IronMan, Vol 12, No 2, Page 32, August 1952

The Jim Park Success Story

by Tom Houran

JIM PARK tilted back his chair, propped his feet on the table before him and flashed the modest but disarming smile that won the warm admiration of all who know him. The conquering hero was home. After a whirlwind trip to the East and a sweeping victory in the Mr. America contest, Jimmy was again perched on the same chair in the same gym that had been his second home for four years. His eyes sparkled with inner satisfaction as he spoke.

"A thrill? Yes, I guess you would call it a thrill to be Mr. America," said Jimmy in answer to our question. He fumbled with one of the many letters strewn about the desk and continued: "In fact it's the greatest thing that could happen to one guy. Look at those letters, will you? All of a sudden everyone knows who I am -- and I don't really feel any different than ever before!"

And Jimmy wasn't "any different", really except that his good natured grin seemed a bit broader and the twinkle in his eye a little more sparkling.

"Ethel's getting a bigger kick. out of this fame than anyone," he added, referring to his attractive and devoted young wife. "Why, the butcher in the super-market is calling her 'Mrs. America', and she's so happy you'd hardly think she's the same girl I married over two years ago. At that time I had already won Mr. Jr. Illinois and Mr. Midwest, and Ethel pretended that she thought body-building was foolish. But I could see her warming up to it as I went on to take Mr. Central U. S. A. and Mr. Illinois; and by the time Mr. Mid-America and Mr. Chicago came along she was really in there plugging for me."

Jim paused and his face showed embarrassment. "Mr. Modesty" could be another title for this youth, for he generally avoids any discussion of his own accomplishments. Yet no American male today has better reason for pride, and Jimmy could not help showing a trace of it. We encouraged him to continue, and as he spoke we learned more and more about the life of this fabulous young man.

"Mr. America" is the product of a humble beginning in life. The son of working parents, Jimmy was born and raised in the farming town of Waynesburg, Pa. In his early years he began to show leadership qualities which, despite his modest home life, made others look to him for guidance and advice. His personal warmth and his eagerness to defend the underdog won him. the friendship of all who met him. Throughout grammar school and high school the Park smile and handshake symbolized fair play, whether in the classroom, at the club-house, or on the athletic field. But it was particularly in the field of athletics that Jimmy made a name for himself in those days; his versatility and enthusiasm stimulated teamwork and led to victory in baseball, football and wrestling-sports in which even today he is vitally interested and active.

Although the Park home was not a luxurious one, Jim had little time to be concerned about that. In addition to his interest in athletics, he was an earnest student and a hard worker at the part-time jobs which he held in order to help his family. Hunting was another pastime which fascinated young Park. It was a common sight to see Jim and his father decked out in hunting attire, tramping through the woods in search of game.

After high school Jim answered the call to service and enlisted in the United States Navy. This, of course, meant good-bye to the freedom of adolescence. But his adjustment was a good one; throughout his travels with the Navy he was quick to make friends. The warmth of spirit and good-natured personality which had characterized Jim in boyhood won the admiration of his buddies and his superiors. Many of these people, in fact, have corresponded with him faithfully since his discharge.

It was while in service that Jim developed an urge for self-improvement through bodybuilding. He worked out when he could, using whatever equipment was available and sometimes traveling as far as 120 miles on weekend liberty just for this purpose! Though he naturally could not establish a regular routine, these experiences in service led to an enthusiasm for development which stayed with him after discharge and started him on the road to the marvelous success which he enjoys today.

After leaving the navy Jim made up his mind to strike out on his own. He came to Chicago, determined to make a mark for himself and find security. It did not take him long to lay the groundwork for these goals, for Jim's personal magnetism and keen sense of sportsmanship began at once to pay dividends in helping him to secure good positions and win advancement in them.

It was at this time - June of 1947 - that Jim met Irvin Johnson while beginning a training program at a local Y.M.C.A. Irv had recently arrived in Chicago also, and he shared Jim's zeal for physical development. The two young men struck up a warm friendship during the year that followed. Irv had long since been an earnest student of all phases of physiology and muscular development, and he shared with Jim many of the brilliant ideas which have subsequently won him distinction in that field.

A year later, when Irv Johnson opened his now-famous health studios, it was natural that Jim should have been among the first to pass through his door. Here again, in Johnson's gym, Park established himself as a leader among men, winning the esteem and friendship of every patron. "Where's Jimmy?" soon came to be the most frequently heard question.

For the first few years of Jim's training with Irv, he staunchly resisted entering into the nutritional program which Johnson was developing. However, he worked out regularly under Irv's scientifically-devised training course and soon began to add unusual muscularity and strength to an already well-formed body. So great was his progress that in less than six months it was clear to Johnson that Jim was destined someday to take top honors for his physique.

Indeed, the honors were not far in the future at that time. In 1949 the title of Mr. Jr. Illinois was conferred on Jim, after little more than one year of carefully-tutored, regular workout! This early victory added materially to Jim's self-confidence. Realizing then that he COULD reach the top, he re-doubled his efforts -- and again was rewarded. Four more important titles were bestowed on this remarkable young man before he attempted to tackle the Mr. Chicago contest in the spring of 1952!

Knowing that his competition would be great for Mr. Chicago, and having seen first-hand the almost unbelievable results that Johnson had been achieving with dietary supplements, Jim finally requested that Irv plan a nutritional program for him in preparation for the contest. This was done-and the results, as we all know. were little short of amazing. In a matter of days a few very stubborn inches of fatty tissue were stripped from Jim's mid-section and hips. By the time he walked before the judges in the Mr. Chicago contest, Jim's entire body was a pattern of sleek, solid symmetry and the title was his without question.

Mr. America was the next mark to aim for! The weeks between were filled with carefully planned exercise and faithful adherence to a well planned diet. At this point Jim needed no further persuasion as to the value of proper nutrition in the development of a prize-winning physique! The outcome of the contest is history now, of course. Jim entered carrying with him more titles than any previous winner, and returned to Chicago after winning the greatest one of all -- Mr. America, 1952!

Success is a garment that Jimmy Park wears well. Although he is pleased by the messages of congratulation which lie about on his desk, his modest smile remains unchanged and his voice is as low and nearly as calm as ever before.

"The future?" asked Jim, repeating our question. "Well, I have no definite plans right now. Chicago has treated me right," he added, grinning in Irv's direction, "so I guess Ethel and I will stay right here. And you can bet I'll continue being a permanent fixture around Johnson's gym." Good luck to you, Jim! In our book you have "future unlimited"!

(This article is the first in a series dealing with the life and training of Jim Park, Mr. America of 1952. Watch for future articles covering in detail Jim's day-to-day training.)


- In the photo below Jim Park demonstrates the one arm curl in a special style to several members of the Johnson gym. This is a favorite exercise and responsible for much of the superb development of his biceps.

- Jim has one of the most magnificent back muscularture in the world. Note the full massive sweep of the latissimus and the depth of the muscle mass on his back.

- The photo below emphasizes the trim waist compared to the wide muscular shoulders developed by Jim Park.

- Correct style is always emphasized by Jim as he demonstrates the two arm curl with barbell. Jim's workouts are popular around the gym for the fellows always like to watch this amazing muscular sensation in action. - All photos by Johnson.

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