Jim is first noted as a competitor in 1927 when he represented Victoria in the annual Glover Shield 7 mile walk. In the same junior competition but representing NSW was an equally young Tom Daintry.
For a young walker from a disadvantaged background, an interstate trip was an expecially exciting experience. The manager of the Victorian team was Ted Drayton (also a VRWC life member) and the story goes that Ted gave Jim a brandy to help him sleep on the overnight train trip to Sydney. This had the opposite effect on him and he then spent the rest of the night roaming up and down the train. That was Jim’s only intoxicating drink – he remained a tee totaller for the rest of his life!
Jim’s first really major success was in the VRWC 50 mile championship at the Showgrounds in 1931. He won the event and set new Victorian records for all distances from 15 miles to 50 miles. His 50 mile time of 8:49:33 beat the previous record by a massive 52 mins. The newspaper cutting for that event sums Jim up nicely
Behind the record-smashing fifty mile walk of Jim
Gaylor, of the Collingwood Harriers, in the Victorian Walkers’
Club championship at the Showgrounds on Saturday, is a remarkable story
of grit and perseverance of a true Australian in the battle of life.
The casual person, picking up a newspaper and reading of Gaylor’s record-breaking walk, naturally assumes that he is a great athlete who enjoys the best of training facilities, regular hours of sleep and regular food. Only his immediate friends and a few walking enthusiasts know that he is having an uphill struggle against heavy odds.
Gaylor, who is aged 21, has been out of regular work for a long time. But he is not an idler. He has a 3cwt truck that he pushes all around Melbourne and suburbs, hopeful that somebody will employ him to shift furniture or goods of any kind. It is an unrenumerative occupation that yields him very little. He has a small room in North Richmond. Some weeks he does not earn enough with his truck to meet the rent but he makes it up somehow by other kinds of work.
When a man is down he accepts anything if he is a trier. Gaylor tries from daylight till dark – no hour is too late for him; no distance too far. Good friends give him odd jobs,. One is Mr Ted Drayton, a Sunshine potter. Gaylor has often walked to Sunshine early in the morning for a job, worked there all day and then walked home.
The one neat suit that he wears when not doing hard work was acquired from ‘saved fares’ – to use his own expression.
Gaylor refuses charity, but will go anywhere for work. He left home because he could not contribute to its support. At times, he has lived on sixpence a day. For three weeks, he existed on toast.
Lately however, he has been getting a better spin but he has no regular meals. He considers the enforced dieting has helped to harden him while the constant walking everywhere in search of employment, added to his own natural zeal for the sport, has helped to make him an extraordinarily talented walker as far as natural ability is concerned.
It has also made him hardy. Just how hardy was proved by his recent performance in the 50 km walk on the final day of the Show. On the Tuesday, he suffered from an attack of ptomaine poisoning and on the Wednesday was compelled to keep to his bed. On Thursday he got up and went for a 20 mile walk with the object of shaking the sickness off him. However, he was ill again on the Friday and was forced to take things quietly. Thought still very sick on the Saturday he walked in the race and finished third.
Frank McLure, his team mate and co-worker in odd jobs, said that Gaylor’s performance in that race was a superhuman effort considering his condition.
Gaylor is not big but he is solid with the chest of a Sandow. Since he has been walking at the age of 16, he has put on over two stone in weight. Great breathing capacity is a big asset to him in walking.
While walking to victory in the 50 mile race on Saturday, Gaylor drank more than 20 cups of water. After each drink, he inhaled and exhaled air freely, thereby working up perspiration. He defies the recognised canons of athletics.
Mr. T Ready, a North Richmond chemist, said Gaylor possesses some rare electrical properties in his body. “This electricity keeps him on the move all the time” he added. “He seldom seems to want rest, yet is always as fit as a fiddle.
Gaylor never feels cold, though he wears only a shirt next to his skin. He could not stand a singlet on his body.
Gaylor thought that he would do the 50 miles of Saturday’s race in 10½ hours. He worked on no particular schedule. “After the first few miles, I just let myself go flat out, and I never felt better” he stated.
The time occupied was 8 hours 49 minutes 33 seconds. He won by ¾ of a mile from the celebrated long distance walker J. Lewis – a feat in itself that stamps the winner as an exceptional athlete.
In addition to winning the Victorian walking title, Gaylor broke all Victorian records from 15 to 50 miles, and his time for the 50 miles is the best ever recorded in Australia.
It was truly a wonderful performance for this plucky lad, on top of his hardships.
Until recently, he did not know what massage was, but Jim Cox, one of the Collingwood Harriers club’s most ardent enthusiasts, took him in hand and has been attending to his legs. Gaylor intends to keep on walking, to create new records and to make good in life. He is worthy of every encouragement by athletic officials.
Gaylor may be destined to create world records. Regular employment, proper training and careful coaching may place him in the world’s highest class of walkers.
Undoubtedly privation has been the means of making him a champion. He walks to live, as well as to conquer. It is related that on one occasion when he entered for a walking event in Oakleigh, a distant outer suburb of Melbourne, he walked there, competed in the race, and walked home again, covering nearly 20 miles more than the distance of the race.
While walking to victory and fame on Saturday, he whistled merrily for most of the harrowing journey. Evidently he has the heart of a lion.
He followed this with his first Senior State title in 1932 over 50 km. Tremendously strong, he was tireless and in his element over the 50 km and 50 mile distances. In that same year, he was second in the State 50 mile and the State 5 mile, thus showing his great versatility.
This marked the start of a great walking career for Jim. He won a string of State 50 km titles in 32, 33 and 37-39 and was generally unbeatable over the tough 50 mile distance.
When the club was disbanded in 1941, Jim’s walking career effectively ended but when the club reformed in 1946, he returned to the club and joined the committee.
He was eventually awarded life membership in 1955 after nearly 30 years of club membership as both a competitor and a committee member.
When the Alf Robinson Clubrooms were built in the late 50s, it was Jim who provided his truck and helped with much of the necessary cartage. Jim supplied the bricks which were used for the clubrooms superstructure.
In his later years, he never forgot the club and regularly turned up for all AGMs and for special occasions. He was recognised as our longest serving member until his death in 1999.
When he was confined to hospital in his last months, he had the window of his room permanently open regardless of the conditions. He was still as tough as old nails and still impervious to the cold even as an old man.
Jim made a success of his life against all the odds. He found work all his life, brought up a family successfully, had a great career as a walker and went on to become one of the cornerstones of the VAWC over many years.