Three afternoons a week, Thelma Parks arrives at the Santa Monica Main Street Visitors Center to do what she does best — help travelers make the most of their stay in the seaside community.
Parks, with her white bob and direct gaze, is known for her enthusiasm, depth of knowledge of the city and one other thing — she is still going after 19 years at the Visitors Center and more than 80 years of life.
Her job is to make sure that international and domestic visitors have a positive experience during their stay in Santa Monica.
She spends her day answering a wide variety of questions from tourists, gives directions to local attractions and points of interest and sells City of Santa Monica souvenirs.
“I love the atmosphere at the Visitors Center,” says Parks, a 21-year Santa Monica resident. “I get to spend time conversing with people from all over the world and it’s wonderful to know that I’m helping them enjoy a city I love.”
Santa Monica Mayor Robert Holbrook recently helped Parks celebrate her 19th anniversary on the job.
“Thelma is an outstanding ambassador for our community,” Holbrook said. “Her joie de vivre and passion for service represent the best of Santa Monica’s lifestyle and culture.”
Most often, people are looking for a place to spend the night or for the perfect restaurant, Parks says.
Even locals clamor for her advice on entertainment and dining options in the area.
Whatever the request, co-workers say Parks can be counted on to use every tool at her disposal.
A lifelong learner, Parks is well versed in the ways of the Internet and uses it frequently to look up topics of interest and respond to e-mail inquiries.
She also familiarizes herself with Santa Monica’s many attractions.
“Ever since I began working here, I’ve made it my business to know where everything is,” she said. “I try a lot of different restaurants and I’ve taken different buses to find out how to get around.”
A native of Brisbane, Australia who came to the United States as an adult, Parks says she understands the tribulations that visitors experience when trying to find their way around a new setting.
“It gives me great pleasure to help visitors to Santa Monica,” she said. “I know what it’s like going to another country and trying to find your way around.”
Despite those initial challenges, Parks says she fell in love with Santa Monica when she first felt the fresh ocean breezes.
“One of the things I love about this area is that it reminds me of where I come from — the climate is very similar, the beaches too,” Parks said “So much of Santa Monica is ideal for people who come for vacation.
“You can go almost anywhere just walking. You don’t need a car. You can walk to the pier, to the Promenade, to Main Street or even Venice or Marina del Rey.”
Approaching her 20th year of assisting Santa Monica’s tourists, Parks says she has no intention of slowing down.