Category: The Harvey Girls

The Wind Beneath My Wings & Book Giveaway

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This is the last photo of the two of us together. It was taken at Christmas.

I’m dedicating today’s blog to my husband, George, who passed away on April 3rd.   He was the hero I so often write about in my books and I miss him more than words can say.

Some of you may have noticed that many of the couples in my stories are complete opposites. That’s how it was with George and me.   He met at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Hollywood and even though we had nothing in common, he proposed on the first date. I thought he was crazy. Never one to give up, he persisted until I finally said yes.  Our pastor made us take a premarital compatibility test, which we failed miserably.  Based on the low scores, he tried talking us out of marriage.  Three kids and six grandchildren George said, “I wonder what would have happened had we passed that test.”

When Bette Midler came out with the song The Wind Beneath My Wings from Beaches in 1988 our daughter Robyn was convinced that her father was the inspiration behind it. There’s no better way to describe him.

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Photo of George and me taken at Melody Ranch during a cowboy festival.

He spent his entire life helping and supporting others. He was my right hand man and encouraged me to keep writing during all the years of rejection.  A film editor by trade, he never really understood the craziness of the publishing business, but he supported me in every way he could. If any of you reading this won one of my books, you can be sure he wrapped and mailed it.  With each new release, he did the Walmart flybys to make sure my books were displayed properly.

Every conference, convention and book signing found him standing in the shadows, directing any glory my way.   Every day at four p.m. he banged on a pot. That was his signal for me to quit work and join him.  Some days he’d have a cup of tea waiting.  He always seemed to sense when I had a bad day of writing. Those were the days a glass of wine greeted me.  

My dear sweet husband will be remembered for his kind loving heart, gentle warm spirit, abiding faith and ability to make others laugh. He was truly my hero and the wind beneath my wings.

 

Calico Spy V3

To order click on cover.

Tomorrow, April 29th is George’s birthday.  In his honor I’m giving away a copy of Calico Spy, a story about a Pinkerton detective working undercover as a Harvey girl. The last trip my husband and I took together was to Vegas. We stopped in Barstow, California so I could check out the old Harvey restaurant which turned out to be the model for the book.  While I took notes, he took photos for me.  That was the last research trip we took together.

Updated: April 27, 2016 — 7:28 am

Taming the West One Meal at a Time

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Nothing changed America as much as the iron horse. People were finally able to travel across country in relative comfort and not have to worry about the weather, Indians, or some of the other mishaps that plagued early travelers. A train passenger’s greatest fear was food poisoning. That’s how bad meals were along the rails.

It took one efrednterprising Englishman to change the way travelers ate. His name was Fred Harvey and his Harvey House restaurants eventually stretched along the Santa Fe railroad tracks from Chicago all the way to Los Angeles and San Francisco—one every hundred miles.

Hear That Whistle Blow

Fred Harvey invented the “fast-food” concept long before Ray Kroc. Passengers were allowed only thirty minutes to get off the train, eat and board again, so time was of the essence. He devised a system in which train conductors would telegraph passenger food orders to the restaurant in advance. This allowed the restaurant staff to prepare the food before the train pulled into the station.

From Dishwasher to Household Name

Harvey learned the business the hard way. After traveling to America at the age of seventeen, he landed a job as a dishwasher at a famed New York restaurant, working his way through the ranks from dishwasher to line-cook. He eventually landed in St. Louis where he took over the Merchants Dining Room Saloon. His success lasted only a short time. The winds of war could not be ignored and after his partner joined the secessionist army, taking all the money the two men had saved, Harvey’s restaurant was doomed.

After a series of jobs and personal losses, he eventually took over an eating house at the Santa Fe depot in Topeka. He arranged for fresh fruit and meat to be railed in from Chicago and other states. His food was so good that railroad officials worried that no one would want to travel past Topeka.

First Female Workforce

As the number of his depot restaurants increased, so did his troubles. Black men were hired as waiters, but this often created conflict with cowboys. After one unpleasant midnight brawl at the Raton Harvey eating house, Harvey’s friend Tom Gables suggested a radical idea; why not replace black male waiters with women? Harvey decided to give Tom’s idea a try.

Harvey ran ads in newspapers for “young women of good character, attractive and intelligent, 18 to 30, to work in the Harvey Eating Houses.” He offered a salary of $17.50 a month, a tidy sum for a young woman. Soon he had all the help he needed.

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This Harvey House is in Barstow, CA. It’s now a museum. I used it as a model for my story.

The women lived in dormitories above the restaurants under the watchful eye of a house mother. Their uniforms consisted of a black dress, black shoes and stockings, and a crisp white apron. The women had to adhere to strict rules and were not allowed to marry for six months.

His new female staff was a great success and helped ease racial tensions. Even the roughest of cowboys and railroad workers were willing to don the required (and dreaded) dinner jacket just for the pleasure of being served a good steak by a pretty girl.

He Kept the West in Food—and Wives

That quote from Will Rogers says it all; Among his other talents, Fred Harvey not only “civilized the west” he was indirectly responsible for more than 5000 marriages. That’s enough to make you want to forgive him for inventing fast-food. Almost….  

What’s the best or worse meal you had while traveling?

                   

 

Calico SpySomeone is killing off the Harvey Girls. Undercover Pinkerton detective Katie Madison hopes to find the killer before the killer finds her—or before she burns down the restaurant trying.

 

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Updated: January 28, 2016 — 1:36 pm

The Harvey Girls

Cynthia

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Cynthia is giving away a copy of An unconventional Lady

to one lucky responder.

(Sorry, due to postage and customs, giveaway is for US only.)

*Due to technical difficulties on Saturday, we invited Cynthia to extend her stay at the Junction through Monday. So you still have time to get in the drawing for her fabulous new book. YeeHaw!

Scottish immigrant, Fred Harvey, was disgusted by the service and food preparation by restaurants along the Santa Fe railroad and decided to make a difference. He opened his first location in Kansas and restaurant service along the railroad would never be the same. Harvey was known for hiring local contractors to make the hotels fit their surroundings.

 

Harvey advertised in Eastern and Mid-western newspapers and magazines for single moral women between the ages of seventeen and thirty to be waitresses in his Harvey Houses. Over one hundred thousand women worked in his employ until the mid-1950s. While the women were told what to wear, what to do, how to wear their hair, and not to marry during their six-month contract, these brave women loved their independence. Over half of them chose to stay out west and help settle the country after their contracts were up, earning them the name “Women Who Tamed the West”.untitled

 

The women had to be of good moral character, have at least an eighth grade education, display good manner and be neat and articulate to work in his restaurants. In return for employment, the Harvey Girls would agree to a six-month contract, agree not to marry, and abide by all company rules during the term of employment. If hired, they were given a rail pass to get to their chosen destination. Harvey Girls were the women who brought further respectability to the work of waitressing. They left the protection and poverty of home for the opportunity to travel and earn their own way in life, while experiencing a bit of adventure.

 

untitled 2I chose to write a series of four books, spread out over the time span of the Fred Harvey Company to enlighten readers as to these brave, hard-working women. In An Unconventional Lady, the story takes place at the El Tovar Hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon. This hotel is still running today with its waitresses still dressed in the familiar uniform of Harvey girls.

 

www.cynthiahickey.com

Multi-published and Best-Selling author Cynthia Hickey had three cozy mysteries and two novellas published through Barbour Publishing. Her first mystery, Fudge-Laced Felonies, won first place in the inspirational category of the Great Expectations contest in 2007. Her third cozy, Chocolate-Covered Crime, received a four-star review from Romantic Times. All three cozies have been re-released as ebooks through the MacGregor Literary Agency, along with a new cozy series, all of which stay in the top 50 of Amazon’s ebooks for their genre. She has several historical romances releasing in 2013 and 2014 through Harlequin’s Heartsong Presents. She is active on FB, twitter, and Goodreads. She lives in Arizona with her husband, one of their seven children, two dogs and two cats. She has five grandchildren who keep her busy and tell everyone they know that “Nana is a writer”.

An Unconventional Lady cover

Updated: April 7, 2014 — 8:49 am
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