From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
Editor's Note: Restaraunteur Fred Harvey's life is linked with Leavenworth's early history. Harvey lived in the large stone residence at 7th and Olive, presently housing administrative offices of the Board of Education. A memorial plaque identifying the structure as the "Harvey house" was erected in 1967 in the yard by the Leavenworth Historical Society.
CHICAGO (AP)--They were queen when railroad was king.
They were the Fred Harvey Girls, visions in crisp black-and-white waitress uniforms who served hungry travelers along the busy routes of the early western railroads.
Legends grew up around them and their restaurant employer. Will Rogers said he just figured Fred Harvey and his girls "kept the West in food and wives." One legend has it that 20,000 of the comely waitresses wound up as brides to western ranchers, cowboys and railroadmen.
But things change.
As passenger business declined on the railroads, the Fred Harvey girls and the Fred Harvey restaurant system had to move to where the passengers went--to the airports, shopping centers and resorts.
Leslie W. Scott, president of the Fred Harvey chain, said the company "expects to continue to expand our services to the traveling public."
The chain will close its operation in the Kansas City Union Station Dec. 31 because of declining traffic. But "railroad stations such as Chicago's Union Station will be important to us, where there is a major concentration of commuter traffic," Scott said.
"We also are growing through our operations on the interstate highway system and at airports."
Fred Harvey has resort and hotel facilities in Grand Canyon, Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks; the Painted Desert; Death Valley National Monument; Santa Fe and Albuquerque, N.M., and Grand Rapids, Mich.
Fred Harvey supervises the food service on the dining cars of the Santa Fe Railway in an operation that extends over 13,000 miles of railroad track. The company also operates six restaurants and giftshops on the Illinois Tollway. There are Harvey House restaurants in Hazelwood, Mo.; Topeka, Kan. and Beloit, Wis., as well as three in Ontario, Barstow, and Loma Linda, Calif.
The name of Fred Harvey has been identified with food and railroading for 92 years. The founder got his first job at the Smith McNeill Cafe in New York shortly after landing in America from his native London in 1850. He was 15, and from his $2-a-week dishwasher's job he began to accumulate knowledge of the restaurant business. In 1859 he established his own dining hall in St. Louis.
After opening his first railway restaurant--on the second floor of the Santa Fe depot--in Topeka in 1876, he started other Harvey Houses in the 1880s and 1890s at about 100-mile intervals along the Santa Fe Route from chicago west. There were Harvey Houses through Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico to Arizona and California.
Trains stopped for meals in those days before widespread use of the dining car. Service was provided by the Harvey Girls, whose attractive appearance and good manners earned them a spot in railroad history.
An unknown versifier once said in the early 1900s: "If Harvey food has won the world the one who won is the Harvey Girl."
Harvey girls were recruited from good homes in the East and the historians say they played a part in the taming of the West.
The Harvey Girls brought culture, refinement and romance to a section where buffalo herds, attacking Indians and horse thieving was common.
the girls were housed in dormitories presided over by house mothers. They were looked after as carefully as boarding school students at the "female seminaries" in the east. Many of the Harvey Girls were former school teachers.
In those early days, historians say some wild western characters changed their ways and were seen accompanied the Harvey Girls to church on Sunday.
Editor and essayist Elbert Hubbard said 4,000 babies born to former Harvey Girls were named Fred, or Harvey, or both.
But the Harvey Girls were not the only wholesome facet of Harvey House. The breakfast that patrons got for 50 cents before the turn of the century included cereal or fruit, eggs on top of thick, juicy steaks with hash brown potatoes on the side and a stack of six large hot cakes swimming in butter and maple syrup, topped off with apple pie and coffee.
Dinner menus for 75 cents were bountiful and always with a fancy gourmet dish or wild game, served with a smile by the Harvey girls.
One of Harvey's most sacred regulations was his well known "coat rule." From his earliest days it was accepted that all dining room men patrons should wear dinner jackets. To ensure that no one was turned away because of improper dress, a supply of dark alpaca coats was always kept on hand. For nearly half a century Americans ranging from gunmen to Presidents obeyed the rule.
An irreverent legend has it that when Fred Harvey died in 1901 at the age of 66 his last words were: "Don't cut the ham too thin."
But a lot of syrup has been poured over the hotcakes since Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer made the motion pictures, "The Harvey Girls," starring Judy Garland in 1946.
In July the Fred Harvey hotel and restaurant organization became a subsidiary of Amfac, Inc., which has headquarters in Honolulu. Today the Fred Harvey famed Three Thousand Miles of Hospitality extends another 2,500 miles across the Pacific.
Harvey president Scott is a vice president of Amfac, a company engaged in real estate development and management with resort sites in Hawaii and