The shop in September of 1967, when it was owned by Eugene Karns, a year before it became Jackson Mobil.
When Larry and Jeannie Jackson started their automotive business, Jackson Mobil in Clio, gasoline was 27 cents per gallon. A neighbor, Flo Kesterson, who was born in the last year of Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency, 1877, would come in with a two-gallon can to buy kerosene. When Kesterson did not feel up to it, she would call the Jackson’s house to ask if one of their girls could get her mail, groceries and kerosene. The Jacksons were glad to help.
“Little old woman,” Jeannie says. “When she talked on the telephone she sounded like she was about 15-years-old, and here she was 90-something. She was amazing.
“At [Jackson Mobil], you can still get your gas pumped for you, oil and tire pressure checked and windshield washed. We have never sold alcohol or cigarettes, nor found the need to.”
The hardest things the Jacksons sold at their shop were candy and soda pop.
“When we started here, we had a Farner candy vendor, we had three different pop vendors,” Larry says. “Then they come up with you have to have a $250 or $300 minimum. Well, what are we going to do with that much candy? The pop’s the same way—they wanted triple what you can buy it at Hy-Vee for. So we don’t have anything like that anymore.”
The Jacksons also once earned trips to the Bahamas, Las Vegas and the Caribbean through sales of items such as shocks, but Larry would not sell to a customer that did not need the merchandise.
“A trip wasn’t worth dishonesty to him,” Jeannie says.
Now, Larry is mentoring new owner Jared Dodson, as Eugene Karns did for him in 1960. Larry bought the shop from Karns in 1968.
“Back then, you had customers 25 or 30 to one today,” Larry says. “My first paycheck was $50 a week. I’ve worked on all of my own vehicles all my life. We could tune up any car or anything without any equipment. Now you can’t do anything without computers. This new stuff is complicated.
“Used to be, the office was full of older guys joking and going on. Kid one another, pull jokes on one another and have a big time. There’s not much like that anymore.
“I’ve been working since I was old enough to work. Someone asked me if I was going to retire, and I said, ‘How do you retire. What do you do then?’ I’ve got plenty of work to do at the farm. I can keep busy for quite a while.”
Larry and his wife have kept busy over the years, to say the least. He has served as mayor of Clio. Jeannie is curator at Prairie Trails Museum in Corydon, where both are members of the Wayne County Historical Society. She is a charter member of the Wayne County Genealogical Society, and her latest project is serving on the commission and working in Wayne County pioneer cemeteries. They helped organize the first Clio Festival in 1971, and remain on that committee. They are members of the New Salem Baptist Church south of Leon. They have three grown children, John, Christie and Stephany.
The arrival of Dodson, and the retention of Clarence Petty as mechanic, gives the Jacksons hope for the future of their former business and their small town. Petty was 12 years old when he started working for Jackson Mobil, around 45 years ago.
“He was a young boy with nothing to do—like he is today, always wanting to do something,” Larry says of Petty. “I couldn’t hire him, so his first pay was a motorcycle and spending money.”
Larry says Dodson has done well so far, though the past month has been slow. The main advice he’s given Dodson has regarded bookwork. Since Jeannie did much of the bookwork, she is also showing Dodson and wife Kari the ropes. Kari plans to serve the same role as financial planner to her husband.
“We’ve been involved with about everything that’s went on in town,” Larry says. “You like to keep your town clean and looking nice, upgrade some of it, like we did at the park. My wife’s been a big part of that, too.”
Jeannie was on the Clio City Council for many years. Jared Dodson was actually her replacement when she stepped down two years ago.
“There isn’t much around Clio,” local farmer Marvin Robinson says, “and I’m tickled to death that a young kid like Jared is taking something over, having an interest in what we’ve been doing [in the community].”
The Jacksons have gathered many experiences and stories over the years. One event that stands out is the blizzard of April 8, 1973. It brought winds of 50 to 70 miles per hour, and 20 inches of wet, heavy snow in some parts of Iowa.
“That was quite a day,” Larry says. “Lloyd Pfeiffer came walking in. His pickup was sitting south of town. All I had was an old two-wheel drive ’55 Chevy pickup with chains on it. He said, ‘Let’s go down and see if we can get it started.’ We went down and opened the hood, and all we could see was snow. I got him home and got back to town and mine died. It was snowing and blowing so hard you couldn’t see.”
Another memorable moment involved Speed Marcusson—he told Larry that he had a bad heart, and if something happened while he was at the station, for Larry to let him go—he’d be perfectly happy there, with a good friend. That day came, and Marcusson passed away with Larry by his side.
Friends surround Larry often while he works. One day recently, Bob Brown, Robert Wilcox, Roy Argo and Orville Kost all drove their own cars in to be serviced. The four gentlemen are all over 90 years old. All of their minds are still good, and Larry would have preferred to sit and reminisce with them, but he had to work on their vehicles.
“I’ve got customers that are fourth generation,” Larry says. “I’d say there aren’t more than two or three people who were here the day that I started in 1960. It’s been a fun ride. I’ve raised three kids and sent them all to college.”
Jackson has invited many students in from area schools for work study programs, including Lineville City Council member Tom Shriver. Throughout the years, he has seen the local school go from Lineville-Clio, to Allerton-Clio-Lineville, back to Lineville-Clio before it closed a few years ago.
“All the business that we’ve lost has been rough, like the post office. Small farmers [have] moved out, and all the corporations bought all the farms.”
Despite the losses, business has been steady the past 10 years.
“There are so many people and memories that it’s impossible to relate them all,” Jeannie says. “We have always had tremendous support and wonderful friends. We wouldn’t trade our small town, rural way of life for all the money in the world.”