Quote for Today: Harvey provided the West with food and wives. Roy Rogers
I am very close to finishing a great book entitled “Restaurant Man.” However, today we are not writing about Joe Bastianich or Mario Batali, this happened much earlier.
One hundred and two years ago , Fred Harvey passed away. He arrived in America at the age of fifteen with ten dollars in his pocket. Who the heck is Fred Harvey? In an age when America was growing, Mr. Harvey cut out his fair share of the American pie.
Fresh off the boat, he landed a job as a dishwasher and fell in love with the hospitality business. With grander aspirations, he joined the booming railroad business and quickly moved up the corporate ladder. Harvey saw an opportunity to feed and lodge the railroad passengers that was not being met. He eventually built restaurants and Harvey House Hotels along the great railways that included the Santa Fe Line. He offered great food and service that was supplied by the railroad itself, in terms of fresh products and the infamous Harvey Girls. These servers (Harvey Girls) were hand picked,well trained and became a symbol of the organization. The popularity of these girls grew stronger when Judy Garland starred in the 1946 movie, The Harvey Girls.
Mr. Harvey was credited with forming the first restaurant chain that eventually had establishments every one hundred miles along the Santa Fe Railways. The Blue Plate Special, a daily low priced complete meal, is also an invention of his. Mention of these specials served on blue patterned china appear as early as 1892. The only one we could find was from 1956 and included a bowl of soup, roast young turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes, stewed tomatoes, roll and butter, pie or ice cream and a beverage for $2.45. Sorry, they accepted no substitutions.
The company survived well past the death of passenger rail service until Mr. Harvey’s grandson died in 1965. However, El Tovar at the Grand Canyon and La Fonda in Santa Fe are still in operation. I’m sure if he was alive today the information super highway would be his new railroad.
We believe Mr. Harvey would have been proud to see his hotels listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. When in Santa Fe, we plan to stay at La Fonda for its delightful offerings. Whether shopping, relaxing in the spa, or dancing to some cool blues and Texas Two-Step, live entertainment is six nights a week, and make for a very enjoyable stay. La Fonda Website