Byron C. Hedblom was born in East Boston, Massachussetts on June 12th 1904.
His father, Carl Gustave Hedblom, a Dane born in Helleback, Denmark of Swedish parents, had emigrated to the United States in 1896. His mother, Sophie C. Hedblom (maiden name Jensen) was also Danish and had arrived in New York in 1898.
Byron's early years were spent at the family home at 162 State Street, Woburn, Massachussetts. In 1918 during WWI, the family - now including Byron's two sisters Ruth and June - temporarily moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire where Carl Hedblom was employed as a machine shop superintendent. Byron attended Portsmouth High School and worked on ships as a machinist helper during his summer vacation.
During the 1920s, Byron worked for the Bertelsen and Petersen Engineering company which later combined with the Atlantic Works in East Boston. While working as a supervisor of outside jobs, he attended Northeastern University at night, studying math, geometry and machine design.
|Byron Hedblom as a Young Boy
On May 26, 1925 while supervising a contract to build an innovative new style of steel barges, an incident occurred which Byron Hedblom recalled "could have changed my life forever and probably did." A large section of one of the barges was being lowered into position when it caught on an obstruction. Byron was pinned in a corner and both his legs were crushed.
At the Boston relief station where he was taken, the prognosis was that it would be necessary to remove both legs below the knees. But then Byron's father Carl Hedblom arrived and intervened, insisting that the best surgeon in Boston be found. Byron was rushed to the Boston City Hospital emergency ward, where he spent 13 weeks with both legs in suspension. Both legs were saved. For the rest of his life he would walk with a very slight incline to one side, a distinctive trait that made him immediately recognizable from a distance to friends and family.
It was nearly a year before Hedblom could return to work. He started in the drafting room at Bethlehem Steel Co, and gradually moved into management. In 1929 he took a three-month leave of absence during the slow summer months to make a trip across the United States. In a journey that Byron would remember as one of the highpoints of his life, he traveled 12,770 miles across the USA in a 1929 Model A Ford Roadster with his cousin Lauritz Rasmussen. (See photos from the trip)