left are JM and Inga Lyon; Joe Lyon, Jr. is third from the right.
Others in the photograph are difficult to identify with certainty.

During the past few years, I've enjoyed the good fortune of seeing the publication of the book that chronicles the amazing journey of my two uncles, Arthur Lyon and Joe Lyon Jr, from Manhattan to Managua by automobile in 1930, come to fruition. It was North America's first transnational automobile trip by anyone. In the process, I gained an appreciation of the important role of the family's auto-repair and trucking business in making the epic trip possible, along with their subsequent other major professional and business opportunities. I want to share my thoughts about the ways in which the Lyon Super Service Station, based in McDermott, Nevada (see photo), served as a pivotal location in the formation of Arthur and Joe Jr., as individuals and as a team, equipping them for the journey to Central America and for the rest of their fascinating lives.

To set the stage for the eventual founding of the Lyon Super Service Station, I'll share a bit of family lore. In 1889, my grandfather, Joseph McClurg ("JM") Lyon, was fourteen years old and the oldest of six children. Toward the end of his life, he dictated to my grandmother the story of the family's move west in that year. He noted that his maternal grandfather had " . . . made a business of escorting wagon trains to the Grande Ronde Valley near Salem, Oregon." At that time, the family was living in southern Missouri, where they ran a grist mill along Spring Branch, which empties into Beaver Creek at a point approximately ten miles southwest of Ava in Douglas County. JM recalled that his father, Irvan, " . . . traded the mill to Johnnie Cox for two mules, a horse, and some money, and we headed west." As for many who pulled up stakes and moved west, the trip was filled with adventure, danger, and loss. JM recalled that, at one point in the next few months, he fell ill with typhoid fever, and while he was delirious the baby of the family, Lewis, died of spinal meningitis.

The ensuing several years saw the Irvan Lyon family making frequent moves, mostly involving employment opportunities. The family spent much of the time in northern California, then settled in the small mining town of Pearl, Idaho, where the first three children of JM and Inga (Johnson) Lyon's children were born. (Arthur, then my father, Kelly, and then Joe Jr. were born in Pearl. The youngest son, Glenn, was born in National, Nevada, and the youngest child, Eloise, was born in Boise.) From what can be gleaned from JM's account, several of the jobs his father held, often for brief periods of time, had to do with transportation, hauling logs and other freight. Some jobs JM held were involved with mining as well, and, as the years rolled on, the context of the family's lives revolved mostly around the mining and transportation industries. I believe that, as a result, Arthur and Joe acquired the requisite mechanical skills for a journey such as theirs and that, in addition, the traits of adventure, opportunity, confidence, and mutual support and encouragement were infused into Arthur and Joe Jr.

In 1910, JM and Inga moved the family to the mining town of National, Nevada, which lay against the western slope of a mountain range north of Winnemucca. The gold mine there was considered to be one of the richest in the world. JM worked as a barber and postmaster and dabbled in mining. In 1918, after the National Mine died, the family moved to the town of McDermitt, Nevada, which lies to the north of the former location of National, on the border of Oregon and Nevada. JM purchased the local garage, which he expanded and named Lyon Super Service Station. JM also ran a small truck line out of the garage, affording his sons the opportunity to learn about auto mechanics and driving. The timing was opportune for the business, with increased need for transportation of wool from the Basque country and other products during wartime, and they expanded the auto-repair business in part for bootleggers moving through the area. For a number of years, Lyon Super Service Station formed the center of the family's business ventures.

Joe Jr., who eventually became an accomplished automotive engineer, took a special interest in the mechanical aspects of the family business. In his later years, he shared with me that, one time when he was about twelve, a rancher's hired hand came to the station to take JM to the ranch to bring back to life a car that had been sitting on blocks for some time. When JM, over the hired hand's objections, sent his young son instead, Joe's success in the endeavor cemented his confidence in his abilities in auto mechanics and his interest in the field. Uncle Joe also shared with me that, after a day of handing tools to his father in the pit under the vehicles they worked on, he would typically lie in bed picturing the wheel assemblies of the vehicles.

While Joe Jr.'s proficiency lay in the mechanical aspects of the business, Arthur honed his financial acumen through the family company. I later learned that Arthur prepared JM's first-ever income tax statement. He and Joe Jr. were involved in numerous business ventures, some of them involving mineral rights claims. On at least two occasions he spent time in Europe, mostly in Paris. In his later years, he helped a young friend establish a wood-products company in Boise and managed the financial operations of the company.

Though there are many factors involved in the choices we make throughout our lives, it is often easy to see how a set of choices by one generation can prepare future generations for the challenges and opportunities they are to face. JM Lyon's purchase and development of Lyon Super Service Station and Lyon Truck Line was a choice that certainly had a major impact on the next generation. It is no surprise that, when Joe Jr. arrived on the scene in New York City in 1930, he and Arthur had the adventurous spirit, confidence, and skills, along with the ability to work together on a project despite their obvious differences, to accomplish the feat of driving from Manhattan to Managua. In fact, one can easily surmise that their completion of that journey, in the face of what must have been overwhelming odds, solidified their relationship such that they went on to be partners in numerous other successful ventures throughout their lives, including forming a bus line (the Boise-Winnemucca Stages) they ran for ten years, partnering in oil and gas exploration in the Four Corners area, and many other projects.

I remember my uncles Arthur and Joe as very interesting, intelligent, and generous men from a generation we all admire. I'm thankful for the conversations I had with them in their twilight years. One of my few regrets is that my deep appreciation for the role of Lyon Super Service Station in their formation and the fabric of their fascinating lives developed long after they were gone. If I had had any idea of the central role of their parents' choice to leave National and take on a new business venture, I'm sure I would have spent more time having them explain it all to me. All of this family history and all the places my family has been—that is my place.

Copyright © 2019 Arthur Lyon. All rights reserved.


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