I am lucky! I have friends in many places who consistently keep me informed about going’s on in the big world out there.
Many of us are avid readers and we share and promote any good read we encounter. A recent call from a friend down our road told me to hurry down to our favorite bookstore, Tome on the Range, and pick up a copy of “Appetite for America” by Stephen Fried.
She knew my family is full of railroad buffs and had many Fred Harvey connections through the years. What a fun read this has been for me, and yes, it is so well written it never bores the reader. And my beloved New Mexico shines, front and center in this story.
The dust jacket reads: “How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey built a Railroad Hospitality Empire that Civilized the Wild West.”
Fred Harvey died about the time my grandfather (Dr. Brown) came to New Mexico from Chicago, about 1900. Brown was a visionary when he established Valmora Sanatorium along the main line of the Santa Fe Railroad. Valmora patients coming from Chicago on the train ate in Fred Harvey Dining Rooms, then Fred Harvey Dining Cars along the way. And by 1926 Fred Harvey’s son, Ford, had begun the famed Indian Detours, which provided the perfect opportunity for Easterners to visit our pueblos.
My grandfather took many of his Chicago friends on these tours and he enjoyed introducing them to our more-or-less tame Southwest for the first time.
They always stayed in the famous Harvey Houses: La Fonda, the Alvarado in Albuquerque, the Gallup Harvey House, and our own Castañeda Hotel here.
The Harveys had already developed the market for the rugs, jewelry, pottery and basketry that are now famous worldwide. My grandfather saw what an opportunity this was (visionary at work) and soon became an Indian trader as well.
His Chicago connections created a good market for this beautiful artwork and Valmora was furnished with Navajo rugs, which he would sell.
Unfortunately, the family collection of rugs, jewelry, and so much more were lost in our 1952 house fire. I do have one original Indian Detours guidebook, however. And as I read about Harvey’s vision, I have a much better picture of these exciting times in our history.
When Jim and I began the building of my family’s guest ranch into a full time business in 1962, we realized we needed a brochure to back up our advertising campaign.
Vergara Printing Company in Santa Fe designed the brochure and suggested we put a photograph of two cowboys riding our horses up our road on the cover.
As luck would have it, Bill Harvey, Fred’s great-grandson and his family were guests here and he and Jim saddled up two of our gaited mares and posed for many pictures. Bill was managing La Fonda Hotel back then and they often helped us with ranch work as well. Fred would have enjoyed seeing his great-grandson’s picture on a resort brochure, I’ll bet.
Oh, my! Sir Richard Branson is building a huge Spaceport near Alamogordo as I write this. The times have changed, but Branson should read this book.
He, too is a visionary, ahead of his time, just as Fred Harvey was. What a fun world-picture this beautiful book has been. It is a 10 on the great books to read list around here.
Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.