Back around 2000 we were on our way to the Hopi Mesas and spent the night in Winslow Arizona. There we discovered a place called La Posada and the architect who designed it, Mary Colter. So began a love affair with the hotel and Mary Jane Elizabeth Colter. Through Colter I discovered the Harvey Girls and Fred Harvey. Being a collector of books, the books followed. Over the last 15 years we have spent many a night at La Posada. There has been a resurgence of interest in this part of our Southwestern history. Through a page I started on Facebook, Fred Harvey/Mary Colter Fan Club, we have traveled to the sites of former Harvey Houses and gotten to know some wonderful people preserving this history. One of these new friends is Rosa Latimer, an independent bookstore owner, freelance writer, playwright, author and more. She was part of our crew when we took our train trip from Las Vegas NM to Winslow AZ. You can read about here tucsonkathy.com/historichotelsan…. . She has recently released her second Harvey House book, the Harvey Houses of New Mexico. We thought it would be fun to meet up with her in Deming and Las Cruces. Deming is only three hours from home and Las Cruces one hour more.
If you ever find yourself passing through Deming New Mexico, please take the time to visit the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum. It’s a wonderful museum located on 301 South Silver in the old Deming Armory building. It has been the depository for many business and personal collections of Deming’s past. It has one of the most amazing collections of whiskey bottles we have ever seen. Today was a book signing by Rosa. Here Rosa Latimer, on the right, is begin introduced to the guest by Virginia Pool, the director of the museum. Since the event was happening in front of a fireplace, yes there is one there behind the table, they were calling it their first fireside chat.
This event was scheduled for a reading and a discussion. People could purchase books for signing too. What was a bonus, Rosa had the museum sell the books. This way they made some money from her visit, which was also complimentary. When you run a museum with volunteers, every penny counts. She personalized the talk by sharing how she came to writing about the Harvey Girls and the houses they lived in. Her grandmother had been a Harvey Girl in Raton New Mexico.
Harvey Houses of New Mexico is the second book in Rosa’s series. The first being the Harvey Houses of Texas. Rosa currently lives in Post Texas, where her Ruby Lane Bookstore is located, so it made sense to start with the Texas Harvey Houses. What is interesting about Rosa’s approach to these books is she invests the time to find pictures and stories of the men and woman who worked in the Harvey locations. Some of the stories are second hand, but Rosa has also discovered many former Harvey Girls who worked in the the 40’s and 50’s as young women. You can click on the Harvey Houses of Texas to place an order through Amazon.
Rosa did a reading from the New Mexico book about the Deming Harvey House. Sadly it is long gone and the railroad depot was relocated.
Before we left Deming we went by the new location, now housing government offices and took a picture of a painting, smack up against a Coke machine, of the former location of the depot and the Harvey House. So much of this history has been lost in small towns along the lines of the former Santa Fe Railroad.
We headed back to Deming Friday night. Saturday morning Rosa was doing a book signing at Coas Books. What an interesting bookstore. Rooms filled with new and used books. You could find some treasures in this place. Two of the Harvey Girls of El Paso, a group formed to keep the history alive, drove over from El Paso to visit. El Paso is less than an hours drive from Las Cruces. It’s like driving across town in Tucson. Everyone seems to be pointing at something! The woman on the left is Patricia Kinnedy and the one in the middle is Pres Dehrkoop. Rosa got a great location, right inside the front door. It was an unusually hot and humid day in Cruces and people were popping in. They were taking a break from the incredible Farmers Market on Main Street to not only browse books but get out of the heat. It was definitely nice and cool inside.
Pres now lives in El Paso, but has lived all over the world accompanying her Air Force husband. She grew up in Silver City New Mexico. Patricia is sharing a flyer with one of the locals about the big Fred Harvey birthday party in El Paso the following Saturday.
Here’s another local who stopped by to say hi and join us for lunch, Neil McMillan. Neil’s mother, Maureen McMillan, who lives in Belen New Mexico, helped to save the Belen Harvey House. She ran it as a volunteer, along with other dedicated residents of Belen, for 20 years. Today it’s owned by the City of Belen.
Rosa helped Coas sell a pile of books in just two hours and signed every one of them. The bookstore was going to have to reorder. Gee, they had the same issue in Deming. It was fun to see what the back end, selling books, is like for an author. When an author comes to your town, please take the time to go visit. They love to connect with their readers. One thing we are all learning about New Mexico, they sure do love their history.
When you click on the Harvey Houses of New Mexico and/or Texas, you will be able to order either one or both from Amazon. Rosa would appreciate your support. Bonus! You will get to enjoy reading about the woman and men who came to work for the Fred Harvey Company. The training they received would benefit them for the rest of their lives. Their descendants continue to live in the West. Look at Rosa! If not for her grandma coming West, she wanted to earn enough money to go to Alaska, Rosa would not be here today.
P.S. Grandma got married and never did make it to Alaska!
Have you known someone who was a Harvey Girl or visited a Harvey House? In Arizona we are fortunate to still have El Tovar at the Grand Canyon and La Posada in Winslow. Each continue to be used as a hotel. Have any questions or comments, be happy to try to help.