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Saturday Photo Hunt: STURDY

April 14th, 2012 (12:23 am)

current mood: calm

It's time for another edition of the Saturday Photo Hunt. Every week, intrepid Photo Hunters snap new pictures or search their archives for ones they've taken in the past, for an image that embodies the theme of the week. This week's theme is STURDY.

The photo shows my son sitting on top of a really big lump of anthracite coal. This was taken in the town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, an old mining community in the northeast part of the state. This supersized briquette is in the town square in front of the historic train station. And it does seem quite sturdy.

Curious about the town's name? This has nothing to do with the photograph, but it's an interesting story.The town was named after the first Native American Olympics star, the runner and all-around athlete Jim Thorpe. In addition to being the only Olympian ever to win both the pentathlon and decathlon (in Stockholm in 1912), he played both professional football and professional baseball. Reportedly, he also excelled in horseback riding, basketball, and bowling. In fact, ESPN named Thorpe one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century.

Surprisingly, Thorpe never lived in this town and, in fact, never even set foot in it. So why is the place named after him? After the athlete's death, his impoverished widow thought he had earned the right to be honored for his accomplishments. But his own state, Oklahoma, refused to erect a memorial. When Patricia Thorpe read that the small town of Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, was trying to attract business, she made a deal with town officials, who happily agreed to re-bury him there, erect a memorial, and change the town's name to honor him. And so his legacy survives. You might even say it's sturdy.