Meyer, Carolyn. Diary of a Waitress: The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Harvey Girl
April 7th 2015 by Calkins Creek
Kitty Evans is told by her father in 1926 that there is not enough money to send her to college to become a journalist, although there is just enough income from the family haberdashery to send her ne'er-do-well brother. She is expected to live at home and get a job in a local shoe store, but when she sees that the Harvey Houses are hiring, she goes for an interview even though she is not quite 17. She gets hired, leaves home and is trained, and eventually ends up in New Mexico working with new friends Cordelia and Emmy. The discipline for waitresses is very strict, even though the public perception is that they are not much better than street walkers, and the work is hard. There is a lot of fun to be had, however, especially since Cordelia is a "flapper" and gets Kitty involved in some adventures. On the other end of the spectrum is Emmy, a farm girl who is expected to send all of her money home before returned herself to marry a farmer. Kitty manages to get a few writing jobs for the local newspaper. In the end, the girls go their separate ways, but an epilogue finds them celebrating their 25th anniversary of working in the restaurant.
Strengths: Meyer always does a well-researched historical novel, and I was very pleased to see this unusual bit of history covered. She lives in Albuquerque, and was able to visit some of the restaurants! The actions of the characters are true to the time period, there is a lot of local color, and I enjoyed this tremendously.
Weaknesses: I was hoping for something from the earlier days of the railroad: the Harvey Houses started in the 1870s, and that would have been a far more interesting perspective on women out in the world! By 1920, there were so many more opportunities. The ending was a bit abrupt, and I'm not a fan of epilogues.
What I really thought: It will be hard to find readers for this in my library, but I'm very tempted to buy a copy.