Monday, September 19, 2011

Notable Relatives: Athol Graham

From time to time I will do a series about people in the extended family who are notable for some reason or the other. Athol Graham was a great grandson of George and Ann Prior Jarvis and a grandson of Charles (Defriez) and Margaret Jarvis. (This is the Tanner line of my genealogy.) Athol's mother, Lois Jarvis Graham, went with her mother Margaret Jarvis to Salt Lake City when Margaret trained as a midwife. Lois trained as a nurse and married Scottish immigrant Hugh Graham. The Grahams lived in Salt Lake City and had seven children including Athol. Athol is a Scottish name and has been used several times in the Jarvis family. 

To start this sketch, here is a biography written by Athol's aunt, Margaret Jarvis Overson, in the 1950s.

Zeldine Hansen and Athol Graham. 
(The picture is slightly distorted around Zeldine's mouth. Perhaps someone with photo editing skills and an editing program could correct it.)

Athol Graham, fifth child of Lois Jarvis and Hugh Boyd Graham, was born at Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, January 15th, 1924. His schooling was also had in the grade and high schools of his home city, and he finished his work with proper credits. He very early showed a liking for building and making things. A ship he constructed when a very small boy was a wonderful sample of technical work and sticking to a piece of work until it is finished, --something very hard for children to do.

He early in life would slip away from home awhile whenever possible and go to a nearby garage and watch the workmen repairing autos, --he was interested in seeing what and how they did the work, and would ask many questions. He served his term in the Service of his Country, entering in May 1943, first in Field Artillery, and later in the Air Force for Cadet training. It was found that there were more pilots than needed so 36,000 of the boys were placed in the infantry. Athol was sent overseas and put in a Service Company-Maintainance. He was all through Central Europe and the Rhineland.

Athol received two bronze stars, Meritorious Unit Award, also a Bronze Start Medal. He has had a repair shop at his home where he did all kinds of auto repair work both before and since his marriage, but is now working for Cadillac Co. He is especially interested in racing engines and has built several and raced on the Bonnerville [sic] Salt Flats and won several trophies.

Athol also served as a Missionary for his Church in New Zealand - one year among the Maori people and the remainder of his time among European people in the South part - 1948 to 1950. He is keeping up his church work wherever called.

Athol Graham married, at Mesa, Maricopa County, Arizona, on the 2nd, August 1950, Zeldine Hansen, daughter of John Harvey Hansen and Pauline Peterson Hansen, who was born at Joseph City, Navajo County, Arizona, September 26th, 1930. He had met her in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she had gone to enter nurse training in the Latter Day Saints Hospital School of Nursing, and from which she graduated, and received her diploma. She now has a good job at home.

They now have a home in Salt Lake City, and Athol has a garage, where he repairs and assembles automobiles.

Address: Mr. and Mrs. Athol Graham, 3321 South 3010 East, Salt Lake City, Utah.


Here is a picture and a bit of an article by larger-than-life sports editor Harold "Hack" Miller at the Deseret News, August 2, 1960.

Zeldine and Athol Graham on the morning of August 1, 1960.

[Indeciperable] lady pulled herself out of the cockpit of the racer. The jacks had been pulled, the wheels toed in to fit the scale.

Athol Graham put his arm around his pert little wife (and partner in racing).

Neither said much to the other, just exchanged a kiss and a smile of worship.

Trying to make the 400 mile [per hour] goal was a joint venture. Athol had dreamed of it—racing was his life's blood. Zeldine had become a part of the venture.

All Spare Time

Athol spent all his spare time at his Canyon Motor Garage. Zeldine worked nights as a nurse at a Salt Lake hospital—so she could have soem of her days at the shop.

There was talk that if he went through the measured mile at near the 400-mile mark he might let his wife drive the car through the other way. Here was a real team.

Zeldine got into one of the official trucks. "I'll go with them dear, to see if the track is clear."

"See you at the other end," Athol said.

He fitted his gear and goggles for the photographers. He gave them all the pictures they wanted.

If the driver, who rose to fame when he ran this same car through the mile at 344 miles an hour last December, had any emotion he contained it. He was as cool as the other mechanics as he put in the fuel, watched the helpers tuck in the dry ice, chuckled as he helped adjust the toe-in of his front wheels.

Usually the top drivers (like Cobb, Eyston, Campbell, Jenkins) had got away to a dawn start before the sun had a chance to draw the moisture out of the salt. And before the winds came out of the canyons to the west.

Of No Concern

But these things seemed of no concern to Athol Graham. He said he would run when he had the car ready.

There was something about this day that was not right and everyone sensed it as we took position along the course—mostly at the start of the measured mile.

The course was 12-1/2 miles long. He would enter the timers after "Mile Five." Several airplanes took off and held position in the sky.

I turned to Hi McDonald, who has covered Athol's races before.

"He won't run today. That wind is too wicked," I noted. Others had suggested the same.

"At about 10 minutes past 11 a.m. one of the timers announced at the press line, "He's on his way."

Everyone, some with binoculars, some without, watched the salt expanse to the north. There was a spot—barely discenable [sic] due to the curvature of the earth—or desert mirage.

"He's coming," shouted on the the observers from the scaffold perch.

Then there was the heart-burning sight of parts flying, people shouting that he was off the course, and then more pieces of auto, with tires, and a terrifying spray of salt which told the story that the run was over....

[H]e had put his life into a race machine. And that is where he left it.

Miller's article notwithstanding, a Salt Lake Tribune article from August 1 noted that after the Grahams' car City of Salt Lake crashed (and as I have read elsewhere it was probably due to a magnesium wheel disintegrating rather than the wind or other conditions), Graham was flown to a Salt Lake Hospital where he died, leaving his wife Zeldine and four children, Loie, Lindi, Kristy, and Daryl (Butch), who were staying with their grandparents in Arizona at the time.
Gravestone of Athol Graham in Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park, Salt Lake City. Picture by Tabatha Bailey from FindaGrave. Used by permission.

After Athol's death, Zeldine decided to rebuild City of Salt Lake. She worked with Otto Anzjon, but he died of leukemia in 1962, and she worked with Harry Muhlbach, and they attempted the land speed record in 1963.

Graham's son has rebuilt City of Salt Lake to its original glory. Here is a KSL story with a video, pictures, and family memories, and here is a collection of very nice photographs of the Grahams' car, the Grahams, and some associates. (Part 1, Part 2.)

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