TexasEscapes.com Texas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1600 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : ARCHITECTURE : : IMAGES : : SITE MAP
HOME
SEARCH SITE
ARCHIVES
RESERVATIONS
Texas Hotels
Hotels
Cars
Air
Cruises
 
  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Train travelers
owe much to service pioneer

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Every traveler today, no matter what mode of travel he prefers, owes a salute to the organizational genius of Fred Harvey. This slender wisp of a man was all gentleman and laid the groundwork and quality goals for travel hospitality, making such trips comfortable, reliable and enjoyable.

After horse-drawn transportation waned and before automobiles and airplanes came along, the train had its heyday. Until Fred Harvey came along, train travel was dirty and tiresome with the food and accommodations terrible. Even the railroad executives owned private rail cars in which to travel.

Fred changed all that when he came aboard the Santa Fe Railroad. Depot by depot, restaurant by restaurant he cleaned, organized, trained employees and supplied excellent food and service, making it the model of the future and forcing all other railroads to follow suit.

Heading his Fred Harvey Corporation, he became a genius at devising schemes to provide better service and food to passengers. Santa Fe gave him almost a free hand and placed all their rail equipment and facilities at his disposal for use. His success is now legend.

A gentleman eccentric, he insisted all men wear coats at the tables and kept varied sizes of coats on hand for those without. To disobey meant you would not be served, no matter who you were or your station in life.

Trains had to run on time and stops were for short periods. Pre-arranged signals sent ahead, had prepared meals waiting on the counters to make sure everyone was fed and free to again board the cars when the whistle blew.

An example of the organizational schemes devised by Fred involved a "cup-code" for the beverages. The patrons were asked if they preferred coffee, hot tea, iced tea or milk. The waitress then fiddled with the cup and moved on. Immediately the drink waitress arrived and without a word poured the right beverage. The customers were amazed at the accuracy of service.

The plan was simple. The first waitress left the cup upright in the saucer for coffee, upside down for hot tea, upside down and tilted against the saucer meant iced tea and upside down and away from the saucer for milk.

Similar codes were used for four choices of standard meals which were changed each week, and for selections of desserts. Each item arrived on time, and only extremely slow eaters had problems finishing their meals before time to catch their train.

Ernie Pyle, an avid train traveler who wrote for newspapers as he traveled the U.S., noticed the final waitress who brought the check made a big show of turning up one corner of the heavy cardboard ticket as she placed it in front of the customer.

Ernie and friends came to believe it was some sort of signal like the cup code used in providing the beverages. All sort of theories were voiced and finally he called waitress and asked what signal the turned-up corner of the ticket was sending?

She smiled and answered, "Oh that's so the customer can pick up the check off the counter easier."


Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
November 20, 2007 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

See Texas Railroads
More stories:
Texas | Online Magazine | Features | People | Columns | "It's All Trew" |

 
TEXAS TOWN LIST | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS | TEXAS COUNTIES
Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South |
West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
TRIPS | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | MAPS

TEXAS FEATURES
Ghosts | People | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII |
History | Black History | Rooms with a Past | Music | Animals | Books | MEXICO
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters |
Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators |
Lodges | Museums | Stores | Banks | Gargoyles | Corner Stones | Pitted Dates |
Drive-by Architecture | Old Neon | Murals | Signs | Ghost Signs | Then and Now
Vintage Photos

TRAVEL RESERVATIONS | USA

Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Recommend Us
Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE
Website Content Copyright 1998-2007. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: November 20, 2007