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HAZEL MARION EATON WATKINS OF SOUTH PORTLAND, MAINE WAS KNOWN AS THE FIRST "MILE-A-MINUTE GIRL" WHO RODE AN INDIAN MOTORCYCLE IN A CARNIVAL MOTORDROME - OTHERWISE KNOWN AS "THE WALL OF DEATH."
Hazel Marion Eaton was born on July 4, 1895 in West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Lubec, Maine. At 15, she joined the circus, despite objections from her parents who wanted her to be a milliner or hat maker. Her first acts included shallow diving from an elevated platform, hoop rolling, an Annie Oakley impressionist and working with trained monkeys in an act.
Just two years after joining the Johnny Jones Exposition, Hazel became a stunt motorcyclist in "Watkins's Wall of Death" owned and operated by her first husband, Ira Watkins. The "Wall of Death" refers to a barrel-shaped track where motorcyclists ride the wooden walls at speeds that reach 60 miles per hour. Hazel performed a variety of daring tricks such as riding without hands. Although injury often resulted in death in the motordrome, Hazel survived several bad falls including an incident when her back brake locked up causing her to fall to the bottom of the motordrome. Even after breaking her back and suffering a serious head injury, Hazel returned to the circus within a year. After 15 years of riding in the motordrome, Hazel purchased her own show and traveled to every state in America, including Cuba, Canada and Europe. Hazel finally retired in 1942, returned to Maine and hosted fabulous parties with her best friend Beatrice Houdini, Harry Houdini's wife. Hazel died in Florida in 1970, leaving a wild legacy behind
(on far right)
Hazel Eaton Watkins
Johnny Jones Exposition has the World's Champion Lady Motorcycle Trick and Fancy Rider, Johnny J. Jones, Exposition News, Orlando, Feb. 10, 1924
Photos courtesy of the Julia Ellsworth Collection,
All Rights Reserved, 2023.
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