Posts Tagged ‘Patricia Thorpe’

Carlisle’s Attempt to Land Jim Thorpe’s Remains

August 2, 2010

John Luciew (pronounced Lucy), a reporter for Harrisburg’s Patriot-News, contacted me last week about the court case in which Jack Thorpe is trying to have his father’s remains brought to Oklahoma in perpetuity. Luciew was most interested in what I knew about Carlisle’s attempts, if any, to have Thorpe’s remains placed here back in 1953. I hadn’t looked into that before, so I had to do a little research. Freddy Wardecker, proprietor of Wardecker’s Menswear (formerly Blumenthal’s), gave me some information to go on and I was off to the races.

Jim Thorpe renewed acquaintances in 1951 when he was in Carlisle for the premier of his biopic, Jim Thorpe– All American. When he died just two years later, Carlislians wanted to honor him by locating his memorial here. A committee was formed, headed by attorney John B. Fowler (now deceased). The committee negotiated a location for the grave and monument near Indian Field at Carlisle Barracks where the young athlete made a name for himself when that facility was Carlisle Indian School. When Mauch Chunk entered the picture, Carlisle demurred, not wanting to get in a bidding war. In 1982, Sports Illustrated quoted Fowler as saying, “Pat wanted too much money. We felt like we were getting in a bidding war. We tried even after he died, but her price was too high.” Whether the Mauch Chunk group outbid others isn’t clear. What is clear is that they were actually able to raise the money and built the monument that stands there today.

Carlisle eventually placed a historic marker on the square next to the old courthouse. Some people think he is buried there but his remains are in the borough currently known as Jim Thorpe. Here is a link to the article Luciew wrote:

Photo by William Fischer, Jr.

No Hall of Fame for Jim Thorpe

June 29, 2010

Shortly after Jim’s body had been moved to the Rose Hill Mausoleum in Tulsa, one of his sons, Bill Thorpe, wired Governor Murray to protest the removal, stating that it was done without the approval of the deceased’s children. The Shawnee Chamber of Commerce was in an uproar over losing $3,000 that was donated by area residents, but their fund-raising effort for the project hadn’t advance beyond the planning stages. A month earlier, she threatened to move the body if progress wasn’t made and she carried out that threat.

Plans in Tulsa didn’t advance much either. The JayCees considered it briefly but found that there were “too many complications.” In early November, still in 1953, reports came out of Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania that two neighboring boroughs were considering merging, naming the new municipality after Jim Thorpe, creating a national shrine in his honor, and building a hospital for the treatment of cancer and heart patients (Thorpe suffered from both).

According to Bruce Heydt, managing editor of British Heritage magazine, Patricia Thorpe found her way to Mauch Chunk after meeting with Bert Bell, then the Commissioner of the NFL. She had seen a TV broadcast about Mauch Chunk’s revitalization efforts and Bell was looking for a location for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They negotiated with Mauch Chunk officials and struck a deal. In addition to the above-named items, the Pro Football Hall of Fame would be located in the newly-incorporated Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. Bell died before he could bring the Hall of Fame to Jim Thorpe and it went to Canton, Ohio, the city for which Big Jim had his greatest professional years.

It appears that the town fulfilled its side of the agreement but Mrs. Thorpe and Bell were unable to provide everything they promised. The outcome may have been considerably different had Bert Bell succeeded in bringing the Hall of Fame to Jim Thorpe.

Jim Thorpe Auction Update

May 20, 2008

I called Bob Wheeler to let him know about the auction mentioned last week. Although the lot was out of almost anyone’s price range, it was important that he know about it, particularly the three audiotapes made by Jim Thorpe. Bob is making an audiobook for his definitive biography of Jim Thorpe and having Jim Thorpe’s voice in it would be a great addition. Bob was way ahead of me – decades ahead. He got copies of the tapes long ago and is working them into his audiobook. So, his audiobook will have things the printed version doesn’t have: Jim Thorpe’s voice for one. It will surely include some of Bob’s experiences interviewing all those people over thirty years ago and will surely include snippets of some of their voices. We’ll just have to wait for it as no release date has been set as yet.

As it turns out, these items come from Joel Platt’s collection that was mentioned in this blog some weeks ago. It appears that Platt periodically offers items for sale. It’s not clear if he receives bids high enough to get him to part with anything. It’s my opinion that the Smithsonian should buy Pratt’s entire collection and use it as the nucleus of a national sports museum – unless Mayor Reed of Harrisburg gets there first.