Irish Pubs by the name of Flannagan’s may be a dime a dozen, but the story behind Flanagan’s on Main offers deep roots to both Park City and owner John Kenworthy’s family.
In the early 1900s, a troubled young lad by the name Charles Kenworthy took to traveling the rail line (hiding underneath the trains by laying across the brake rods – “riding the rods”) to escape from numerous orphanages. Union Pacific management, concerned for both his well-being and their liability, couldn’t manage to keep the elusive Kenworthy off the lines.
Around this same time, a Catholic priest in Omaha by the name of Father Flanagan was trying to start an orphanage for boys. While the Catholic Church did little to support Flanagan’s early endeavors, the owners of the Union Pacific railroad heard of his quest and offered to find financial support for the proposed orphanage if Flanagan could prove himself through the reform of Kenworthy. Flanagan took the young homeless lad in and was quite successful in Kenworthy’s reform as he coached young Kenworthy in oration. Soon he became noted as a juvenile orator in support of Flanagan’s mission. The Union Pacific gave free train travel to Flanagan’s young “sample” and his heartfelt speeches were an immediate success.
Seeking to expand the appeal, the legendary priest added singers and comedians and formed a troupe of young orphan boy entertainers who traveled the country generating much publicity and filling the coffers for Boys Town; they stopped in Park City annually over the years. Rumor has it that the local miners, saloon keepers and ladies of ill-repute were quite generous to the boys during their stays. Grandson John Kenworthy remembers with a smile a few stories his grandfather told him over the years about his experiences here. At one point, they ended up leaving Park City with a troubled boy to take back with them to Omaha.
John Kenworthy, owner of Flanagan’s on Main, sure is thankful to Father Flanagan. He credits Flanagan’s work with his very existence. Charles continued to work with Father Flanagan well through adulthood. When Hollywood picked up on Flanagan’s story and wanted to recreate a film based on Boys Town, Kenworthy moved his family to LA to oversee the production of the film on behalf of the Home.
Read more about Kenworthy and Flanagan’s story in the Park Record. As Flanagan’s celebrates their 5th anniversary on Main Street this week, stop by and take a look at some of the artifacts John has gathered over the years.