If Weaver won’t tell you, ask his friends
July 7, 2016
His friends say he was an all-state football player at Park City High School. But he won't tell you that.
His friends say he was still shoveling snow off the roof of the old St. Mary's Catholic Church when he was in his 70s. But he won't tell you that either.
His friends say he has devoted countless hours to helping the less fortunate. But ask him about that and he'll give the credit to somebody else.
There are older people living in Park City. There are older people living elsewhere who were born in Park City. But Jim Weaver, 83, says he owns the title of the oldest Park City native who still lives in town.
"Everybody else has moved out," he says. "There's older ones than that, but they're not here."
That's the closest thing to bragging that you're likely to hear from Jim Weaver.
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A gentle, private man with a self-deprecating sense of humor, Weaver answered The Park Record's phone call this way:
Reporter: "Is this Jim Weaver?"
Weaver: "This is what's left of him."
The son of a Park City miner, Weaver was born in a small house on what is now Prospect Avenue. Not in the Miners Hospital, he says. At home.
"That seemed to be a common thing," he says. "My aunt was a (midwife)."
As a boy, Weaver explored the mountains around Park City and swam in a lake near Guardsman's Pass.
"They used to have part of it for the people of Park, and the Girl Scouts used the other half," he says. "We'd hike up to swim, and we'd go by the mine. And we'd kind of conveniently go by about lunchtime so the old miners would say, 'Hey, kid, do you want a sandwich?' And everybody knew everybody. It was really good. And you could roam all over these hills, and somebody was looking out for you. And when you got in trouble, why, it wasn't long (before) your parents heard."
Marsac Elementary (now City Hall) had been open only a couple of years when Weaver started school. One of his classmates was Jim Wright, who now lives in Salt Lake City.
"We're still friends," Weaver says. "We talk every day." He says that he and Wright grew up together, hunted and fished together, and their families vacationed together.
In those days, he says, hunting season was a family affair in Park City.
"Everybody would be working on their old trucks or Jeeps, getting ready," he says. "It was a big thing. It was like a bunch of rednecks. Everybody would say, 'Oh, I know it's hunting season. Weaver's out there working on his Jeep.'"
His mother's mother, an Irish immigrant, owned a ranch in White Pine Canyon where Weaver spent many hours milking cows and putting up hay. She also owned two boardinghouses on Main Street, including the Alaskan.
"My mother worked in the boardinghouse and she was either canning or cooking all the time, and taking care of our family," he says.
Weaver attended high school in the building that now houses the Park City Library and played four years of football on the field just north of the building. The field had such a pitch, he says, that everyone wanted to play going from south to north (downhill) in the fourth quarter.
"It was really a slope," he says. "It was quite noticeable. I don't know what the degrees were, but they've taken it and leveled it (since then). It's still got some slope to it, but not like it was."
Weaver's friend Jim Wright says that he was an all-state tailback. "In fact, I think he scored more touchdowns as a senior than anyone else in the state."
Weaver also played basketball and ran track and earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Utah.
By the time he graduated from high school in 1951 the Park City mines were in trouble. The market for lead and zinc had collapsed following World War II and families were moving away.
About that time The New York Times featured Park City to illustrate a story on a debate in Congress to protect domestic producers of lead and zinc by imposing tariffs on imports.
"When my brother (Mike) was young — and boy, Park City was in really pretty bad shape — he was there leaning against the Ford (garage) building on his bicycle. And a guy came along and says, 'Son, can I take your picture?' And he (Mike) says, 'Yeah. Sure.' And he took a picture and it was in The New York Times. … It says (under the photo): 'A lonely kid in a lonely town.'"
Nevertheless, Weaver still managed to land a job as a mucker (utility worker) in the Silver King Mine.
"In fact, I worked when I was in high school. The last month or so of my high school, I worked night shift in the mine and (went to) school in the day."
By Weaver's account, his career playing football at Utah was short and unspectacular. While still a freshman he was invited to play varsity but demurred. He had other things to do.
"The coach, he says, 'Jim, are you going to dress Saturday for the game?' I said, 'No, I'm going to work.' He says, 'Well, if you're not going to play, you ought to come at least watch us.' I says, 'Well, I can work in the mine and make some money.'"
He quit the team following his freshman year.
"Well, that was my problem. I was trying to be a lover, a miner, a football player and a scholar, and I failed at all of them," he says with a laugh. "I was burning the candle on all ends."
He forgot to mention "soldier." During his four years as business major at Utah, he also participated in the ROTC (officer training) program.
"I didn't graduate, but they gave me flight orders to go to Lackland Air Force Base for flight training on the assumption I was going to graduate that quarter," he says.
However, faced with three years of active duty in the Air Force, Weaver chose to enter the draft instead and spent two years (1956-57) serving Uncle Sam as an enlisted man in the Navy. He was assigned to a U.S. base in Japan where he worked as a personnel specialist.
After his discharge, Weaver returned to his hometown and started working construction in Salt Lake City. He says he briefly tried working as a stockbroker but soon returned to construction.
"They used to have a stock exchange there in Salt Lake, you know. And I decided that was not for me. It's a cutthroat (business)."
At some point early in his career he also worked in the sandstone quarry in Brown's Canyon between Park City and Peoa.
By the end of 1960 Weaver had landed a job repairing large electric motors for General Electric in Woods Cross north of Salt Lake City and had married a Park City girl, Marilyn Musick. They raised three children, two daughters and a son. They later divorced.
But Weaver continued to burn the candle "on all ends." In the mid-1960s, while working for GE, he also ran the hoist (mine elevator) when the new Treasure Mountains ski resort (now Park City Mountain Resort) adapted the old Spiro mine tunnel and the Thaynes shaft as a novel way to take skiers up the mountain.
"A lot of people, as soon as they closed the doors on them (elevators), they got panicky. Couldn't stand it," he says. "But none of them got out of control."
Weaver was also part of the maintenance crew that completed the monumental task of removing a huge air compressor from a building near the mouth of the Spiro Tunnel, and an underground hoist from the Silver King Mine, and reinstalling them underground at the Ontario Mine.
"Jeez. That was like building the pyramids. … We had one heck of a time getting that out, that old flat-cable hoist," he says.
Hard-rock mining took its toll on the young men of Park City. Many didn't live past their 50s, the victims of accidents or "miners' consumption" (silicosis). Among those who died of "miners' con" was Weaver's own father. So the town had an unusual number of widows who were left to fend for themselves. And it was to this population, including his mother, that Weaver devoted much of his energy after accepting an early retirement offer from GE at age 55.
Jim Wright says that Weaver and another old friend, Dick Olsen, teamed up to do repairs on the old homes of many Park City widows.
"If one needed a water heater, Olsen would try to scrounge one up," Wright says. "They'd do things for everybody, and they wouldn't take money for what they did."
Near his home on Woodside Avenue lived Vera Tree and several other widows, and Weaver would make the rounds every winter to shovel their driveways and even their roofs.
"Finally, Vera said, 'Jim, when do you sleep?'" Weaver admits in an unguarded moment.
He also managed to find time to volunteer at St. Mary's Catholic Church, doing basic maintenance on the Old Town building and delivering donated items to the thrift store in Heber.
Weaver suffered a stroke about four years ago and lived for a year with a daughter in Salt Lake City. But he couldn't wait to rejoin his community of friends in Park City. He now walks with a cane but still drives his truck and is still a regular at St. Mary's Church at its present location on S.R. 224.
"It's still a good place, I'll tell you," he says. "The people's what make it."
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