Burns' blindfold antics mystified locals
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blindfold antics mystified locals
Hailed as the "blindfolded wizard," Burns appeared here Oct. 12, 1927, to perform the unperformable.
After fielding questions like "How do you do it?" Burns began a 12-hour drive through the streets of Eau Claire while handcuffed to the steering wheel-and blindfolded.
Hundreds looked on in amazement as he gracefully maneuvered the Studebaker "Commander" along the route that begun in front of the Golden Rule Oil Co. service station on River Street and ended at the State Theater.
The blindfold, made of black cloth wrapped eight layers thick, was inspected by onlookers before the feat. Burns, admitting he could see through he blindfold, teased his audience by refusing to say how.
A noted dirt track racer and holder of two driving records, Burns' appearance in Eau Claire was sponsored by the Eau Claire Motor co., 405 S. Farwell St., in cooperation with other businesses.
"The blindfolded wizard" had appeared many times at the Milwaukee State Fair and was known for driving 192 consecutive hours without sleep or rest at Kansas City, Mo. His other record was for driving 50 hours and 23 minutes while blindfolded at Shreveport, La.
His appearance at Eau Claire was promotional, and cooperating merchants and businessmen exploited it. In ad after ad in the Eau Claire Leader, JB's testimonial was reason to buy anything.
The Eau Claire Motor Co. ranted "Jimmy Burns chose a Studebaker "Commander."
He also used "Penno Motor Oil and Fire-Drop, Anti-Knock gasoline" and rode on "Gillette Balloons." For starting power "Jimmy Burns insists on Willard," recommending R & G Battery and Electric Service, 206 E. River Street.
Uecke's Diary, 520-26 Water St., proudly announced that JB "drinks and endorses Uecke's pasteurized milk." And the Eau Claire Café declared that JB ate there.
"Jimmy Burns says: It's been a real pleasure to get acquainted with Chippewa All-wool garments in my visit to northwest Wisconsin," proclaimed the Chippewa Garment Co.
One merchant even tried to solve the mystery of the blindfold. "Is Jimmy Burns' car controlled and driven by one of Gambles' Tigerdyne Radio?" asked Gambles Auto Supply, 319 N. Barstow St., while H. J. Kohlhepp and Sons, 104 W. Madison St., prided itself with locking JB "securely to the wheel of his car with locks from our stock."
Extracted from the Eau
Claire Leader Telegram
Special Publication, Our Story 'The Chippewa Valley and Beyond', published 1976
Used with permission.