But in the years since his body arrived in Mauch Chunk on Feb. 9,1954, Thorpe has hardly rested in peace. After he was taken to a temporary crypt at the Evergreen Cemetery—that was three months before the voters approved the name change—a rumor spread through the community that Thorpe's body was not in the casket. One of the pallbearers who had carried it into Evergreen Cemetery said the coffin was so heavy that it must have been filled with rocks. Boyle felt it was his duty to check out this claim, so he and two local morticians opened the casket, a memory that still causes him some distaste. It was Thorpe.
Thorpe's corpse was transferred to its red granite mausoleum in May 1957, and in 1963 a resident who printed anti-Jim Thorpe literature in his basement attacked the monument with a ball peen hammer, causing extensive damage. The identity of the vandal is one of the town's most open secrets, but he was never prosecuted. Hammer marks are still visible on the monument.
On Nov. 3, 1964, in response to a petition originated by Otto and others, the question of whether to change Jim Thorpe back to Mauch Chunk appeared on the ballot. Thorpe won 1,392-1,032. The next year the question was on the ballot again, with approximately the same vote. If a vote were taken today, pro-Chunkers say the results would be different; the pro-Thorpers, of course, say the outcome would be the same.
No matter. The contract drawn between Patricia and the borough in 1954 is legal and binding, and town officials have no thought of changing it. "No way," says Mayor Mike Hichok, a barber. "They can't take the body back."
"Why should we give it up?" asks Boyle. "Bringing the body here is what brought this town together."
Even the pro-Chunkers admit the name change saved the community confusion and money in consolidation of services. And as the pro-Chunkers die off, the town's name probably will become a nonissue. Wheeler, who is close to the Thorpe family and considers himself an Indian advocate, is also sympathetic to the town's pro-Thorpers. His foundation recently received $500 raised by students at Jim Thorpe High School. "I'm at a position about halfway between Joe Boyle and the Thorpe family," says Wheeler. "I can see why each of them wants the body. It's kind of a tricky issue."
Still, the name Chunk just won't go away. Residents still unofficially divide the town into three sections: East Mauch Chunk, Upper Mauch Chunk and Mauch Chunk. Two of the nicest new additions to the town are the Mauch Chunk Medical Center and Mauch Chunk Creek Park. At his bar Weiksner keeps a list of all the new businesses that use Chunk in their name. Nowhere was the divided-town issue stated more clearly than on the sign one local used to have on his Chevy. It read: JIM CHUNK."
The town seems unsure of how to promote its namesake. A slide show at the railroad museum in town mentions Thorpe's mausoleum almost as an afterthought. On Route 209, the main thoroughfare into Jim Thorpe from the south, there's a WELCOME TO JIM THORPE sign that mentions the Asa Packer Mansion (Packer was a millionaire railroad baron of the 19th century) "and more attractions." Presumably, the Thorpe mausoleum is one of them.
Boyle maintains the soft sell is by design. "The man was victimized by people capitalizing on him his whole life," says Boyle. "That's the one thing Al Schacht [Thorpe's roommate when he played baseball for the New York Giants] told me. Everybody was always doing something to get something out of him. We don't want to do that. I don't want to open up a hot-dog stand or invite a honky-tonk band up there to play. We're proud of what we've done. We've given Jim Thorpe a nice resting place when nobody else wanted him."
Thorpe's mausoleum is set on a knoll in the rear of a well-kept grassy area along Route 903, or North Street as it's known locally. A sign by the road says: FINAL RESTING PLACE J M THORPE—ALL-AMERICAN. The "I" has been missing for a while. A semicircular driveway goes around the mausoleum; if nothing else, Thorpe's grave is the best U-turn on North Street. On the mausoleum are inscribed the words of King Gustav of Sweden, who told Thorpe after he had won the Olympic decathlon and pentathlon, "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world."