Strength & Health, Page 32, April 1951

Cover Man - James Park

by Norbert Grueber

THE story of Jim Park is that of an intelligent, assured young man, possessed of natural, inherent physical assets and the ability to make the best of them. yet, with all these fine attributes he almost drifted out of the Iron Game until accident, or Fate, if you will, impelled him to return to Chicago to visit friends one week-end...and fall in love! The girl, now Mrs. James Park, is the real reason for his remarkable success, the "secret" of his amazing comeback. She helped him regain his sense of direction and provided the drive for his rapid, but painstaking climb to the peak he has reached today...a serious threat for the Mr. America title.

It was by accident that Jim first learned about weights. A native of Brave, Pa., population 500, Jim was born December 8, 1927. At 13, his family moved to Waynesburg, Pa., where he attended the local high school. Jim wrestled on the school team and gave promise of future athletic greatness. At 17 he left Waynesburg High to join the Navy, and received his diploma in the Service. Although he had only attended high school three and one-half years, Jim carried sufficient extra subject to amass the credits required in a four year course.

After getting his training at the Naval Air Technical Training Center, Jacksonville, Florida, Jim Park was transferred to Quonset Point, R.I. Although classified as an Aviation Electrician, Jim spend 10 months as an Air Gunnery instructor. The first of the great accidents which altered his life occurred here. It was in May, 1946 that one of his buddies urged Jim to visit the base gymnasium and try some of the weights. Jim's first attempt was a successful press with 160 pounds at a bodyweight of 175.

Jim Park distinctly remembers that the first experience left him completely cold, and he did nothing further until exactly a year later. Jim received his discharge in April, 1947 and came to Chicago the next month to study at the American Television Institute on the G.I. Bill. He lived at the Y.M.C.A. Hotel where he planned to play basketball. This famous Y.M.C.A. hostelry had everything but a basketball court. Their weightlifting program, which was inaugurated by the writer 10 years earlier, was in full swing. Jim tried the weights haphazardly at first, but became more enthusiastic about the sport when he saw the National Seniors and the Mr. America contest June 28 and 29 at Lane Technical High School.

The second important accident in Jim's life occurred two weeks prior to that Mr. America contest. This was hi meeting with Johnny Murphy, one of the most convincing salesmen for weightlifting and body building in the country. Johnny helped plan the training program of his young "find" and provided the incentive for the Pennsylvania youth. Jim's measurements then were as follows: Height, 5 ft. 9 in.; weight, 168 lbs.; biceps, 14 1/2 in.; chest, 40; waist, 34; hips, 38; calf, 15 1/2; thigh, 23; neck, 15 1/2; forearm, 12 1/2. These measurements were far above the average for a beginner and indicated Jim's favorable heredity.

Jim Park's father is only 5 ft. 6 in. tall, but is a powerfully muscled man of 200 pounds. his arms now, at the age of 44 , are 17 in. and his chest is nearly 49 inches. Jim's mother is also amazingly strong. She easily pressed a York 100 pound barbell, a Christmas gift from her son, on the first try.

It's no wonder then, when Jim set his sights on a 16 in. arm, 45 in. chest and ability to press more than bodyweight, that he achieved these goals only six months after his training with Johnny Murphy. Jim's achievements helped inspire the other boys at the Y.M.C.A. Hotel, and soon they had scores of new trainees. Among those in this group was Irvin Johnson with whom Jim established a warm friendship. Irvin had made tremendous progress in building himself up from a sickly youth. he was amazed at Jim's natural power and wonderful hereditary factors.

Jim's first appearance in competition was at the combined Mr. Chicago and Mr. Illinois contest at Lane Technical High School in April, 1948, only 11 months after his initial workout at the Y. A comparative newcomer, lacking poise and posing finesse, Jim managed to tie for fifth place.

When Irvin Johnson opened his deluxe barbell gymnasium in August, Jim alternated workouts between the new club and the Y. He joined the trek of body builders to St. Charles in September for the Mr. Norther Illinois contest where he was nosed out by Collin Haynie for first place. Jim also entered the weightlifting competition for a lark and totalled 650 pounds on first attempts to win the light-heavyweight title. At that time he grew one-half inch, weight 180 pounds, chest measured 47 and biceps almost 17 inches.

Jim was rapidly coming to the fore as a name in body building. His next contest was the Jr. Mr. Illinois, January, 1949, which he won from a field of 20 contestants. Jim also lifted at this contest, totalling 695 as a light-heavyweight.

With his first major victory achieved after less than 18 months of training, Jim redoubled his efforts. The following month he tried again for the Mr. Chicago contest which was held at the Southtown Y.M.C.A. before a full house. Bruno Markunas was declared the winner, followed by Al Brijunas and Ed Heckinger. Jim was squeezed out of the charmed three-some by a scant margin.

Jim was now working out exclusively at Johnson's Gym and decided to enter the Mr. Illinois finals in March, 1949, after qualifying among the first nine in the eliminations. This event was won by John Farbotnik with Al Brijunas second and Bruno Markunas third. Again, Jim was close, but a medal evaded him once more.

Jim Park went back home to Waynesburg in April and the next month competed in the Mr. Pennsylvania contest. Steve Klisanin, the great Kiski Prep athlete, won this contest, Jim placing third. Furthermore, Jim placed second in all the subdivision events except Best Abdominals and his confidence soared.

Jim became restless for Chicago and told his parents that he planned to visit his foster city for the week-end at the last of August. Jim's father looked at his son and instinctively remarked, "I guess Jim's going to be gone for a long time." To re-assure his dad, he left with only an overnight bag. A week later Jim called home for more money to remain in Chicago, and, he added "to become better acquainted with a new girl I met."

Jim apparently shared his father's intuitive quality for on the first day he returned to visit his closest friend, Paul Phillips, at the Y.M.C.A. Hotel, he spied a slim, shapely brunette in the coffee shop and stared at her unashamedly. Turning to his friend, Jim said, "Do you see that cute little brunette? I'm going to marry her." Paul, who was in charge of the weightlifting department at the Y.M.C.A. laughed at this absurd remark.

Jim noticed the young lady on Thursday, but had to wait until Saturday to meet her. A mutual friend, Johnny Rector, an avid weightlifting enthusiast, came to his rescue, to help pave the way for the third major fateful "accident" for Jim. Johnny's girl friend, Beverly, was the roommate of the object of Jim Park's attention. This made it easy to meet the lovely young lady, who was introduced as Ethel Nichols. After the introduction, Jim suggested a trip to the beach. Ethel went along and, after viewing Jim's physique, began to reciprocate his attention.

Within two weeks the couple were engaged in a whirlwind courtship, and two months from the date they were introduced, Ethel and Jim were married. Jim's current success stems from the day of this marriage. Ethel shared his interest in Body Building and encouraged Jim in his training. That Christmas the couple went to Waynesburg where Jim introduced his wife to his family. Ethel made an immediate hit with Jim's parents.

Returning to Chicago and serious training, Jim began to go places. In February, 1950 he placed third in the Mr. Chicago contest behind A. Brijunas and Homer Chelemengos. He went up a notch by placing second in the Mr. Illinois contest which was won by Homer, in March. In April, Jim traveled to Highland Park, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit for the Mr. Midwest contest. Here he defeated the cream of body builders, edging out such stars as Dick Bucholz, Joseph Baratta and Al Brijunas. Jim also won the Best Arms event. His arms had now shot up to 18 in. chest to 48 in.

Jim competed last year in the Mr. America contest in Philadelphia and continued his drive in overtaking athletes who had previously defeated him. his progress had become so rapid that he tied for seventh place, edging out Steve Klisanin who had beaten Jim the previous year.

At the great Body Building Day program in Chicago, last August, Jim Park scored again by winning the Mr. Central U.S.A. title over the best built men in 20 states. Al Brijunas, Mr. Chicago, was second and Ralph Brunhart, Mr. Wisconsin, was third.

His friends call Jim Park the Grimek of Chicago. He has the same, easy-to-meet, helpful personality as the man whom he idolizes. Jim has a scrap-book of Grimek's training advice, photos and posing routines which he examines regularly. Jim's favorite exercises are the bench press which he does with 350 pounds, five reps. He curled 185 pounds in perfect style at the Mr. America contest and presses 250 pounds.

Jim's latest measurements are as follows: Arm, 18 1/4 in.; chest, 48 1/2 in.; neck, 17 in.; calf, 16 1/2 in.; thigh, 25 1/2 in.; waist, 31 1/2 in.; hips, 39 in.; forearm, 14 1/4 in.; wrist, 7 1/2 in. Jim accepted some constructive criticism from Ray Van Cleef about his thick waist, and his hard work is crating fine abdominal definition which will impress observers at the coming Mr. America contest in Los Angeles.

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