Hi folks! Linda Farmer Harris here. Thanks for stopping by.
I’m putting the final touches on my Easter Sunday menu. I’m thinking about Easter eggs – scrambled, not chocolate, served over Portobello mushrooms. That made me wonder how a Fred Harvey chef would prepare that dish.
I discovered the Harvey
Girls and their style of Southwest hospitality in the February 1992 issue of Texas Highways. Rosa Walston Latimer wrote about this unique group of women in Southwest history. That
began my admiration, no, my downright love affair, with these courageous young women who wanted to be independent and self-sufficient.
From the late 1800s to the mid-1950s Harvey House restaurants and dining rooms upheld
their tradition of quality food, high standards of service, and reasonable
prices. The Harvey Girls served weary travelers gourmet meals in thirty
minutes. Some served in restaurants, others in lunchrooms. All donned the
standard uniform of black or white starched skirt, high-collared blouse, with a
bib and apron. They served their patrons with practiced precision and polished
Each patron would tell their waitress whether they preferred
coffee, hot tea, iced tea or milk. The cup code enabled their choice to be
served quickly. If the waitress left the cup right side up in its saucer, that
meant coffee. Upside down meant hot tea. Upside down, but tilted against the
saucer meant iced tea. Upside down, away from the saucer meant milk. Patrons
who changed the positions of their cups risked getting the wrong drink.
The advertisement for “young women 18 to 30 years of age, of
good character, attractive and intelligent” as waitresses in Harvey Eating
Houses on the Santa Fe Railroad in the West is legendary. Their contribution to
the growth of the American West is preserved in poetry, song, and film. The
humorist, Will Rogers, observed that the Harvey Houses kept the West in food
You’ve probably seen the 1946 musical romance movie The
Harvey Girls, starring Judy Garland, as a
mail order bride. You may have
sung “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” along with her. Visit http://harvey-house.info/blog-hg/category/fred-harvey/
to watch a 1946 trailer.
When Fred Harvey entered the hospitality arena, Americans
were still looking to England and France to define style and substance of an
elegant lifestyle. Harvey gave them a look at their own country, encouraged
them to explore places like the Grand Canyon, take home Indian artifacts, dine on exquisite regional foods, all the while taking in the Wild West. He’s credited with inventing the “Santa Fe
At a time when the American West had a reputation of being hospitality-challenged, Fred Harvey offered meals that were culinary
masterpieces. Cowboys could eat a steak that wasn’t cooked to resemble shoe
leather, and cowgirls could toss aside “mountain oysters” and taste fresh Maine
oysters. Reading through the recipes in The Harvey House Cookbook by George H. Foster and Peter C. Weiglin and Stephen
Fried’s Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of
Civilizing the Wild West--One Meal at a Time
will make you hungry and motivate you to try your hand at cooking up some of
While you read recipes like Fred Harvey’s Chocolate
Custard—yum—you will chuckle at some of the directions and ingredients in other
recipes. I still wonder about macaroni that can be coiled around the bottom of
a buttered mold or exactly what is loppered milk. I’ve gathered the ingredients
for Hungarian Beef Goulash with Potato Dumplings for Sunday dinner.
At its peak, Harvey Girls worked in over sixty-five
restaurants and lunch counters, at a dozen large hotels. We often take up the
Fred Harvey story when he was at the height of being the “father of the
American service industry.” We don’t hear much about him starting at the bottom
of the ladder as a dishwasher — a pot walloper. He learned the restaurant business from the ground
up. As a government postal worker, he participated in the nation’s first
traveling post office. He had first hand experience about the miserable plight
of travelers and their meals.
for a wealth of information about Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls.
Lesley Poling-Kempes wrote The Harvey Girls: Women Who
Opened the West (1989). It is one of the
first definitive works on the topic. She also produced a two-book historical
paper doll fashion series, which is very valuable for writers and researchers
in describing outer and inner wear for the women at work and play. View her
books at http://www.lesleypoling-kempes.com/mombooks.html.
There have been fictional accounts, created from
historically accurate sources, about the Harvey Girls. My co-author, Artie
Stockton, and I submitted our first Harvey Girl novel, Three Came by Rail, in May 1994. Tracie Peterson penned her delightful
Desert Rose trilogy beginning with Shadows of the Canyon in 2002. Sheila Wood Foard wrote Harvey
Girl (2006) for teens. Frances M. Wood
wrote When Molly was a Harvey Girl
(2010), a fictional account of her great-grandmother’s experience as a Harvey
During the research trips for Three Came by Rail, I had the opportunity to visit the Castaneda hotel
and tour of some of the women’s room. Trips included Lamy, Belen, Albuquerque,
Santa Fe, Las Vegas. Below, I’m at the Castaneda and below that is an old picture of the
The Harvey House web site at http://www.harveyhouses.net/index.html
has a collection of photographs, links, and comments about various Harvey
Houses in Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico,
Oklahoma, and Texas.
Another site with pictures and information is http://harvey-house.info/.
New information about restored and renovated Harvey Houses
is raising awareness and renewing interest in this era in history. The
Castaneda Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico, considered one of the nation’s most
promising and most endangered historical landmark is on the brink of rising
from closure. News reports say that it will be restored. That’s great news.
Tom VanWormer, the "unofficial coordinator" for
the Harvey Girls in Colorado, especially on the Colorado Midland, was able
to document reimbursements from the Fred Harvey Company to the
Colorado Midland in a 1893 ledger. Mr. VanWormer confirmed the discovery
of three possibly four “new” Harvey locations in Colorado–which the company
ran from 1890-1895, the years the Santa Fe owned the Colorado Midland. So it can now be reported there
were Harvey Houses and Harvey Girls in: Cascade, Idyllwild, and Leadville.
It's been a pleasure sharing a bit about one of my passions with you.
Oh, the Harvey Chef served
his eggs with minced chicken, mushrooms, and garnished with buttered asparagus tips.
Come back on April 27th and see what's going on.
My give-away this month is a alpaca wool scarf knitted from
an 1898 pattern used during the Spanish American war. Plus a fun scarf that’s
all the rage now—Starbella Flash lace.
CFHS's GRAND PRIZE—Kindle.
Second Place winner will receive a $25 gift card to Amazon.
For each day you comment on a CFHS blog entry, you receive one entry in the Kindle and $25 Amazon gift card giveaway that will be drawn on April 1st. Comment on every post in the month of March and earn 31 entries! Enjoy the posts!