Female athletes posed, 1948 and 2018

The first image is from an AP Wire Photo of Oakland High School athlete Zoe Ann Olsen, who won the AAU Diving Championships and went on to medal twice for the U.S. in Olympic competition. The photo is from Wikipedia commons:

ZOEANNOLSEN1948APWIREPHOTO

 

The second image is a posed publicity shot from a series commissioned by Stanford athletics by local photographer Jeff Bartee of Saratoga, featuring junior Kyla Bryant of Lake Oconee, Georgia. Bartee’s website has a previous series using the dust special effect. I met Bryant briefly Monday when she dropped by The Old Pro bar trying to place a poster.

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By Jeff Bartee fair use

Olsen incidentally later married Cal football star Jacke Jensen who is one of only two people to play in both the Rose Bowl and World Series, along with Stanford Chuck Essegian; I found my way to Olsen-Jensen today because of an article in the Chron about the 1919 Black Sox scandal; one of the eight banned players was from Oakland High, Chuck Gandil, who some consider the mastermind of the event.

edit to add: speaking of which, I edited out the dust stuff, from Bryant. Or, I can get the whole shot on my MacBook, but it has a cardinal red bar obscuring the balance beam. Not sure why only the smartphone version lets you separate the picture from the border. On Olsen Jensen, the Des Moines newspaper website has another photo plus this long article about her induction into both the state athletic hall of fame and another honor:

Zoe Ann Olsen was born in Council Bluffs in 1931, reared in LaPorte City and learned to swim at age 2 1/2. Why not? her father, Art, managed the municipal pool in Cedar Falls and her mother, Norma, taught swimming.

Mrs. Olsen also taught dancing and the couple was pleased that Zoe Ann became a toe-tapping terror, whose first medal, when not quite 4, came for dancing. Additionally, she was a blonde doll who could pout or cry on command.

“I entered her in a dance contest and she won a trip to Hollywood at 6,” recalls Norma. “The two of us went to California for the summer and she appeared in two plays in the Edda Edson Theater Workshop.”

Several other things happened. Zoe Ann tappy-toed around, including a guest appearance with the Hollywood Starlets, won third place in a junior diving meet and remained unconcerned when some projected her as a “new Shirley Temple.”

“I knew who Shirley Temple was, but never imagined I was going to be another,” Zoe Ann scoffed the other day by telephone from Crystal Bay, Nev., where she is now Mrs. Don Bramham.

Indeed, while the world did not gain a new first mate for the Good Ship Lollipop, it soon was to hail Zoe Ann Olsen as a springboard diver supreme, winner of 14 national titles, plus a silver medal in the 1948 Olympics and a bronze in 1952.

There’s more. The lovely 5-foot 4-inch, 119-pounder, by then a Californian, was three times nominated for the James E. Sullivan award as the nation’s outstanding amateur athlete, woman or man.

Is it any wonder that today she becomes the 86th member of The Des Moines Sunday Register’s Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.

IT’S A FABULOUS tale if you only go back as far as when the “unofficial queen of the 1948 Olympics” came home from London to Oakland to marry Jackie Jensen, the Golden Boy who was an all-american running back for California but opted to play outfield for the New York Yankees.

Reporters lurked behind convenient trees and photographers kept the glamour couple visible, flashing such news that her wedding gown and silver medal had been stolen from the car when she drove into New York City to join Jackie.

Fully intending for it to be permanent, Zoe Ann retired from competitive diving about year later and gave birth to the first of their three children, a son named Jan.

Jensen had two years as Yankee property before being traded to the Washington Senators. After nothing more strenuous than occasional exhibitions for several years, Zoe Ann started eyeing the ’52 Games.

“It just started eating on me,” she confesses. “I looked around and nobody was really that good. So we talked it over and I decided to make an effort.”

Would you believe that she made the U.S. team after only two weeks of serious work? Norma went back to baby-sitting, Art came east to do the coaching as he had almost always done, and the bronze medal followed.

IT WAS PREVIOUSLY stated that the story was fabulous from 1948 on. Before that, it was nigh on the unbelievable. It has not been mentioned, for instance, that LaPorte City did not have a pool, let alone a diving board.

“Zoe Ann was a good dancer but really outstanding in acrobatics,” says Norma. “The closest proper diving board was in Waterloo and those were the days of gas rationing. So we got a trampoline for the back yard.”

Little Miss Olsen went out and tossed, twisted and turned under the expert guidance of her father — an 11-letter winner at Northern Iowa and a coach and principal at the local high school.

“I remember. I remember,” says Zoe Ann. “I enjoyed the tramp when it wasn’t cold but I had to be pushed in the winter. It was like bouncing on rubber cement and the wind penetrated my little ol’ snow suit.”

On the rare trips to the YWCA pool in Waterloo, she had to stand in line for turns on the board. Yet, at 11, Zoe Ann won the state indoor and outdoor titles for women.

She claimed her first national title at 12, the 1943 Junior Amateur Athletic Union crown, and the Athens Athletic Club of Oakland invited the yound Iowan phenom to compete under its banner.

“I had thought of moving to California before that,” recalls Art, now retired in Oakland. “I was going into the service so we moved west to give Zoe Ann a chance to develop in good circumstances.”

THE 14 TITLES — one- and three- meter boards, indoors and out — were spread from 1943 through 1949, the last coming a month before her marriage to Jensen.

There was much more than diving and dancing (she also was into ballet) for Olsen. She played the piano, violin, clarinet, sang, was a high school majorette and honor student who also gave autographs.

“I don’t think I thought much about my athletic future. Diving was there. It was what I was doing,” recalls Olsen, who was deprived of one shot at Olympic Gold in ’44 because there were no Games from ’36 until ’48.

Vicki Manoles Draves, the wife of former Iowan Lyle Draves, Zoe Ann’s coach during the two years her father was in the service, won the three-meter title in London. Olsen was second.

“I was the youngest on the team. On the back dive, the girl in front of me hit the board and they stopped competition for 30 minutes,” says Olsen. “I guess it got to me because I hit my heels on the next dive.”

Helsinki in 1952 was weird. In what may be an eternal Olympic record, she took one dive three times. On the first try, judges ruled that “a technical fault in the fulcrum of the springboard” had aborted her effort.

“In my state of nerves, I did not realize there was a rule I had to wait for the whistle. I just went up, did the dive again and it didn’t count because all the judges weren’t watching,” she says with a sigh.

Once more, after the whistle, was good enough to get her into the finals by two-tenths of a point. She was so sure later she hadn’t placed that she was taking a shower when the news of the bronze arrived.

“That was it. I was so tired of the pressures that I came home and turned professional, so I wouldn’t be tempted again,” she says.

JENSEN WENT on to play for the Red Sox and was the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1958. Zoe Ann liked the life of a baseball wife, particularly in Boston. The marriage broke up in 1963, they were remarried 14 months later, then were divorced again in 1970.

“He was broke. No money for the children, no alimony, so I went to work as a blackjack dealer at Cal-Neva Lodge,” she says. “I really enjoyed it, but I can’t deal now because of my accident.”

Zoe Ann, who has been wed to Bramhan for five years, was taking down snow tires from overhead storage last fall when one tire went on a rampage, cracking her ribs, breaking a cheek bone and damaging nerves in a hand.

“I got my front tooth for Christmas,” quips the lady who is now a three-time grandmother. She still weighs about 110, hasn’t been on a diving board for 13 years but scuba dives and water skis.

She has a room full of trophies (about 150) and mementoes, not the least being proof that she and Norma, a pioneer in synchronized swimming coaching and promotion, are mother-daughter inductees in the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame.

And looking back, what was the best part of it all?

“There are still a lot of people who remember,” she finally said, after a thoughtful pause. “The compliments. The compliments are the nicest part.”

(Note: Mrs. Olsen Jensen, who they describe as a 3-time grandmother, was born the same year as my mother, who died last year, or nearly six months ago. A lot of my recent posts are tributes to my mom or dad; by Maury White for The Register).

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edit to add: oh, dear; it appears that Mrs. Bramham (Olsen Jensen) had deceased in 2017; she was actually born five weeks before my mom, Barbara Jane Hayms; here is the obituary:

Zoe Ann Bramham left us on September 23, 2017 to be with her mother Norma Olsen (Tu-tu) and ALL her cats. She was born in Council Bluff, Iowa on February 11, 1931. She was raised by her parents, Art and Norma Olsen in LaPorte City, Iowa until the age of 12 when they moved to Oakland, California.

She was an accomplished diver on the one and three meter springboard. She won her first national diving championship at the age of 14. She went to the Olympics in London in 1948 where she won a silver medal. She took a break from diving and married Jack Jensen and gave birth to the first of three children, Jan (Lepke) in 1950. She started training for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics a week before the tryouts and made the team, where she won a bronze medal. She retired from diving and second child Jon came along in 1953 and her third, Jay in 1959. They settled in Crystal Bay, Nevada.

She raised her children while supporting her husband Jack who played professional baseball. They eventually divorced in 1970 and she stayed active locally in Crystal Bay, Nevada. She drove the first school bus for the Incline/Crystal Bay area. She gave swim lessons and was the lifeguard for the community pool in Incline. She worked the 1960 Winter Olympics as a gate keeper for the slalom and giant slalom events. Zoe became a local blackjack dealer at the Cal/Neva casino. There is where she would meet her future husband Don Bramham.

Don and Zoe were married in 1973 and stayed in Crystal Bay until 1988, then they moved to Stuart, Florida for Don’s job in government. Zoe being very independent enjoyed this new lifestyle. During this time she was an avid bowler. She became so good she made it to the national finals in St. Louis, Missouri. She would also play card games one day a week with Don’s brother Bill. They lived in Saudi Arabia for several years while Don worked for the government. They spent the next several years traveling often all over the world and on cruises with Zoe’s mother Norma in tow. After settling back in the states she enjoyed her passion, her cats. Always one or two, but never without a furry critter in the house. She could be seen walking the grounds of her house with the cats on a leash or by her side. They were inseparable.

She was loved by all.

She is survived by her husband of 45 years, Don. She was preceded in death by her son Jon and her grandson Jason Knapp. She is also survived by her children Jan Jensen-Lepke and Jay (Barbette) Jensen; her grandchildren Jaena Knapp, Scott Knapp, Zachary Burd, Nicholas (Brittney) Burd, Jacob Burd, Tucker Jensen, Jackie Jensen; her great-grandchildren Tayler, Kiley, Dawn, Jason, Adam, Aydden, Abel, and Graysen; her great-great-granddaughter Laila.

 

She is also survived by Don’s children Becky Gillespie (granddaughter Lauren, great-granddaughter Avery), Lynn Bramham and Mark Bramham. Please send any donations to your local hospice.

So, Mrs. Jensen Olsen Bramham of Oakland High and Iowa lived to meet 19 of her descendents, over four generations, god bless.

The Bramhams in Florida:

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Married 45 years

This is (andand) a weird segue — I guess Jackie Jensen is posed — but here is Norman Rockwell cover art The Rookie which features the baby Mom of Mrs. Olsen Jensen Bramham — that’s him tieing his shoe (in front of Ted Williams, who it is said did not go sit for Rockwell the way that JJ and 2 others did):

Norman_Rockwell_-_The_RookieTucker Jensen, one of Zoe Ann’s grandkids, played baseball for Embry Riddle of Daytona Beach, Florida, a D2 powerhouse.

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About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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