Teri Orr: The way we were in a Park City era long gone
In some ways — it was as if no time had passed. We were sitting at the round table at Adolph’s with cocktails — talking over each other’s sentences — like puppies in a basket, last Sunday night. But instead of weeks, it had been years since we had been together. Instead of being young, ambitious, adventuresome women, all new to town, we were now — the girls with the grandmother faces. We have watched this town grow since our collective arrivals — all in the late ’70s. The gathering on a warm summer night was decades in the making and the women came from various parts of the country — and Heber — to reunite for a night.
Back in the day … we arrived in a town that ended at the Mount Aire Cafe (now Squatter’s). There were two markets — one where 350 Main is today — Day’s Market with warped hardwood floors and narrow aisles. I had a charge account there. Every two weeks — when I was paid from this paper — I would pay the handwritten receipts Ruby tallied for me. There were no Amazon deliveries. There was no internet. The only phones were landlines. And still, we managed to have very full lives.
Some of us met at church. Some just as neighbors/parents of same-age kids. Some from their love of horses. We were fully part of the women’s revolution and that involved a great deal of independence in work and love. We watched each other’s kids and pets and loaned our books and dishes and cars and high heels as needed. So many Sundays were brunches at different homes. They were “fancy” in that non-catered — flowers from the garden — ironed napkins way. We walked to each other’s homes because — except for Katherine who lived in a terrific tiny home in Old Town — we all lived in Park Meadows.
One woman who had worked for Common Cause in its beginnings in D.C. was a TV reporter here and would drive the long horrible narrow highway to Salt Lake City each day. One woman helped take our funky Chamber of Commerce with a dozen members to the vibrant level of a Visitors and Convention Bureau. One was a horsewoman who had a couple of small businesses. One had come from someplace back east and was a consultant for cities and towns. In the late ’70s, everyone who came to Park City — as Bill Coleman used to say — came here for a second chance. We all had priors…
But what we had — more than anything — was some kind of crazy spunk and ambition and fearlessness of the elements and the conditions necessary for survival. We were determined to make this home, create new lives and contribute in whatever way we knew or could learn — to our town. After I married the guy who directed community theater, we rehabbed the old abandoned Silver Wheel Theater with new owners, Randy and Debbie (Mrs.) Fields money — back to its original state and name — the Egyptian. Everyone joined in by acting in the plays or being the audience — both roles were vital to success.
Eventually Katherine and I started a PR firm on the back of a cocktail napkin at the Down Under bar beneath the Claimjumper Hotel where all good deals began and many ended. We both knew how to write. Katherine was so much better at the detail stuff and I had been gifted a brand new Nikon camera. So I learned to shoot — first for the newspaper — decent enough black and white photos. We landed some exciting clients — the Osmond family and the U.S. Ski Team had teamed up for a Celebrity Ski Classic event to raise money for the ski team, which had only recently moved from Colorado to a tiny shack up on the Park City Ski Resort mountain. Then we worked with a short-lived Salt Lake City ballet company that had spun off from a young dancer who wanted to try something edgy. Which worked until she got pregnant. There was a group in Salt Lake — through the state film commission office — that had started a fall film festival and thought moving it up to Park City would be fun. It had the lofty name of the United States Film and Video Festival. Katherine and I took on the job of helping them with special press events and then the festival itself. In 1986 the financing couldn’t support the ambition and the nonprofit was ready to fold. In stepped one of the advisors from over the hill — the California boy Utah had adopted — the handsome actor Robert Redford. He combined his kinda summer camp of Hollywood folks he had been running at his retreat ranch outside of Provo with the state’s failing nonprofit festival. Sundance became synonymous with both one of the most spectacular mountain resorts anywhere and the most edgy independent film festival. We had quit working for them the year before — when they had run out of funds to pay us.
On Sunday night we gathered around the table, at what we still think of as the “new” Adolph’s — the original was at the public golf course — the back corner of the Hotel Park City today. We spoke of the recent loss of one of those sassy women who arrived with us — Park City’s first real city manager, Arlene Loble. We spoke of all the men we loved and left. We compared notes on children and grandchildren. Three of the five of us are still working full-time and we shared stories on all that. But mostly we lamented the loss of the small town that allowed us to make up different lives different years. The idyllic place to raise children and the remarkable support we kinda took for granted from each other that gave us room to work and love and know we had each other’s backs. We were all just making up lives for a second and third time, doing more than best we could. We were doing great. And we knew how to find time to pause, those Sundays in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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I must admit that, although I have felt much love wherever I hung my hat during this life, I never felt more at home in a new cultural environment than on my first trip down that coastline.