Monday, October 5, 2015

LOOKS LIKE HE'S HERE TO STAY

Following is an excerpt from my book, Running Shorts: A Collection of Stories and Advice for Anyone Who Has Ever Laced Up a Pair of Running Shoes. www.muldowneyrunning.com
 

"In May of 1976 I entered my first road race. Of all the

tiny hamlets in America, my first foray into road racing

occurred in one of the most picturesque and interesting

places.

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, is a small community of

around 4,000 residents that serves as a gateway into the

Pocono Mountains. Its Alpine beauty has earned it the

moniker, “Switzerland of America.” Josiah White

founded the town in 1818, naming it Mauch Chunk,

meaning “bear mountain” in the Native American Lenni

Lenape language. Apparently the name referred to a

local mountain that resembled a sleeping bear.

In 1876, Mauch Chunk was the site of one of the

famous trials of the Molly Maguires, a secret society of

Irish coal miners, four of whom were accused of

kidnapping and murder, subsequently, and in a

controversial manner, convicted, and hung by the

gallows on scaffolding erected behind the Carbon

County Courthouse in Mauch Chunk.

Like many small American towns, Mauch Chunk

became more obscure as the 20th century wore on. A


mass exodus of population and jobs left the area, or in

this case, areas, of East and West Mauch Chunk,

grasping for anything to revitalize the economy of the

region.

Then along came Jim Thorpe.

Jim Thorpe, an American Indian who grew up in

Oklahoma, spent much of his youth at the Carlisle Indian

School, located in south central Pennsylvania. In 1907, it

is alleged that he walked past a group of athletes

practicing the high jump. While still clad in street clothes

he launched an impromptu jump of 5 feet, 9 inches.

Thorpe became a tremendous track and field athlete, but

his athletic abilities extended to baseball, football,

lacrosse, and even ballroom dancing.

In 1912, The Carlisle Indian School, led by Jim

Thorpe, won the national collegiate football

championship, but it was in Stockholm, Sweden, at the

1912 Olympic Games where the Jim Thorpe legend

would be born. At the Games, Thorpe won both the

Pentathlon, a sport consisting of five events, as well as

the Decathlon, a ten-event competition causing King

Gustav of Sweden to proclaim, “You, sir, are the greatest

athlete in the world.”

Prior to Thorpe’s Olympic participation, he accepted

meager compensation for playing baseball during his

summer vacations. Strict Olympic rules forbid the

acceptance of any type of remuneration, thus Jim Thorpe

was stripped of his Olympic medals.

When he died in 1953 his widow became angry

because the state of Oklahoma refused to erect a

monument for her late husband.

Far from Oklahoma, Mauch Chunk’s town fathers

came up with an idea. In an effort to bolster tourism in

their town, why not obtain the dead Olympian’s remains,

unify and rename East and West Mauch Chunk in honor

of the Olympic champion? Thorpe had never even set

foot within 100 miles of Mauch Chunk , but Thorpe’s

wife thought it was a great idea, so she obtained her

monument and the town had its tourist attraction. She

sold his remains to the town, and a monument was

promptly built there in his honor, at the site of his new

grave.

In 2010, Thorpe’s son sued the town, hoping to have

his father’s remains returned to Oklahoma."

Today, the Associated Press released this story.

"The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Indian tribes and Jim Thorpe's sons to move the remains of the athletic great from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma.

The justices on Monday left in place a court ruling that ordered Thorpe's body to remain in the Pennsylvania town that bears his name.

Thorpe's two surviving sons, and the Sac and Fox Nationn have been seeking to bury Thorpe on American Indian land in Oklahoma.

Thorpe was a football, baseball and track star who won the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics. He died in 1953 at age 64.

Thorpe's wife won agreement from two merging towns in Pennsylvania to build a memorial and name the new borough, and Carbon County seat, Jim Thorpe, after the athlete. Police then seized Thorpe's body during his funeral service in Oklahoma."

It looks as though Jim Thorpe is going to remain in Jim Thorpe.