On August 10, 1923, this item appeared in the Park Record:
“At the L.D.S hospital, Salt Lake, Thursday, August 2nd, a fine baby girl was born to Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Jenkins. Mother and babe doing nicely – and will be coming home next week.”
At that time J.E. Jenkins was best known in Park City for his wizardry with a pool cue and for his store that advertised radios and “new and slightly used phonographs.” In later years he was better known for his artistry with a camera and for his restaurants that sold homemade ice cream, hamburgers, and “baked goods [that] are the best you will find anywhere.” By then everyone knew him as Pop Jenks.
And his “fine baby girl”? Well, today everyone knows her as Thelma Uriarte. And today she is celebrating her 100th birthday.
To people who lived in Park City at least 30 years ago, Thelma needs no introduction. In the 1950s she ran Pop Jenks’ Lunch at the north end of town. In the 1960s she owned a share of the Egyptian Theatre. In the 1970s her husband, Leon Uriarte, served a term as mayor of Park City. In the 1980s she worked as a teller in the local branch of First Security Bank. For many years she was active in local golf and bowling leagues.
I met Thelma in 1986 when I was working for the Park City Museum and heard that she had a large collection of her father’s photographs and negatives. That led to an exhibit of his work at the Kimball Art Center in the fall of 1987 and ultimately to a 2017 biography, “Park City’s Pop,” featuring many of his iconic photographs. In working with Thelma on both of those projects, I came to love her spunk, her candor, and her phenomenal memory.
Some of Thelma’s earliest memories involve life at 430 Main Street, which housed her father’s phonograph store, a photography darkroom, and the family’s living quarters.
In 1932 her father took a series of classic photos of Sheriff Eph Adamson and Patrolman Sam Billings posing on Main Street with Billings’ Harley-Davidson. The crowning touch is a pit bull perched on the seat of the motorcycle. The dog’s name was Dodo and he officially belonged to Thelma.
“There was no dog-leash law then,” she told me. “So he was the dog about town, I suppose, but he was sure my buddy. I’d dress him up in doll clothes and put him in a buggy and wheel him around.”
By then Park City, like the rest of the country, was in the throes of the Depression. No one was buying expensive radios and phonographs.
“It got really bad,” Thelma said. “I can remember my mother yelling down the steps to my dad, ‘We get to eat tonight. We just sold something.’”
Ironically, it was the death of his wife’s parents in 1932 that kept them in business. With money from her inheritance, they remodeled the store to sell something everyone needed – food and drink.
“The most up-to-date drink and candy counter and booths is the ‘Sugar Bowl,’ opened by Joe Jenkins,” the Park Record reported. Before long the Sugar Bowl had become Pop Jenks’ Confectionery.
Thelma and her older sister, Laura, helped in the family business. “He was still doing photos then, and I’d work in the darkroom with him,” Thelma said. “I was nine years old, helping him, when they started the confectionery.” She said her father often used the front windows to display his latest black-and-white photos, some hand-tinted in color by his wife, Marjorie.
In April 1937 Pop bought the Little Chicago lunchroom at the intersection of State Route 224 and U.S. Highway 40 (now Kearns Boulevard). It became known variously as Lower Pop Jenks, Jenks’ Café, and Pop Jenks’ Lunch. While Marjorie ran the confectionery, Pop ran the lunchroom.
Thelma continued to work in the family businesses after her graduation from high school in 1941 and her marriage to Frank Dorka in December 1942. However, when Frank’s unit in the U.S. Army Reserves was assigned to a base in Arizona, Thelma went with him. They returned after World War II to manage the confectionery, then moved down to the lunchroom. (Frank and Thelma later divorced.)
Among those who worked for Thelma was Mary Lou Wheelwright (now Mary Lou Toly), who went on to start the Red Banjo – now Park City’s oldest restaurant – in 1962. Mary Lou remains one of Thelma’s closest friends.
In 1970 Thelma married Leon Uriarte. They lived in Highland Estates until 1992, when they started to divide their time between homes in Salt Lake City and Mesa, Arizona. Leon died in 2013.
Today Thelma lives year-round in Salt Lake City but is celebrating her birthday at Mary Lou’s Red Banjo in Park City with her son, Frank Dorka, his family, and about 150 of her closest friends.
Happy birthday, Thelma!