There have been numerous racing stewards at the Rocky Mountain Turf Club since I started frequenting the tack in the early 1960s. One of my favourites, both as a steward and as a man, was the late Marc Jenkins.
Marc was always puffing on a Cigarello and had a class and character that somehow didn't seem to fit the racetrack - not that the track is full of bad characters. Marc was always saying "people come to play, not to stay!" concerning the need for presenting a speedy, well-ru race card. Marc could move with ease among owners who could buy and sell the Exhibition itself, but was equally at home with the kid cleaning the stall, or the bettors along the rail, a trainer or a rider.
For those who came in contact with Marc Jenkins, they went away knowing they had been in the presence of a gentleman. To me Marc Jenkins was cut from the same cloth as longtime racing writer Jim Coleman.
"Marc, quite simply, was a nice guy," said Paul Haslam, a longtime racing fan and friend of the Jenkins family from boyhood in the Stavely-Claresholm area.
"Marc was also a jockey on the bush circuit in 1947, including riding at Raymond's big July 1st Stampede. As a kid Marc was known as 'Brus', why, I don't know. He was quite a rider in his younger days, galloping and training his dad's horses, though I don't know if he ever rode them in any races.
"M.E. Jenkins, Marc's dad, ran horses and was an oldtime horseman. He also operated the Rex Theatre in Claresholm for a time. Brus was his projectionist at times, even in the Marda Theatre in Calgary. It was named for Marc Sr. and Marc's mother, Mada. She was a fine lady and came up to southern Alberta from Utah."Marc, who married Gwen Carney of Claresholm, served in the Royal Canadian Navy, 1941- 1945.
His father, Marc Sr., was in the grocery business with his brother Roy and also owned the Rex Theatre in Clareshom - in 1950 he moved the family to Calgary and purchased the Marda Theatre. As well, he raised many horses seen on the Western Canadian racing circuit and kept brood mares long after his retirement. Showing his versatility he also played cornet in the Jenkins Orchestra back in 1918.
All concerns about opening day in Lethbridge in 1978, under the guidance of Mar for one, turned out to be simply ulcer builders.
In racing terminology, the new Whoop-Up Downs track successfully broke its maiden.
Lethbridge and district racing fans poured $51,860 through the new parimutuel windows as they wagered on the first eight-race card held in the new complex.
In might be noted that one of the premiere rides of the Marc Jenkins era was Elijah Bourne, a fiery, talented young jockey. Many a time Elije and Marc were head-to-head in disagreements.
Marc, of course, always held the upper hand, but he was wise enough to know that as Elije went so went the Lethbridge meet. If Elije was ever set down for a day or two, it was at the start of the meet, before things began to roll.
Despite their differences, Marc always had a likeing for Elije, and as he used to say with a smile, "he keeps my job interesting."Marc Jenkins Jr., who was a steward at Calgary as well as Lethbridge and a Supervisor of Racing for Alberta Racing Corp., sadly died of cancer in his 50s, in 1986.